Shaping conditions for economic development: the role of regional strategies

Date: 8 March 2017

Venue: University of Antwerp, Promotiezaal Grauwzusters - Lange Sint-Annastraat 7 - 2000 Antwerp (route: UAntwerpen, Stadscampus)

Time: 3:00 PM

PhD candidate: Ties Vanthillo

Principal investigator: Prof Ann Verhetsel

Co-principal investigator: Prof Thierry Vanelslander

Short description: PhD defence Ties Vanthillo - Faculty of Applied Economics


The redesign of the ‘old’ paradigm of development policy to new place-based approaches for economic development stands at the centre of this thesis. Regional economies are transformed and reshaped, and at the same time new powers and responsibilities are given to actors active on a regional scale. Since the 1990s, regional development strategies increasingly concentrated on issues of innovation, the dynamics of change and the endogenous creation of new growth paths.

In a number of empirical case studies this thesis analyses the evolving nature and foundations of the framework that has been adopted towards regional economic development. Of particular importance is understanding how regional strategies evolve, how these strategies are structured in terms of their governance and how their rationales and instruments change over time. While at the same time critically assessing the role of geography, scale and sectoral differences in the practical application of strategies, rather than taking these roles for granted.

A number of semi-structured interviews were conducted in four European case-study regions (i.e. Flanders, North-Brabant, Hamburg and Copenhagen) that together form the primary data sources in three empirical chapters. First, place-based approaches in Flanders are investigated based on a study of strategies of sub-regional partnerships. Second, the geographical reach of regional strategies and its implications for policy prescription are studied based on four European case studies. Third, the cluster life cycle evolution is linked to regional development strategies in order to examine the trajectory of Europe’s largest chemical complex in and around the Port of Antwerp (Belgium).

To conclude, this thesis raises a number of important issues regarding the development of new, more localized, approaches to regional strategies and develops an understanding of the co-evolution between regional economies and regional strategies.