Cities as Solutions:
the 56th ERSA Congress in Vienna
The world’s largest regional sciences congress, the 56th Congress of the European Regional Science Association (ERSA), concluded on August 26, 2016. The Congress was entitled “Cities & Regions: Smart, Sustainable, Inclusive?” and provided 850 participants from 58 countries with the opportunity to discuss some of today’s hottest topics, including unemployment, smart cities, and sustainable regional development.
Sustainability was not just one of the topics discussed at the conference, it was also a practical guideline for the organizers, as the Congress was granted “green meeting” certification by the Austrian Ecolabel. In addition to the talks at the conference, participants were able to see examples of sustainable urban development first hand during a series of highly interesting field trips, e.g. to Vienna’s Seestadt Aspern, Magda’s Hotel, or the Lobau wetlands national park, where the tensions between urban development and environmental conservation efforts create land use conflicts.
During the conference, cities were addressed as part of the solution and not as a hurdle for sustainable regional development, for example in Edward Glaeser’s keynote during the opening session: While Mahatma Gandhi claimed that freedom and independence were only to be found in villages, Glaeser claims that in this respect, the great man was wrong. The expertise concentrated in urban centers and the diversity of human interaction found in cities make it much easier to create the strong networks needed for both social and ecological innovation.
To encourage this kind of innovation, prizes for particularly outstanding work were awarded at the Congress. The EIB-ERSA Prize, worth € 10,000 and funded by the European Investment Bank, went to Professor Bernard Fingleton from Cambridge University. With this prize, the jury honored Professor Fingleton’s research in theoretical and empirical spatial economics, dealing with not just urban and regional issues but also problems on the national and global levels.
The city of Lienz sponsored the Epainos Preis for junior researchers. This prize was awarded to Michael Wyrwich from the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany, for his paper “Persistence of spatial differences of female labor force participation”. The German-speaking section of ERSA is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. In the conference the section awarded the August Lösch Prize to Adam Storeygard from Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA. The August Lösch Prize is sponsored by the city of Heidenheim and named after one of the world’s most important German regional economists, a citizen of Heidenheim who died in 1945.
Other generous sponsors of the 56th Congress of the European Regional Science Association included the BMVIT - Austrian Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology, the Vienna Convention Bureau, and the Vienna University of Technology. The Congress was organized by Gunther Maier (Institute of Multilevel Governance and Development, Vienna University of Economics and Business).