Since the “Great Recession” of the late 2000’s, the voices expressing a conventional wisdom that advanced economies can sustain economic shocks without a strong production base have all but been silenced. This U-turn in macroeconomic thinking has returned policymakers to some persistent questions about how to understand the relationship between technological innovations and existing production processes. Previous research highlights – again and again – how manufacturing processes adapt to new technologies incrementally and unevenly across time and place.
The Center for Urban Innovation conducts and supports research projects that examines the connection between people, places, and production through an interdisciplinary lens that understands the adoption of new technologies – a focus of work here at Georgia Tech – as highly contingent. Technological adaptation depends on industry, sector, location, capital availability, labor skills and costs, policy, and individual firm strategies. Again, this nuanced, dynamic, and non-linear experience of how new production processes transformed in the late 20th century and has re-emerged in the 21st century economy points to the need for continued research into industries and sectors.
It also means that generalizations are hard to justify about how production is changing and why the role of these key factors: industry, sector, location, capital availability, labor skills and costs, policy, and firm strategies, matter so much. In a world economy often described as “flat,” it is the uneven assets and factor conditions between places that often stand out. And here, policy is a key determinant. Increasingly, policy variation shapes regional variation in costs, risks, and capacities.
The Center for Urban Innovation’s goals include engaged and rigorous research on the relationship between people, places, and production that is policy relevant, replicable, and generalizable.