Drivers of Industrial Rejuvenation in UK and Portugal Old Industrial Regions

The project aimed at investigating how organisational and network capital influence path renewal and path creation processes. It followed a qualitative case study approach, which allowed the investigation of industry rejuvenation manifestations in a natural setting. South Yorkshire and the North Region of Portugal were chosen as archetypical old industrial regions concentrating a variety of firms that have been successful in their adaptation by the innovative restructuring of their traditional manufacturing activities.

Participants in the study comprised Managing Directors of firms belonging to the metal and engineering industry and the textile and footwear sectors, and actors of the regional innovation system – Higher Education Institutions, Research & Development centres, business incubators, local executive boards, chambers of commerce and industry.

The qualitative, interview-based research design gave participants an opportunity to reflect at length on how industry in their respective regions has proved its resilience in the face of a context of global economic crisis. More specifically, participants held widely consensual views on the role played by regional embedded competences in the shaping of firms’ turn to innovation, productivity, resource-efficiency and high value-added to compete in global markets. Access to knowledge transfer centres that operate the integration of knowledge assets that are unique to the regions was also considered pivotal to the leveraging of high value-added goods and services, and to the effective management of value chains.

The project findings contribute to an enhanced understanding of how organisational capital (manifested notably through working practices that support intra and inter-organisational knowledge flows) and regional network capital (manifested notably through engagement in collective learning with innovation actors, combined with the exploitation of geographical proximity opportunities to create and distribute knowledge) support the development of rejuvenation trajectories of firms embedded in old industrial regions.

The project culminated in the organisation of the Industrial Renaissance Forum – a combined stakeholder engagement and results dissemination event held at the Information School. The Forum celebrated the industrial rejuvenation trajectories of two European old industrial regions: South Yorkshire and the North Region of Portugal. The experience and know how of key stakeholders - EU Committee of the Regions, UK and Portugal firms, enterprise partnerships, R&D centres, local government – was brought together in discussion, giving participants cross-cutting insight into practical projects, good practice, governance issues, and the dynamics of regional innovation.

Project lead: Dr Jorge Martins

Funder: Regional Studies Association