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University of Gothenburg


The CRA Research Group is involved in projects focusing on different aspects of regional competitiveness.

For more information: Martin Henning,

Research areas

Evolutionary economic geography

Regional economies are in rapid change. Above all, the expansion of the major cities has caused increasing differences in recent decades. Within the regions there is also a clear structural change taking place. But phasing out and emerging industries frequently do not have the same localization pattern, and therefore the structural change is also changing relationships between regions. These trends have real consequences people living in different regions. At the same time, technological and institutional development can affect the prevailing development patterns and change the conditions for regional growth.

There is much to learn from the history, and the geographical effects of previous structural change and technological transitions. Research carried out in recent years has revealed the structural changes that have occurred in regional development over time.

In recent years, economic historians have increasingly interested in economic geography. Also, the time aspect has been emphasized as an important factor in the development of evolutionary economic geography. Thus, in both disciplines, there has been an increasing interest in integrating analyzes of time and space in order to better describe and understand economic growth and transformation processes.

Within this theme, we integrate insights from evolutionary economic geography and economic history to describe and better understand long-term regional development processes.

Together with Karl-Johan Lundquist and Lars-Olof Olander from Lund University, we have analyzed Swedish regional structural change and how growth is diffused between regions. Read the book chapter here.

Together with Kerstin Enflo from Department of Economic History at LUSEM, Lund University, we have calculated regional GDP for Swedish regions during the 20th century. 

Together with Kerstin Enflo, we run the project Swedish regional economic development and transformation: past, present and future, funded by the Länsförsäkringar Research and Development Fund, 2018-2020. The purpose of the project is to:

  1. Create historically based knowledge through analysis of historical time series and identification of key factors for regional growth.
  2. Create further insights about the regional implications of automation, re-industrialization and increased integration between manufacturing and manufacturing-related services.

Firm shutdown and labour consequences

In times of economic crisis, it is easy to get caught by concerns regarding developments on the labor market and the financial markets, but also how economic downturn affects different parts of the country. For obvious reasons, it is often forgotten that crises can in fact be regarded as necessary elements of long-term economic development. However, more knowledge is needed about how and under what conditions economic destruction becomes creative and successful for individuals and for regions, and under what conditions they do not. In labor market geography and labor economics, there is a long tradition of studying individual consequences of, for example, company shutdowns. However, few have studied, for example, the role of the regional economic structure for individuals' opportunities for job creation, how geographical and professional mobility works for those who lose their job after a closure or cutdown, the importance of the mobility to individual future labour market vulnerability and to what extent those who lose their jobs are involved in structural renewal of regional economies (e.g., if they become entrepreneurs).

In a project funded by FORTE, we have investigated these issues in collaboration with researchers from Umeå University. With Rikard Eriksson and Anne Otto, we have studied the post-redundnacy outcomes of former shipbuilding workers in Sweden and Germany.  Read the article here. Together with Emelie Hane-Weijman and Rikard Ericsson, we have analyzed the role of the regional economic structure for re-employment of redundant workers. Read the report here. More results are pending publication.

Regional economic structures and diversification

In an ever more complex economy, new and theoretically based methods are needed to describe regional economies, their strengths, their weaknesses and their development potential. In collaboration with Frank Neffke och Ljubica Nedelkoska , we have developed Skill relatedness analysis to describe and analyze regional economic structures. The method is based on the argument that human capital or skills are a key component of regional development, and the method pictures the economy as a network of industries. The industries are, to a certain extent, linked by dependence on a particular type of human capital or skills. This affects their development potential, but also the region's future transformation capacity. Through the method it is possible to get an initial picture of how well an industry is embedded in the regional resource structures, and thus the region's strengths (and weaknesses) from this specific perspective. The presence of related industries in a region is likely to affect companies' opportunities for knowledge sharing, and the ability of the labor force to find other productive jobs in the region. But present industries also form the basis for the regions' future expansion to new related businesses.

The relatedness links between industries correspond to some extent with traditional industry classifications, but the links also partly challenge our traditional insights into how business is structured. For example, the skills links between many advanced service industries and the manufacturing industry, and between the wholesale trade and manufacturing industries, are clearly visible.
Regions often have very distinctive business profiles within certain parts of the industry network. Industries that specialize in a region are often not solitary, but embedded in strong regional knowledge structures. Strong resources or skills in a region can also provide an indication of future opportunities for a region.

Skill relatedness is also related to the thinking behind the EU's smart specialization initiative.

Together with Frank Neffke, we have worked to develop the skill relatedness approach based on labor mobility and investigate how industries are related to each other.

Together with Frank Neffke and Ron Boschma , we have investigated how regional industry profiles change and how regional diversification works.

Ongoing projects

The creation of CRA

This establishment is a result of the demand for more knowledge of the competitive prerequisites of different regions. Regional competitiveness is at focus where globalization, technological development and the increasing importance of regions influence the competitive ability.
Participants: Erik Elldér, Ulf Ernstson, Åke Forsström, Urban Fransson, Martin Henning, Anders Larsson, Sten Lorentzon, Jerry Olsson, Patrik Ström, Evelina Wahlqvist
Funded by Västra Götalandsregionen, the Foundation of Economic Research of West Sweden and School of Business, Economics and Law at Göteborg University
Research period: The work has been carried out as a project (2006-2010) but is funded as a contribution to the activity since 2011

Bridging the knowledge-gap between the old and the new: the case of tourism innovation processes in Västra Götaland region 

In spite of a growing awareness of the importance of tourism in regional economic growth, it has until recently not been identified as an economic sector per se. Consequently, in many regions, tourism has been treated as separated from the traditional manufacturing based economic activity. This division might create a technological, institutional and cognitive gap between traditional and new sectors and hence missed opportunities to re-cycle and combine knowledge and innovation in regional tourism development. The aim of this study is to analyse the possibilities and limitations for innovation based on combination of knowledge between traditional and new sectors of the economy.
Participants: Anders Larsson and Kristina Lindström
Funded by Foundation of Economic Research of West Sweden
Research period: 2011-

Relatedness and regional changes in an historical perspective

One of the most important links between economic activities today is their relatedness with regard to competence (skills). This relatedness may influence many economic phenomena, e.g. individual career, regional diversification and structural changes. But there are many different types of links between economic activities, not least historical, depending on what resources that are observed. The aim of this study is to attain more knowledge of the connection with different types of relatedness and regional economic transformation in an historical perspective. The study is based on recent digitalized data of economic activity in Swedish towns 1900-1965 and American data of the US census 1900. Preliminary the results indicate that the path dependence in the economic transformation was evident also after the industrial revolution, especially within traditional industries. After 1930 common human resources have become more important for the advantages of co-location and transformation and traditional regional structures of clusters have partly been replaced by another type of dynamic development. Furthermore, the study also add knowledge to our time.
Participants: Martin Henning
Funded by the Foundation of Jan Wallander and Tom Hedelius
Research period: 2010-

The mobility of the manpower in the car industry related to regions and industrial sectors

Technological inventions and fast technological changes have characterized the development of the global car industry. In recent years, however, this sector has become more known for organizational and financial turbulence. Many employees have been forced to move. This mobility of qualified individuals between related industries is an important mechanism behind regional processes of diversification and the development of regional economies. By the use of microdata of individuals, who have worked in the Swedish car industry between the years 1990 and 2010, the employees that quit the car industry are analysed concerning industry and where they prefer to work. The studies also include analysis of relevant characteristics of individuals that move to other workplaces.
Participants: Martin Henning, Anders Larsson and Urban Fransson
Funded by the Foundation of Jan Wallander and Tom Hedelius
Research period: 2010-

Analysis of accessibility to commercial services in sparsely populated areas

More private motorism has enabled high mobility by individuals living in different types of regions such as metropolitan areas and sparsely populated areas. People living in sparsely populated areas can commute long distances without traffic congestion. This means that many individuals combine work-trips with services, e. g .visiting stores and banks. Thereby the accessibility to these services is better for individuals who have access to car and travel regularly than the accessibility for persons living in areas missing functional links to areas outside their neighbourhood. The extent of commuting and potential points of supply of commercial services are analysed as well as accessibility to commercial services for the non-commuting group.
Participants: Ulf Ernstson and Anders Larsson.
Funded by VGR
Research period 2011-

Commuters from- to- and in the municipality of Kungsbacka

This is an explorative study and carried out by the use of data from the database GILDA (Geographical Longitudanal Database for Analysis).
Participants: Ulf Ernstson and Urban Fransson
Funded by the Municipality of Kungsbacka and CRA
Research period 2011 – 2013

Differences of ages among couples and synchronized retirement

This project pays attention to the importance of different ages for the time of retirement among married men and women in Sweden. Furthermore, the variation of ages is related to socio-economic conditions.
Participants: Urban Fransson and Per Gustafson
Funded by FAS
Research period 2011-2014

On Distance and the Spatial Dimension in the Definition of Internal Migration

This project focuses on the spatial dimension where migration is typically defined as movement across administrative borders. Using data for all internal migrants in Sweden, the only known country where migration distances are available in sufficient detail, studies are performed of actual migration distances and the relationship between actual migration distances and migration-defining boundaries.
Participants: Urban Fransson and Thomas Niedomysl
Funded by CRA
Research period: 2011-2013

IT-entrepreneurs in Västra Götaland

The performance of this study is based on the database GILDA (Geographical Longitudanal Database for Analysis). One purpose is to investigate the possibilities to identify entrepreneurs creating new businesses, while another purpose is to investigate the ability of the database GILDA to identify businesses that are closed down. The studies observe the development in Västra Götaland as well as all Sweden during the period 2005 – 2010.
Participants: Urban Fransson
Funded by CRA
Research period: 2012-2013

More efficient urban transport systems – optimal location of combi-terminals in and around the city of Gothenburg

The work is based on the observation that Swedish traffic on roads and in towns tends to become inefficient as the size of the delivered goods decreases while the distance of transportation increases. A consequence is burden on the urban transport system; the capacity of the infrastructure decreases, while congestion and pollution increase. The aim of the study is, with regard to the location of present and future combi-terminals, to investigate the potential of more efficient use of existent urban transport systems. The survey focuses the city of Gothenburg and surroundings.
Participants: Jerry Olsson
Funded by 
Research period: 2012-2014