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Cities 2020

Cities 2020 is our research programme dedicated to investigating the drivers of urban growth over the next decade.

The research is aiming to answer the following questions

  • What will the geography of the recovery look like over the next decade? 
  • What factors will enable cities to be socially and economically sustainable during the economic recovery and the period to 2020? 
  • What must policy makers do now to ensure success in 2020? 

Research areas include:

  • High-growth firms: How can cities best support the development of more high-growth firms? 
  • Innovation: How can cities enhance their innovation capacity? 
  • Low skills: What is the impact of a shift towards a more knowledge-intensive economy on those with low or no skills? What can be done? 
  • Demand for graduates: How can employers be encouraged to make better use of graduate skills in cities? 
  • City leadership: How can local areas build leadership capacity? How can cities use their business leaders to harness growth?

Related Reports

Cities, Growth and Poverty: Evidence review
This report with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation looked at the links between cities, growth and poverty.

Dr Neil Lee, Paul Sissons, Ceri Hughes, Prof Anne Green, Duncan Adam, Gaby Atfield and Prof Andres Rodriguez - Pose
07 February 2014

Cities, growth and poverty - Evidence paper 1: Review of existing literature

Neil Lee, Duncan Adam, Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, Anne Green & Gaby Atfield
07 February 2014

Initial Findings: Wage inequality and employment polarisation in British cities

Dr Neil Lee, Dr Paul Sissons and Katy Jones
06 May 2013

The Business of Cities: The private sector, Local Enterprise Partnerships and growth
Shortly after the Coalition came to power, it established Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPS), private-sector led organisations designed to involve business in the leadership of cities. Drawing on anonymous interviews with business leaders involved in LEPs, and a review of the history of business involvement in similar initiatives, this paper considers a range of issues around business engagement in LEPs.

Nye Cominetti, Lizzie Crowley and Neil Lee
31 October 2012

Low Carbon Jobs for Cities
This report sets out what can be done at the city and local level to encourage jobs growth in the low carbon economy.

Nye Cominetti
19 July 2012

Streets Ahead: What makes a city innovative?
This Cities 2020 report looks at the geography of innovation, what makes a city successful, and how policy makers can improve the innovative performance of their cities.

Lizzie Crowley
07 December 2011

Off the Map? The geography of NEETs
Launched as part of a research partnership with the Private Equity Foundation, this report examines NEET rates for 16 – 24 year olds across Great Britain.

Neil Lee and Jonathan Wright
01 November 2011

Ready, Steady, Grow? How the government can support the development of more high growth firms
With high growth firms widely recognised as major drivers of growth and job creation, this paper outlines what the government should do to maximise their success.

Charles Levy, Neil Lee and Annie Peate
18 March 2011

Do Enterprise Zones Work?
With a new generation of Enterprise Zones expected in the budget, this policy paper outlines major objections to these schemes.

Andrew Sissons with Chris Brown
28 February 2011

No City Left Behind? - The geography of recovery and the implications for the coalition
No city left behind? Investigates what the geography of the recovery is likely to be, and what policymakers can do to shape it.

Neil Lee
08 July 2010

Managing Change in Yorkshire and Humber Supplementary Paper: Mitigating the impact of public spending
This supplementary paper supports the findings of the report 'Managing Change: Responding to reduced public expenditure in Yorkshire and Humber'.

Alexandra Jones and Katy Morris
19 June 2010

Recession, Recovery and Medium - Sized Cities
New research shows how ‘medium-sized’ cities can contribute to economic recovery.

Naomi Clayton and Katy Morris
19 February 2010

Anchoring Growth: The role of `Anchor Institutions` in the regeneration of UK cities
Anchor institutions have always been key actors in the economic, social and cultural life of a town or city but they assume renewed significance in light of current economic circumstances. Amidst public sector cutbacks and low levels of private sector confidence, it is clear that making the most of existing assets like anchor institutions will be vital for towns and cities across the United Kingdom

Produced by The Work Foundation for The Northern Way
01 January 2010

Past Recessions: What are the lessons for regeneration in the future?
As part of The Northern Way’s Regeneration Momentum research programme, this paper compares past approaches to regeneration focusing on the northern regions. Considering the different economic and political contexts, we seek to identify what lessons can be learnt from past regeneration initiatives.

Produced by The Work Foundation for The Northern Way
01 January 2010

Recession and Recovery: How UK cities can respond and drive the recovery
New research from The Work Foundation shows that, as in the last recession,low skill cities are struggling the most with unemployment and risk long-term decline.

Alexandra Jones, Neil Lee, Katy Morris
06 July 2009

Innovation and the Future Leeds City Region Economy
This report set out the case and context for innovation as a Leeds City Region priority and reviews innovation capacity and performance in Leeds City Region now compared to the core city regions of Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield

Katy Morris and Alexandra Jones
01 May 2009

The Geography of Unemployment
How has the recession affected different areas in the UK? This report suggests that large cities outside of London are the worst affected.

Naomi Clayton
01 February 2009

Ideopolis: knowledge cities working paper 1 - what is the knowledge economy?
Attempts to disentangle the myths from the realities of the knowledge econom

David Coats
01 January 2005

Related Events

No Entry - transport barriers to young people`s access to opportunities
Join us for an afternoon of presentations and conversation on transport and youth employment. Campaign for Better Transport will launch its newest report, "No Entry - transport barriers to young people's access to opportunities," and the Work Foundation will present its work on "Transport barriers to youth employment."

Thu, 16 May 2013
14:30 - 16:00

People or Place? Urban policy in the age of austerity
The event will bring together high level representatives of business, the third sector and national and local government to consider the findings of the report: People or Place? Urban Policy in the Age of Austerity.

Tue, 18 September 2012
14:30 - 16:30

Low carbon jobs in cities: A roundtable discussion
This event seeks to discover which type of jobs might be created and where, and what cities and local authorities can do to spur low carbon job creation.

Thu, 19 July 2012
09:30 - 11:00

Economic Development: Innovating for Local Growth?
Cities and local authorities need to innovate to find new ways to drive a new economic destiny and growth, create jobs and leverage private sector finances to support economic development, this event looks into how this can be achieved.

Wed, 11 April 2012
09:00 - 11:00

Wage Inequality in British Cities: A roundtable event
This rountable event will present the initial results of a research project investigating patterns and determinants of wage inequality in cities, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and to be published later this year.

Wed, 29 February 2012
12:00 - 14:00

Related Blogs

Supporting and understanding innovation in our cities
Cities” and “Innovation”: Two words buzzing together in current policy debate. In recent months, we have heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer talking up England’s northern cities as a powerhouse for the UK economy; and we have seen Government initiatives of City Deals and Growth Deals with ambitions to promote “innovation”.

27 November 2014

Will devolving powers to Manchester really stimulate economic development?
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced that new powers are to be devolved to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA). The GMCA will gain powers in the areas of policing, planning, transport and housing, and will be required to introduce the post of a directly elected mayor. These powers are modest and do not offer the promise of any real capability to stimulate economic development.

03 November 2014

Unleashing Metro Growth?
Blog on City Growth Commission

22 October 2014

Bridging the skills canyon
Today (4th September) sees the launch of an important new report by the Centre for Cities and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The report concerns the role that cities need to play over the coming years in providing individuals with a route out of low paid employment and into more productive and remunerative work.

Director of The Work Foundation
04 September 2014

The UK's spatial housing market bubbles
Professor Geraint Johnes, director of The Work Foundation, writes on the Bank of England’s Financial Policy Committee has sounded a warning about conditions in the housing market.

28 March 2014

Are the Enterprise Zones flourishing?
Damian Walne, director of the socioeconomic centre, responds to The Chancellor's decision to extend business rates discounts and enhanced capital allowances for Enterprise Zones for another three years.

Damian Walne
21 March 2014

Does economic growth benefit those in poverty?
Ceri Hughes blogs about a new report The Work Foundation has written for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), today, which highlights the fragile relationship between economic growth and poverty reduction in British cities.

Ceri Hughes
07 February 2014

We need laser-like focus on better jobs in our cities
Katie Schmuecker, Policy and Research Manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) writes about new research by the Work Foundation published today which finds many economically successful cities – in terms of economic output and productivity levels - had static or even growing rates of poverty, even during periods of growth.

Policy and Research Manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF)
07 February 2014

Employers can do more to help the unemployed – but don’t blame migrants
Ian Brinkley writes on the Skills Minister's suggestion that firms to hire from their local community rather than take on migrants from overseas.

Ian Brinkley
30 July 2013

Mapping inequality in the UK labour market
Dr Neil Lee presents a summary of the findings from the latest report into wage inequality and employment polarisation in British cities.

Dr Neil Lee
07 May 2013

Low carbon plans for UK cities: Where next?
The battle against climate change and resource depletion will be won or lost in the world’s cities. Cities present us with huge environmental challenges, but also offer big opportunities, because they create economies of scale in technology deployment, access to capital, and opportunities for green growth jobs.

Professor Tim Dixon, University of Reading
24 July 2012

Enterprise in deprived areas: Different problems or different firms?
Government policy often tries to target firms in deprived areas, and remove the barriers they face to success. The Local Enterprise Growth Initiative (LEGI), for example, tried to address barriers such as lack of skilled labour or access to finance in specific geographical area. Yet there has been little evidence to support this approach.

Dr Neil Lee
12 July 2012

Local innovation and freedom go hand in hand
Last December, Nick Clegg announced the City Deals – a series of tailored agreements between Whitehall and the core cities, giving them new powers and responsibilities.

Dr Neil Lee
05 July 2012

Move to speed up Youth Contract in troublespots is welcome but we need more for the long-term
Youth unemployment is one of the most important issues facing the UK, and it is highly spatially uneven – we’ve repeatedly warned about hotspots of youth unemployment. To address this, Nick Clegg will today announce extra help for young people in 20 youth unemployment troublespots. In places like Hartlepool, Birmingham and Middlesborough, the Youth Contract will be speeded up: eligibility will begin at 6 months rather than the usual 9.

Dr Neil Lee
27 June 2012

Exporting homelessness to struggling cities is not the solution we need
For those who can work, secure and lasting employment is surely one of the best routes out of homelessness and poverty. Even if they are given somewhere to live, homeless families and individuals who fail to find work will remain vulnerable - at risk of losing their home again and, at best, reliant on benefits.

Nye Cominetti
22 February 2012

The Skills Dilemma
Skills are the cornerstone of modern economies. They are critical for national economic growth and prosperity, and are central to individual life chances and social mobility. But, do we always develop and use our collective skills in the most efficient and beneficial way?

Dr Paul Sissons
10 January 2012

Streets Ahead: What makes a city innovative?
Innovative cities can drive the economic recovery. Innovation – the successful commercialisation of new ideas – is the key driver of economic growth.

Lizzie Crowley
07 December 2011

Any rebirth for regeneration?
As the government comes under fire today for cuts in regeneration funding, it seems like a pertinent time to ask the question: ‘is there a future for area based regeneration’?

Lizzie Crowley
03 November 2011

UK Minister for Cities
Yesterday’s (19th July 2011) announcement of the appointment of Greg Clark as the new Minister for Cities is welcomed by The Work Foundation.

Chris Brown
20 July 2011

A Two Nation Recovery
The labour marker recovery still defies dire warnings of an imminent double dip recession...

Ian Brinkley
13 July 2011

Work Programme announcement
We welcome many elements of the government’s new initiative, such as a focus on sustained employment and increased flexibility. A number of features of the programme – payment by results, the emphasis on employment sustainability and the ‘black box’ approach which will incentives innovation – are, we think, good ideas.

Neil Lee
10 June 2011

Related News

The Guardian quotes The Work Foundation on economic growth and city- regions inbalance
Article on Labour party leader, Ed Miliband's, pledge to put city-region government at the heart of the Labour attempt to rebalance growth in the UK.

The Guardian
09 April 2014

No Entry - transport barriers to young people's access to opportunities
Katy Jones, researcher at The Work Foundation provides a review into the transport barriers to young people's access to opportunities.

Katy Jones
17 May 2013

Wage inequality and employment polarisation
A video of Dr Neil Lee explaining the findings from the latest report commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Dr Neil Lee
03 May 2013

Survey shows business leaders ready to walk away from Local Enterprise Partnerships unless real progress made soon
With the publication today (31 Oct) of the Heseltine Review, a new report from The Work Foundation warns that time is running out on business involvement in Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), the government’s flagship measure for rebalancing the economy. A series of interviews with business leaders conducted as part of the report indicates that many are ready to walk away unless the government gives LEPs real powers and finance. This underlines the importance of the Review’s expected recommendation to boost LEP powers.

Tom Phillips
31 October 2012

Government’s policies for rebalancing economy are likely to widen regional divides and hasten decline of poorest areas
The gap between successful and struggling regions of the UK is set to widen, with the poorest communities experiencing further economic decline unless the government takes more effective action to rebalance the economy. This is according to a report published today (Sept 19) by The Work Foundation.

Tom Phillips
19 September 2012

Cities and regeneration
Lizzie Crowley, reseacher at The Work Foundation, discusses her work on the Cities 2020 programme.

Lizzie Crowley
06 March 2012

Centrally-led growth policy holding back cities outside London
Cities outside of London and the South East are at risk of being left behind by the economic recovery unless the government adopts a less centralised growth and innovation policy.

07 December 2011

Report reveals blackspots for young people not in education, employment or training across Great Britain
A report published tomorrow (4 November) by The Work Foundation and Private Equity Foundation has uncovered ten blackspots for youth disengagement - cities where between one in five and one in four young people are not in education, employment or training (NEET).

Tom Phillips
04 November 2011

Two nation labour market recovery continues – but with underlying signs of weakness
Two nation labour market recovery continues – but with underlying signs of weakness.

Anna Kharbanda
13 July 2011

Underlying economic growth flat but some early signs of knowledge led recovery
Commenting on today’s GDP figures, Ian Brinkley, director of socio-economic programmes at The Work Foundation, said:

Ian Brinkley
27 April 2011

Budget response from The Work Foundation
Commenting on today’s Budget, Ian Brinkley, director of socio-economic programmes at The Work Foundation, said...

Nasreen Memon
23 March 2011

Budget must target high growth firms to maximise growth and reduce unemployment
With the budget expected to tackle the “enemies of enterprise”, a new report published next week (21 March) by The Work Foundation urges the government to focus its enterprise policy on small to medium sized ‘high growth firms’ - companies likely to be a major source of jobs and growth during the recovery.

Tom Phillips
17 March 2011

Enterprise Zones are no substitute for a coherent growth strategy
Commenting on today’s announcement on Enterprise Zones, Andrew Sissons, Researcher at The Work Foundation and lead author of the report Do Enterprise Zones Work? said..

Nasreen Memon
05 March 2011

Enterprise Zones could cost £50,000 per job and provide few lasting benefits
With the announcement of a new generation of Enterprise Zones widely expected in the Budget, a report published next week (28 February) by The Work Foundation warns that such schemes are likely to be ineffective at stimulating sustained growth in depressed areas. The paper also raises major concerns about the cost of such policies, with analysis of previous Enterprise Zones suggesting this amounted to at least £23,000 for each new job created – equivalent to £50,000 in today’s money.

Tom Phillips
28 February 2011