Please enjoy the following article from the Journal of Urban Affairs, available online.
Urban transformation through national innovation competitions: Lessons from the UK’s Future City Demonstrator initiative, by Robert Cowley & Simon Joss
Around the world, local innovations in the management and development of urban space are often significantly shaped by national government competitions. This article argues that the competition is a characteristic but underdiscussed feature of contemporary national policymaking on urban innovation, and considers how such competitions might be more constructively implemented in the future. It does so by closely tracing the outcomes of one paradigmatic example: the UK’s Future City Demonstrator competition, launched in 2012, which awarded funding to four cities (Glasgow, Bristol, Peterborough, and London) to implement their proposals. The analysis offers lessons for similar competitions by highlighting six factors which co-determined the implementation and outcome of this initiative: asserting the need for speed; conflating export opportunities with local benefits; focusing on the need for institutional reform; reliance on cross-sectoral collaboration; positioning the city as a platform for digital solutions; and a lack of integration at the national level. Relatedly, we urge commentators to adopt a critical distance from justificatory assertions of urgent urban crisis and local governments being straightforwardly in need of reform.