From branch plant economies to knowledge economies? Manufacturing industry, government policy, and economic development in Britain’s old industrial regions
Nicholas A Phelps
In this paper I present an ex post review of the failure of mobile private investment to contribute to the formation of competitive industry agglomerations in the UK’s old industrial regions. The UK’s industrial districts were the inspiration for the concept of external economies with which we understand the competitiveness of agglomerations of economic activity. Yet long-standing disarticulation between UK government inward investment, regional, industrial, and technology policy has ensured that mobile investment (notably, but not exclusively, foreign direct investment) has rarely contributed to the genesis of competitive agglomerations of new economic activity. Up until the 1980s the nature of mobile investment actually offered considerable scope for successive UK governments to leverage on synergies between it and established industry specialisms in the formation of viable new agglomerations of economic activity. Since the 1980s the difficulties of creating synergies between new mobile and existing industry arguably have increased, leaving new regional economic strategies as little more than wishful thinking regarding the formation of new agglomerations of knowledge-based economic activity.
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