The prerequisites for future economic growth and welfare were the points of departure when OECD launched the results of its first study on Megaregions – The Territorial Review of the Megaregion of Western Scandinavia – in Gothenburg on March the 15th. The program began with a discussion of today’s megatrends and the role that regions can play in addressing the opportunities and challenges these trends bring, followed by a review of the rising importance of city networks and megaregions. After the presentation and launch of the OECD analysis of Megaregion Western Scandinavia the afternoon session focused on state of the art presentations in four key areas for the future – innovation, attractiveness, integration and infrastructure, in general and linked to the situation in the Megaregion. Finally, leading politicians from cities and regions gave their view on how to move on stimulating the creation of a Megaregion for the benefit of the well-being of the inhabitants and for the competitiveness and prosperity of the enterprises and institutions in the region and countries affected.
- Megatrends in the 21st Century and the Role of Regions
- The Rise of City Networks and Megaregions
- Launch of the OECD Territorial Review of Megaregion Western Scandinavia
- Final words – Politicians from Cities and Regions
Megatrends in the 21st Century and the Role of Regions
Although all times can be seen as times of transition, some are definitively more so than others. To grasp where the world is heading today is not an easy question. Increasing globalization and barriers to trade are parallel trends. There is evident change in the balance of power between different parts of the world. The development of Internet apps provides a global supply of goods and services into everyone’s hands, stimulates a gig economy and makes us even more dependent on others’ view of ourselves. The obvious questions are what the prerequisite for economic growth and competitiveness will be in the long run and what role regions can play?
The Rise of City Networks and Megaregions
In geographical terms the global trend is rapid urbanization and growth of megacities, not at least in Asia. Economic competitiveness of these large and growing markets seems to increase with size. In a long-term perspective this development may make it difficult for many European regions to compete both for the most qualified tasks and the most attractive work force. At the same time research shows that productivity can be spread from and between metropolitan areas also at quite long time-distances. Good neighbours turn out, as everyone should know, to be important for your own welfare. The obvious question is if networks of major cities or megaregions can be an alternative to the growing megacities and new conurbations. Networks of major cities and regions are in general a more sustainable alternative both for the environment and for social cohesion. What is needed to develop such networks or regions?
Launch of the OECD Territorial Review of Megaregion Western Scandinavia
Over the last year, OECD has analyzed development and conditions for development in the area from Oslo via Gothenburg and West Sweden down towards Skåne, Malmö and Copenhagen. The analysis is based on large amounts of data and discussions with representatives of business, academia, civil society and politicians in the area. The analysis opens up for numerous questions. What future does the OECD see for the area and its different parts? What reforms and actions are needed in governance and cooperation locally, regionally and between the countries concerned? How can a common vision be formed for Western Scandinavia or its constituting parts? In which areas does the OECD consider that there are strong conditions for future long-term cooperation? How should such cooperation be established?
Innovation is a key issue for Norway and Sweden and for the regions that are a part of this review. Sweden is seen as the most innovative country in the EU, and Oslo/Akershus, West Sweden and Skåne are all ”Innovation Leaders” in the regional comparisons the EU makes. Denmark and Copenhagen are also in the top of these benchmarking. At the same time innovation is becoming an increasingly complex issue that requires well-functioning systems for cooperation in different areas and between players from different parts of society. OECD has recently reviewed the innovation systems in Norway, Sweden and Finland and started off with a discussion of innovation policy in principle and practice in Norway and Sweden in an international context. The Megaregion displays several examples of successful regional innovation systems, well developed innovation environments and innovative companies. Some of the strongest actors in the regions participated in a discussion on how innovation best can be stimulated in the future. One obvious question that was discussed was what it would mean to have improved co-operation when it comes to innovation and innovation systems in the area from Oslo over Gothenburg to Malmö/Copenhagen.
In a world where people’s knowledge and skills are the most important success factors for growth and development, place-attractiveness becomes increasingly important. Liveability is a key word and is about a vibrant environment, events and experiences, but also about the built and natural environment. How attractive is Western Scandinavia and what can be done to make it more attractive in the future? And what are the success factors behind the booming event industry in and around Gothenburg?
The issue of integration of immigrants is one of the major challenges throughout the EU. Without a functioning integration we will get an increasingly closed world and the most vulnerable people will, to a lesser extent than today, have the opportunity to live in our countries in the future. Without a functioning integration we will also see increased inequality between people in our countries and strains on trust and democracy. One of OECD’s main tasks is to compare policies in member states. OECD presented preliminary results from a comprehensive benchmarking study involving 10+ European cities. What works? What do not work? What lessons could be learned? Gothenburg is one of the case cities involved in this analysis and Region Västra Götaland commented from a local/regional perspective. An important question for the future is whether it is possible to co-operate with the nearest metropolitan regions in the Megaregion also in this area.
A well-developed transport infrastructure is necessary for strong links between cities and regions. OECD has analyzed how the transport system in Western Scandinavia works today and what this means for connectivity in different aspects. OECD has also studied how the planning system works at the regional, national and Nordic levels. OECD has identified a number of deficiencies both in the infrastructure and in the planning systems. But there has also been progress. The question now is if there is likely to be solutions that will increase connectivity and make the creation of a true megaregion possible and what that would mean in increased welfare and sustainability in the countries and regions. That here is potential that is not used and that the transport system is not compatible with the sustainable visions in the countries and regions is obvious.
Final words – Politicians from Cities and Regions
As the last item on the agenda politicians from cities and regions in the Megaregion presented their ideas and conclusions on how they will work together and support the creation of an attractive, competitive and sustainable megaregion in the coming decades.