Meet Max Nathan – Senior Birmingham Fellow at City REDI

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Hello, I’m Max Nathan. I’m a City-REDI affiliate, and aSenior Birmingham Fellow in Regional Economic Development, based in the Business School. I’m also a Deputy Director of the What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth.

Max NathanI’m an economic geographer who uses a lot of economics. Some of my projects involve crunching numbers; other are based on talking to people. Ideally both.

My work covers three main areas.

First, I’m interested in the economics of cultural diversity, in particular how migration and demographic change may influence economic outcomes in cities, communities and inside firms. This was the focus of my PHD, which I did at LSE and completed in 2011. I’ve published a few papers from the doctorate: an overview of ‘diversity economics’, a paper on minority ethnic inventors, and another on top team diversity, innovation and entrepreneurship in London firms.

Second, I’m interested in innovation systems, both what economists call the ‘micrcofoundations’ of innovative activity – how ideas are generated, commodified and spread – and looking at local ecosystems of innovative firms, especially in the tech industry. Recently I’ve published papers on what influences inventors to collaborate, on the growth of the Tech City cluster in London [ungated], and on clusters and industrial policy [ungated].

I’m hoping to develop a number of further projects along these lines during my time at Birmingham. I’m increasingly interested in big data approaches to these questions, and in combining administrative datasets with more ‘frontier’ sources and analytics. Anna Rosso and I are doing some ongoing work on this – you can see an early paper here [ungated]. I’m also currently part of a BIS-funded NIESR-REDI team using a mix of big data and qualitative methods to look at clusters in digital health, processing and finance across England. And with some colleagues at LSE, I’m at the early stages of a Randomised Control Trial projectwith a large tech incubator, to test the programme’s effect on startups.

Third, and related to this, I’m interested in public policy for cities and city-regions, especially policy design and evaluation. In my pre-academic life I spent over a decade working in think tanks, consultancies and a spell in central government, helping out in the Department of Communities and Local Government. In 2004 I co-founded the Centre for Cities and ran the research programme there for the Centre’s first three years.

My role at the What Works Centre is in some ways a continuation of this: it helps keep me out of the library and working with policymakers in both local and central government. As City-REDI scales up I’ll also be working with the team on issues and projects in Birmingham and the wider West Midlands. It’s an exciting time to be here!

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