I recently joined City-REDI as a Policy and Data Analyst. Throughout my academic studies and career, I have been interested in understanding the role of place in social and economic inequalities. Joining the City-REDI team gives me the opportunity to pursue this further through contributing to research and policy analysis that informs and influences regional and national growth policies. As someone who grew up in Birmingham, I am particularly excited about the prospect of using my local understanding to help to shape local policy.
I studied French politics, society and economics at the University of Sheffield. As part of my degree, I spent an incredible year working at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Lille where I learnt about how powerful devolved government can be in supporting regional economic growth. One significant difference in France is that companies must be members of their local chamber which gave me the opportunity to work with a wide cross-section of businesses. It was really rewarding organising conferences for local businesses on a range of topics including, for example, opportunities for businesses from the region to supply the organisers of the London Olympic Games. This year inspired my interest in how cities can best reach their economic potential. During my year in Lille, I was asked to examine the regeneration of a new formerly derelict area in the City Centre as a new business district called Euralille.
Following this, I won an AHRC scholarship to undertake a Master’s degree where I compared urban regeneration in Sheffield and Lille between 1970 and 2010, exploring key issues such as connectivity, leadership, economic diversification and specialisation, and innovation. My new role allows me to build on this research into how different regions of the UK respond to these policy challenges. I see parallels in terms of the impact of the introduction of high speed train line to Lille and the development of new industrial clusters with the imminent arrival of HS2, and the recent devolution of powers to the West Midlands Combined Authority and the growth of sectors such as life sciences in Birmingham and the advanced manufacturing industry in Coventry.
Returning to Lille as part of my PhD, I developed an interest in and understanding of social inclusive growth. My thesis which was funded through a University Prize Scholarship and supervised by the Departments of Geography and French examined the experiences of couples where both parents are out-of-work in the UK and France. I spent nine months conducting interviews with out-of-work couples in Lille and Sheffield, investigating their ideal work-life scenarios, and their experiences of trying to achieve this in practice under two differing national and local contexts. Whilst in Sheffield I volunteered with ASSIST Sheffield, a charity supporting destitute asylum seekers. Together my PhD and voluntary work provided me with knowledge of and experience in informing policy around support for disadvantaged people. Whilst at City-REDI I hope to use my knowledge of the challenges faced by out-of-work job seekers to contribute to developing effective policy to address skills gaps across the UK.
A unique part of my role at City-REDI is that I am partly seconded to the Smart Specialisation Hub in London. I am looking forward to working within the Hub to support innovation activities in the 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships in England. My first project involves mapping the value of funding from various public and private sector programmes at LEP level and analysing LEPs’ experiences of applying for funding. I aim to shed light on the challenges LEPs face as well as the strengths of their approaches.
This blog was written by Dr Abigail Taylor, Data and Policy Analyst, City-REDI, University of Birmingham.
The views expressed in this analysis post are those of the authors and not necessarily those of City-REDI or the University of Birmingham.
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