This working paper reproduces the speech by Professor Geoffrey J.D. Hewings at the Nomination Ceremony as Member of the Andalusian Regional Science Academy, on 28 May 2018 at Loyola Andalusia University. Professor Hewings reviews the evolution of Regional Science since the sixties, highlighting the key and forgotten role of the space when the outcomes of the economic policies are assessed in terms of developments. In addition, the challenges posed by demographic change are drawn, pointing out the future research directions to be addressed by regional modelers.
As a new entrant in the 1960s into the field of what was to become regional economics, I was surprised to learn that one of the first studies to explore the spatial dimension of economic development was published in the early 1940s Full Employment in a Free Society. In this book, the author, Lord Beveridge, presented data on the spatial distribution of unemployment rates by region in the U.K. Readers were startled to find that during the Great Depression (1929-1937), unemployment rates varied by a factor of 2 or 2.5 times between SE UK (London-centered region) and Wales, Scotland and the North of England.
The impact of the Depression was uneven over space; the Beveridge Report sought to understand the causes and the outcomes. In 2014, the differences persist although the unemployment rates vary from 5.3% in SE to 10.3% in Northeast, a difference is slightly less than 2 times.
In the interim between the 1940s when “regional policy” began to take a formal role in economic growth and development strategy and the present day, we have witnessed some major changes in these policies, in the structure of regional economies, in the models that have been developed to help us understand regional dynamics and in our capacity to be humble enough to realize that the success of regional policy remains, for the most part, an aspiration yet to be realized.