The economic might of Britain’s regions

by Jörgen Eriksson on July 6, 2014

The economic phenomenon known as the Industrial Revolution is one of two fundamental transformations of the economic system in human civilization. The other was the introduction of agriculture and the following migration from the old hunter-gatherer society to our ancestors living in more permanent settlements.

600px-Hotel_Russell_on_Russell_Square,_London_-_April_2007Industrialization first took shape in the late 18th century in Western Europe, particularly in Britain. During the first decades of the 19th century, its features quickly spread to France, Germany, Belgium, and the United States. In the first years of the 20th century, it spread to places outside of Europe and North America, particularly to Japan. By the end of the 20th century, industrialization or its effects had reached almost every corner of the globe.

Industrialization had sweeping consequences. It not only radically changed work life, it also changed family life and personal leisure. In some ways, it redefined the purposes for having children. It certainly increased the potential power of the state, particularly when applied to military production. The process even altered societies not directly involved in industrialization. Industrial economies gained new advantages over societies that continued to rely on agriculture, an imbalance that still affects world economic relations.

At present, we are at a new juncture where our economies are transforming through globalisation into a new reality of innovation driven regional growth systems. Globalisation is brining hyper competition to most markets and forces cities and regions to take charge, no matter our respective nationalities bringing us in as citizens in the glocal village.

On Saturday, the Telegraph newspaper published an article by Michael Heseltine, UK Government growth adviser and a former deputy prime minister, where he made a strong argument for unleashing the economic might of Britain’s regions. The article inspired me to write this brief blog post.

According to Heseltine, the UK Governments new growth strategy aim to restore to the economic powerhouses of Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Hull and their neighbouring communities the initiative and entrepreneurship that made them.

imageHeseltine says “Economic growth is not something set out as pay and rations in tiny packages or neatly designed formulae from departments in Whitehall. It is the product of countless men and women inventing, performing, driving, creating, imagining, seizing. We need to rekindle the flames of that adventurism. The government can use existing money better and attract the resources that are awash in the corporate sector and institutions.”

It is both refreshing and encouraging that the UK Government are aligning with the Horizon Strategy 2020 of the European Union and recognize that economic strength needs to be built back from the regional and city levels, and that they are looking back to the strengths that turned United Kingdom in a blink of history from an agricultural economy into an empire unprecedented in scale and power. As Heseltine writes, “They want to rekindle that extraordinary energy and talent, inventiveness and determination of the men and women of these British Isles that made it happen.”

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