The focus of our research activities is not exclusively in the field of economic geography, but transdisciplinary in nature, crossing the boundaries to economics, business economics and applied informatics, so as to bring education within the WU in line with the international topics, theories and methods in economic geography and GIScience.
The following principles determine our approach to research
Research should meet the highest academic standards of rigour and independence, and be publishable in leading peer-reviewed journal, conferences and academic seminar.
Theoretical and methodological work should be empirically relevant, and empirical work should be framed by theory.
The use of spatial data and the application of spatial econometric methodologies and other spatial analysis tools is crucial for the work.
Research is grouped into three broad areas:
The creation of spatially uneven productive and innovative capacity
The institute has a long tradition in research on the spatial dimension of innovation, productivity change and economic growth with Professor emeritus Manfred M. Fischer providing internationally renowned research on spatial modelling and methodologies. One of key insights of work on the geography of innovation, productivity and growth is the role of inertia or path-dependence that results in spatially uneven development.
Drawing on different economic theories such as political economy, evolutionary and institutional economics we recognize that future regional and urban economic changes are always shaped by historical layers of industries, firms, infrastructure, institutional environments and social networks laid down during previous rounds of investment and production. This existing resource system forms at once the launchpad for and barrier to future change. We thus expect regions and cities to branch into related economic activities (industries, technologies, institutional environments) creating new pathways of economic development. As regions and cities are embedded in national, supra-national and global economic scales and linked through firm and social networks, the path-dependent endogenous creation of regional economic capacity is mediated through processes at other scales. Knowledge pipelines, trans-regional supply chains, and social networks influence the direction and pace of economic and technological change but the exact nature of the interaction of those multiple processes are not well understood at this point.
The research of the Institute seeks to address some of these theoretical and empirical blind spots. The link to socio-economics is its focus on heterodox approaches, the appreciation of historically and geographically specific processes shaping economic change, as well as its appreciation of institutional differentiation and recognition of the irreducibility of political economy to economy.
Research in this area is based on ongoing international collaboration including the University of California, Los Angeles, University College Dublin as well as research and teaching links with the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, Department of Innovation System.
The spatial dimension of increasing socio-economic inequalities
Even if regions are able to create and maintain competitive advantage this does not assure increasing welfare of their people. Because of declining wage shares on the one hand and rapidly rising top incomes on the other, concentration of income and wealth at the very top now poses a considerable threat to future economic and social wellbeing in countries dominated by a strong financial sector. We ask how (1) existing spatial configurations in form of industry mix, labor force characteristics and institutional environment shaper regional and urban differences in the levels and changes in income and wealth inequality as well as social mobility and (2) how global financialization coupled with wealth concentration influences local housing markets and so shapes segregation and inequality in individual cities.
While the link between global financialization and housing markets has been developed in the literature the step to segregation and inequality is insufficiently developed. The transformation of housing from shelter into abstract, financial object depends not only on the size of the financial sector or the wealth share of the rich but also on national and locally specific institutions governing housing markets. This research area will be developed in the context of the Austrian housing market with a particular emphasis on Vienna. The explicit focus on inter-scalar institutional frameworks and relations builds the conceptual bridge to research in the Department of Socioeconomics.
Global networks / GIScience
The organization and coordination of the global space economy using
GIScience Employing geographic information systems tools and techniques and developing spatial analytical methodologies based on detailed spatially referenced data (which the WGI Institute collects and maintains), this area explores how innovation and production is coordinated through global financial flows, knowledge pipelines and supply chains.
It is here that we look more carefully at the capacity of economic actors, such as firms, to manage their supply-, demand- and customer networks across an increasingly spatially differentiated global economy.
Measuring and modelling spatial interaction and accessibility of services and goods on local, regional and global scales is central for supporting supply/demand, transportation, location/allocation and service/catchment area related planning policies, strategies and operations which need organization of huge and complex spatial data sets utilizing GI-systems and location analytics methods and techniques.
However, our research interests are not merely constrained to for profit businesses but also include non- profit and governmental organizations facing similar challenges in providing goods and services to the public.
From a spatial analytical point of view the optimization of humanitarian services and goods provision is not that different from retail services network optimization.