Polycentricity: An Issue in Local Development Strategies? Findings from the Baltic Sea Region

Niels Boje Groth, Søren Smidt-Jensen, Thomas Alexander Sick Nielsen

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Since its introduction in the mid-1990s, the concept of polycentricity has had a fashionable status in the EU countries. Polycentricity is seen as a means to create a more balanced development and increase the competitiveness for more peripheral cities and regions based on increases in mass and exploitation of complementary assets. However, this “belief” in polycentricity may be problematic as the geography of strategic relevance for many cities is in essence trans-local. The paper presents evidence on the geography of strategic networking assembled from three case cities from the Baltic Sea Region. The strategic networking of cities as they aim to re-develop their economies after decline in manufacturing, rarely rely on polycentric relations within the regions. Cities act as entrepreneurs and cooperate with the most relevant and competent “players” in the market. Strategic partnerships are matched with policies generally neglecting distance and regional associations. The weaknesses of polycentricity as a development concept, and its links to networks of innovation are discussed. Regionally based polycentricity should be seen as a special case of the more general conditions of a new relational geography, where polycentricity may be of relevance to cities depending on regional location and capacity for re-structuring.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Planning Studies
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)727-751
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

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