Urban transformation through national innovation competitions: lessons from the UK’s future city demonstrator initiative

Cowley, R. and Joss, S. (2022) Urban transformation through national innovation competitions: lessons from the UK’s future city demonstrator initiative. Journal of Urban Affairs, 44(10), pp. 1432-1458. (doi: 10.1080/07352166.2020.1828903)

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Around the world, local innovations in the management and development of urban space are often significantly shaped by national government competitions. This article argues that the competition is a characteristic but underdiscussed feature of contemporary national policymaking on urban innovation, and considers how such competitions might be more constructively implemented in the future. It does so by closely tracing the outcomes of one paradigmatic example: the UK’s Future City Demonstrator competition, launched in 2012, which awarded funding to four cities (Glasgow, Bristol, Peterborough, and London) to implement their proposals. The analysis offers lessons for similar competitions by highlighting six factors which co-determined the implementation and outcome of this initiative: asserting the need for speed; conflating export opportunities with local benefits; focusing on the need for institutional reform; reliance on cross-sectoral collaboration; positioning the city as a platform for digital solutions; and a lack of integration at the national level. Relatedly, we urge commentators to adopt a critical distance from justificatory assertions of urgent urban crisis and local governments being straightforwardly in need of reform.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:Funding: This study was undertaken as part of the ESRC-funded project ‘Smart Eco-cities for a Green Economy: A comparative Study of Europe and China’ [grant no. ES/L015978/1].
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Joss, Professor Simon
Authors: Cowley, R., and Joss, S.
Subjects:H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Urban Studies
Research Group:Urban Studies
Journal Name:Journal of Urban Affairs
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN (Online):1467-9906
Published Online:30 November 2020
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2020 Urban Affairs Association
First Published:First published in Journal of Urban Affairs 44(10): 1432-1458
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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