"Special session: Sustainable and inclusive development in left-behind places"

Session organizers: Robert Hassink, Michaela Trippl, Maximilian Benner

AAG Annual Meeting 2023 (virtual paper special session)


In line with a renewed interest in spatial inequality (e.g, Cox, 2022; Evenhuis et al., 2021; Feldman et al., 2021), economic geography has put the spotlight on "left-behind places" (MacKinnon et al., 2022; Rodríguez-Pose, 2018). This debate is embedded into a growing awareness of the social and political consequences of spatial divergence that have become particularly visible across Europe and the United States (e.g., Economist, 2016; McQuarrie, 2017; Rodrik, 2017; Trubek, 2018) and led to a "geography of discontent" (De Ruyter et al., 2021; Essletzbichler et al., 2018; McCann, 2020). Developing regional innovation and development policies suitable to address the place-based challenges of opportunities of these left-behind places is of critical importance (Isaksen et al., 2022; MacKinnon et al., 2022; Martin et al., 2022; Rodríguez-Pose, 2018; Tödtling et al., 2021).

At the same time, to address grand societal challenges related to sustainability (Schot & Steinmueller, 2018; Tödtling et al., 2021), regional innovation and development policies are confronted with expectations of facilitating the emergence of green industries and the greening of existing ones. A variety of approaches such as green path development, the foundational economy, or place-based innovation policies (Coenen & Morgan, 2020; MacKinnon et al., 2022; Trippl et al., 2020) are relevant in this regard, but what they mean specifically for left-behind places is not fully understood. In particular, transformations towards greening regional economies poses particular challenges to those regional economies that rely on old "brown" industries such as oil, gas, coal, or energy-intensive industries. Managing the decline of these old industries (Kivimaa & Kern, 2016) in left-behind places is thus fraught with tension and contested.

The special session addresses the challenges and opportunities for more sustainable and inclusive forms of development in left-behind places or those at risk of becoming left behind, as well as the role innovation and transformation strategies to promote these forms of economic development. Relevant issues include, inter alia, the following ones:

  • Consequences of green regional development for patterns of social exclusion and inclusion,
  • Processes of green regional development and their tensions and contestation,
  • Multi-scalar policy impacts on sustainable and inclusive regional development,
  • Policy approaches for green and inclusive regional development in left-behind places,
  • Comparative research of green and inclusive regional development in Europe, the United States, and beyond (including the Global South).

The organizers of the special session are currently preparing a corresponding call for a special issue in "Review of Regional Research".

If you are interested in joining the special session, please send a 250-word abstract to Maximilian Benner.



Coenen, L., Morgan, K. (2020). Evolving geographies of innovation: existing paradigms, critiques and possible alternatives. Norsk Geografisk Tidsskrift - Norwegian Journal of Geography, 74, 13-24.

Cox, K.R. (2022). Uneven development: convergence, divergence and politics. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 15, 23-38.

De Ruyter, A., Martin, R., Tyler, P. (2021). Geographies of discontent: sources, manifestations and consequences. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 14, 381-393.

Economist (2016). Place-based economic policies as a response to populism. The Economist, December 15th, 2016.

Essletzbicher, J., Disslbacher, F., Moser, M. (2018). The victims of neoliberal globalisation and the rise of the populist vote: a comparative analysis of three recent electoral decisions. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 11, 73-94.

Evenhuis, E., Lee, N., Martin, R., Tyler, P. (2021). Rethinking the political economy of place: challenges of productivity and inclusion. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 14, 3-24.

Feldman, M., Guy, F., Iammarino, S. (2021). Regional income disparities, monopoly and finance. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 14, 25-49.

Isaksen, A., Trippl, M., Mayer, H. (2022). Regional innovation systems in an era of grand societal challenges: reorientation versus transformation. European Planning Studies, DOI: 10.1080/09654313.2022.2084226.

Kivimaa, P., Kern. F. (2016). Creative destruction or mere niche support? Innovation policy mixes for sustainability transitions. Research Policy, 45, 205-217.

MacKinnon, D., Kempton, L., O'Brien, P., Ormerod, E., Pike, A., Tomaney, J. (2022). Reframing urban and regional 'development' for 'left behind' places. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 15, 39-56.

Martin, R., Martinelli, F., Clifton, J. (2022). Rethinking spatial policy in an era of multiple crises. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 15, 3-21.

McCann, P. (2020). Perceptions of regional inequality and the geography of discontent: insights from the UK. Regional Studies, 54, 256-267.

McQuarrie, M. (2017). The revolt of the Rust Belt: place and politics in the age of anger. The British Journal of Sociology, 68, 120-152.

Rodríguez-Pose, A. (2018). The revenge of the places that don't matter (and what to do about it). Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 11, 189-209.

Rodrik, D. (2018). Populism and the economics of globalization. Journal of International Business Policy, 1, 12-33.

Tödtling, F., Trippl, M., Desch, V. (2021). New directions for RIS studies and policies in the face of grand societal challenges. European Planning Studies, DOI: 10.1080/09654313.2021.1951177.

Trippl, M., Baumgartinger-Seiringer, S., Frangenheim, A., Isaksen, A., Rypestøl, J.O. (2020). Unravelling green regional industrial path development: regional preconditions, asset modification and agency. Geoforum, 111, 189-197.

Trubek, A. (ed.) (2018). Voices from the Rust Belt. New York: Picador.