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Cities and regions around the world are increasingly inter-connected. One clear factor for this connectivity is foreign investment: the flow of capital, skills and knowledge that can – under the right circumstances - "bless" an area, improving its economic and social standing. ERC grantee Riccardo Crescenzi studies where these flows are concentrated, how different actors choose where to invest and what are their impacts on both the home and host economies.
The flip side to global connectivity is that some areas are left behind, with investment distribution patterns and impacts proving particularly unequal. Left behind places can become disenfranchised and offer breeding grounds for political disintegration. These areas often try everything in their power to attract foreign investors, offering tax breaks, improving infrastructure and changing employment regulation to better suit their potential partners. The success of these strategies is arguable.
How do we understand this web of connectivity? Often you must operate at city level. Prof. Thousands of cases, in fact, have shown that often companies are more interested in what cities can offer them, rather than national governments. What different firms look for in an area changes, but this is the key to understanding why some place attract large levels of investment and others are left untouched.
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This is where Prof. Crescenzi and his team come in. The ERC project, MASSIVE, aims to study how places can learn to benefit from connectivity and improve their chances of attracting and securing investment flows. They have crunched big data and collaborated with governments and public administrations worldwide such as the European Commission, the OECD and Investment Promotion Agencies in virtually all European countries and 88 regions, to understand what factors determine the success of an area, and what public policy can do to help.