GVC/City REDI Seminar Series: Neil Lee

Room 110 University House
Wednesday 7 December 2016 (12:00-13:00)

Powerhouses vs Engines: Economics, institutions and territorial competition in UK urban policy

Speaker: Neil Lee (London School of Economics)


The "Northern Powerhouse" has been a significant urban policy agenda in the UK. The aim was that by better linking the cities of Northern they would achieve the critical mass to challenge the dominance of London. The concept draws on economic theory such as the New Urban Economics which highlights the benefits of agglomeration for productivity. Yet the policy has revealed some significant tensions in UK urban policy around the selective nature of devolution, the problems of engagement between Whitehall and local areas, territorial competition, and the challenges of spatially focused investment. This paper reviews the theoretical evidence around the Northern Powerhouse and subsequent policies including the Midlands Engine. It argues that the Powerhouse concept reveals limitations in the usefulness of geographical economics for policymakers, and the result is a set of policies which have drifted significantly from the initial theoretical underpinning.

About the speaker

Neil Lee is an Assistant Professor in Economic Geography at the LSE. He is Director of the MSc in Local Economic Development and the BSc in Geography with Economics. Neil's research focuses on cities and the social dimensions of economic change - at the moment he is working on inclusive growth, spatial variation in access to finance for innovative or high technology firms, and the impact of personality on economic geography. 

Neil is also an affiliate of LSE London, the Spatial Economics Research Centre (SERC) and the Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE). He has spent time at TCLab at Columbia University. Before this, he was Head of the Socio-Economic Centre at The Work Foundation.

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