Heseltine Institute areas of research

Areas of research

The Heseltine Institute conducts research in the area of Sustainable Urban Development.

Specifically, we look at the most critical social, economic and environmental policy challenges which cities and city regions face today, including the following:

  • Balanced regional development

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    Uneven geographical development and socio-spatial inequalities and polarisation continue to burden the UK.

    Globalisation, neoliberalism and a spatially blind investment strategy has accelerated the growth of London and the South East and produced a comparative lack of prosperity and opportunity in other regions.

    Our work seeks to explore regional disparities and inequalities and offer innovative policy solutions on how to promote balanced regional growth across the UK.

  • English devolution

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    The current policy context centred on empowering cities through city deals and the election of Metro Mayors, the debate on further devolution of powers and Wave 2 City Deals raises decisive new policy and governance questions and provides the impetus for our work in this area.

    See our recent event on “Devolution, Metro Mayors and the Liverpool City Region one year on”.

  • The social economy

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    The Liverpool City Region has a dynamic and growing social economy. In 2015, the Heseltine Institute established the LCR Social Economy Panel, a joint initiative with practitioners in the sector to address the research and policy deficit in the field.

    The Heseltine Institute funded primary research on the scale, scope and value of the city region social economy. It found that there are approximately 1,400 trading social organisations in the Liverpool City Region, holding assets of £4.4bn, and employing over 45,000 people.

    This sector is a vital part of the city region economy and with targeted intervention, could become a strategic strength, supporting social inclusion and cohesion, stimulating enterprising communities and working with both the public and private sectors to ensure a strong institutional base for policy innovation.

    Our work on the social economy also covers research and policy work in social housing, community assets, entrepreneurship, food poverty and social finance. Our strong links with international social economy cities through the Global Social Economy Forum offers collaborative potential for the city region.

  • Diverse leadership and gender equality in cities

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    Diverse leadership, especially gender equality, is an essential part of successful, inclusive and sustainable cities and a critical component of delivering economic growth and prosperity.

    We know that women are under-represented in local political leadership: just 33% of local councillors in England are women, 27% in Wales and 24% in Scotland (Bazeley et al 2017; Trenow and Olchawski 2016). We are initiating a research project which will look at the diversity of leadership in UK cities and the solutions needed to make leadership more diverse. We will post more information about the project soon.

    In May 2018, we held a policy provocation on ‘Gender equality in leadership: how far have we to go?’ - see a video of the event.

  • Public services and welfare reform

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    We undertake research which tackles the most pressing social, economic and environmental challenges facing the welfare of cities.

    In October 2017, the Heseltine Institute was commissioned by Onward Homes to undertake an evaluation of the regeneration of the Hattersley housing estate in Greater Manchester.

  • Health and health governance

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    Liverpool City Region continues to be burdened by poorer health outcomes and steeper health inequalities than most other UK city regions.

    In part this is a consequence of the city's economic history and encounters with deindustrialisation and unemployment. In turn, poor health is a significant factor in the city's productivity levels. We are interested in models of health governance and public policies which address critical health challenges including health inequalities, preventative health, ageing, mental health and wellbeing.

  • Smart cities, artificial intelligence and automation

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    The impact of technological changes is identified as one of the ‘Grand Challenges’ in the government’s national industrial strategy.

    We are interested in research which looks at the impact of these changes on cities - including the data revolution, data analytics and geocomputation, automated systems, and artificial intelligence, their opportunities and challenges, particularly how they will impact inclusive growth.

    In April 2018, Professor Rob Kitchin gave a public lecture on smart cities and the challenges of adapting existing city services to new technologies and driving forward a smart city strategy.

  • Brexit

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    On 29 March 2019 the UK with leave the EU. It remains to be seen what future relationship the UK will strike with the EU - if any.

    We are interested in how Brexit - whether it ends up hard or soft - will impact cities and city regions. There is a growing literature on the economic impacts of Brexit on different parts of the UK. We are concerned with the disproportionate impact Brexit will have in cities in the Northern Powerhouse, and what these cities can do to mitigate risks and dangers and avail of opportunities should they arise.

    In July 2018, Professor Mark Boyle, Director of the Institute, and Dr Aileen Jones, Deputy Director, spoke about these issues at our event: “Devolution, Metro Mayors and the Liverpool City Region one year on”.

  • Low carbon transitions and climate resilience

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    Against the backdrop of climate change and the need to move away from fossil fuels and to embrace renewable energy sources, we are interested in policies in Liverpool City region which support low carbon transitions.