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Informing policy with international research - ESPON Week 2013

11 November 2013

Eleanor Rowe

Since 2008, a significant part of the RTPI’s research work has been focused on encouraging academics’ involvement in a European research programme called ESPON. The programme, which covers the EU27 plus Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, aims to add to the bank of spatial evidence available to those developing place-based policy. The wealth of findings amassed over the last five years are all freely accessible on the ESPON website, and with data, concepts and techniques available on issues from energy poverty to innovation and R&D, it’s a valuable resource for researchers, planners and policy-makers.

Europe from space

The RTPI leads a team of six partners in an ESPON project called USESPON which promotes the programme’s findings to planners and policy-makers. This week, as part of the project, we’re holding ‘ESPON Week’ to highlight some of the key findings relevant to the UK. Every day this week, we’ll be blogging and tweeting about ESPON resources and how they can be used to inform better policy-making. We’re also holding two events – one at the Department for Communities and Local Government and one for a broader policy and practice audience – to demonstrate the value of the research and how it can be applied in decision-making.

Tomorrow (12th November), the Team Leader of the RTPI’s ESPON work, Professor Cliff Hague, will speak to civil servants at DCLG about what we can learn from Europe about stimulating local growth. Specifically, Cliff will discuss the various reasons why some small towns have succeeded in growing while others have failed. He’ll consider the type of local growth needed, and reflect on mistakes made in the past when, arguably, “too much infrastructure and too many science parks” were developed. He’ll also draw on evidence from successful places, such as Munich, which has managed to sustain a long-term strategy focused on achieving regional growth. Cliff’s presentation will be available on the UK ESPON Contact Point website soon after the seminar.

We’re ending the week on Friday (15th November) with a bigger event which will generate thinking on promoting local growth in England by presenting new research on LEPs and growth management approaches being taken in the South East. It will also show how tools developed by the ESPON project GEOSPECS can encourage strategic thinking and help in the formulation of strategies for growth.

Alongside this, we'll be presenting a leaflet which outlines the Nexus model – a decision-making tool which enables policy-makers to think about the development challenges and opportunities in their area. It starts with posing questions about the nature of a place, its geographical characteristics and features, and goes on to suggest how these factors might help or hinder sustainable growth. Finally, it encourages policy-makers to create ‘logical chains’ which connect opportunities to growth objectives. For more information on the event, take a look at the event web page.

We'll also be launching a new research briefing based on the ESPON project, DEMIFER, which identifies some of the issues arising from population growth and ageing, and publicising some of our highlights over the last five years, including presentations from past events, publications and interviews with key people involved in the ESPON Programme: our most recent interview was with Chris Poulton from DCLG, who told us what he thinks ESPON’s main messages are for the UK and how international engagement can help planners to understand their work in a wider context.

To keep up to speed with the latest ESPON-related news, sign up to receive the e-bulletin and follow us on Twitter to see what else we’re doing this week.

About Eleanor Rowe

Eleanor Rowe is Research Officer at the Royal Town Planning Institute.