Divergent Cities Conference – July 2015 –

Divergent Cities? Why do cities differ in growth and performance?
For the first time in human history, more than half of the world’s population now lives in cities. Geographers and economists alike point to the increasing concentration of economic activity and wealth creation in cities, especially large and capital cities, many of which are also the key nodes that articulate and shape the global economy. However, not all cities have experienced success: both in Europe and the United States, economic growth rates have varied significantly across cities, and some cities have shrunk rather than expanded economically. This divergent experience raises questions as to what determines city growth. Why do some cities lead while others fall behind? Such issues pose a challenge to both theory and policy. There would seem much to learn from experience around the world.

This one and half day conference brought together academics, policy makers and other individuals who have a direct interest in the growth and success of cities. Presentations included those drawing on new research from the Centre for Cities, the World Bank and the UK Governments Foresight Future of Cities project.

The conference ran from 9:30am on Thursday, 16 July, including a conference dinner, and closed after lunch on Friday, 17 July.
Some of the CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS have been made available by the speakers.
The full CONFERENCE PROGRAMME  can also be downloaded.

Key Speakers at the conference included:

  • Andrew Carter, Centre for Cities
  • Professor Steve Fothergill, Sheffield Hallam University
  • Professor Harry Garretsen, University of Groningen
  • Professor Robert Huggins, Cardiff University
  • Professor Martin Jones, University of Sheffield & Dr David Etherington Middlesex University
  • Professor Ron Martin,  University of Cambridge
  • Professor Philip McCann, University of Groningen
  • Dr Mark Roberts, World Bank
  • Professor Peter Tyler, University of Cambridge

Issues addressed included:

  1. What are the trends in city growth?
    • Have cities converged or diverged in economic growth over recent decades?
    • How has growth varied across different types of city?
    • What has been the impact of the recent crisis and recession on city growth trajectories?
    • How far has the recovery from the crisis varied across cities?
  2. What are the determinants of city growth?
    • What is the role of economic structure and specialisation and how have these changed?
    • Is city size important? Is agglomeration necessarily conducive to growth?
    • What are the limits to city growth?
    • What are the roles of urban networks and connectivity as drivers of city growth?
    • Are cities hubs of enterprise and firm creation?
    • Do cities need people with particular skills to thrive?
    • What role does good governance play in city growth?
    • What is the relationship between income inequalities within cities and their relative growth and performance?
  3. What influences the adaptive capacity of city economies?
    • What do we mean by the ‘adaptive capacity’ of city economies?
    • What factors influence a city’s ‘adaptive capacity’?
    • Why do cities vary in their ability to undergo economic and industrial renewal?
  4. What is the role of policy?
    • Can policy make a difference to city growth?
    • Cities may have different problems hindering growth, and require different policy mixes.
    • What sort of institutions are needed to foster city adaptive growth?
    • Does the devolution of spending and tax raising powers enhance the growth performance of cities?
    • What lessons have been learned from previous policy initiatives?
    • How transferable are urban policy experience and what lessons can be shared between urban policy makers around the world?

CJRescoverCambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society
Some of the papers associated with the conference presentations are likely to form the basis of a special issue of the Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society. The journal is an international journal based in Cambridge, and is published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Cambridge Political Economy Society.

Registration, Cost and Booking
All attendees had to register for the conference. The cost of the conference was £240, for those attending both days (including the Conference Dinner, on the Thursday evening, 16 July), for those who just wished to attend the first day (which did not include the conference dinner) the cost was £150. Accommodation was not included in the cost but could have been booked at St Catharine’s College, see below.
** Registration is now closed.

Accommodation for the conference could have been booked directly, with St Catharine’s College.

Alternatively, there are a number of hotels nearby, which delegates could have booked:

Further information contact:
If you have any queries regarding the conference please contact Philippa Millerchip on pm436@cam.ac.uk, Ron Martin on rlm1@cam.ac.uk or Pete Tyler on pt23@cam.ac.uk.

Conference Organisers were:
Professor Ron Martin, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge
Professor Peter Tyler, Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge

Conference Supporters included:

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