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Sako Musterd: «The mobile creative class in Europe is not so mobile»

The researcher Sako Musterd

The researcher Sako Musterd

«it would be very difficult for anyone else to make such a detailed comparison of 13 metropolitan areas and to compare the opinions of high-skilled employees, employers and transnational migrants, as we did»

«it would be very difficult for anyone else to make such a detailed comparison of 13 metropolitan areas and to compare the opinions of high-skilled employees, employers and transnational migrants, as we did»

«Diversity, tolerance and openness are crucial factors in urban economic development»

«Diversity, tolerance and openness are crucial factors in urban economic development»

08/06/2010

Recerca

Sako Musterd is Professor of Urban Geography at the University of Amsterdam. He is also Director of the Centre for Urban Studies. His current research activities focus on spatial segregation and social exclusion, neighbourhood effect analysis, the urban conditions for creative knowledge and the relationship between these issues, looking at the cases of large metropolitan areas in Europe. Musterd has written extensively on these subjects. He chairs the Netherlands Graduate School of Housing and Urban Research (NETHUR), a joint initiative of the Universities of Amsterdam, Utrecht, Delft, Groningen, Nijmegen and Eindhoven participate, coordinated the EU-funded URBEX project and currently coordinates the ACRE project.

The ACRE project (Accommodating Creative Knowledge – Competitiveness of European Metropolitan Regions within the Enlarged Union), funded under the 6th EU Framework Programme and carried out between 2007 and 2010, was directed by Sako Musterd at the University of Amsterdam and involved 13 European cities, including Barcelona. The ACRE team in Barcelona was coordinated by Montserrat Pareja-Eastaway of the Creativity, Innovation and Urban Transformation Research Group, affiliated to the UB Faculty of Economics and Business and supported by the Catalan government (Generalitat de Catalunya).

The results of the project were presented on 27-29 May in a final conference held in the Paranymph of the UB's Historic Building.
 
The project was set up to assess the conditions for creating and stimulating ‘creative knowledge regions’ in the context of the extended European Union. Creative and knowledge sectors range from art, music, television, architecture and design to finance, law and higher education.
 
 What has it meant for you to coordinate the European ACRE project?
It has been hard work, but at the same time an exciting and very interesting endeavour. I was lucky to have a very motivated and enthusiastic research team, which made life easier for me. Thanks to an excellent working relationship we were able to produce approximately 80 scientific reports, a large number of journal articles and a book, plus numerous interviews, other texts and presentations.
 

We made some interesting discoveries, and since the material we based our findings on is unique – it would be very difficult for anyone else to make such a detailed comparison of 13 metropolitan areas and to compare the opinions of high-skilled employees, employers and transnational migrants, as we did – we feel confident about entering the debate on conditions for economic development with some bold statements.

 

What do you believe have been the most significant results of the study?

Diversity, tolerance and openness (cf. Richard Florida) are crucial factors in urban economic development, but personal trajectories and personal ties are also particularly influential, as is job availability. The focus should not be on ‘talent’ but on personal ties; moreover, European employers and employees in creative industries and knowledge-intensive industries are far less mobile than their American colleagues seem to be. The mobile creative class in Europe is not so mobile.

 

We found that there are four principal factors in understanding urban economic development:

- Pathways that urban regions have been down in the past, and the conditions that these have created.

- Places: the importance of place-related contexts.

- Particularities: special, and sometimes almost coincidental experiences may play a crucial role in understanding development.

- Personal ties: the location of friends, family, birthplace and place of study all turned out to be extremely important factors behind settling in a particular urban region.

 

What are the necessary conditions for the creation and stimulation of creative cities?

Apart from the four key factors I’ve mentioned (diverse pathways leading to the formation of multi-layered, prestigious cities; place-specific characteristics that confer comparative advantages and unique status; particular characteristics, such as very strong leadership, or coincidental conditions; and personal ties) we should also continue to focus on what are referred to as ‘hard’ conditions – basic infrastructures, tax conditions, etc. – and on some of the ‘soft’ conditions that may help to attract people and to foster a sense of attachment to a particular urban region. Universities, higher education institutions, creative capital and other international institutions all contribute to the growth and longevity of metropolitan areas.
 

How would you assess your collaboration with the team from the University of Barcelona involved in the project?

This is a dream-team, very active, pro-active, well organized, highly skilled, and of great importance to our analysis of Barcelona and comparisons with other European cities. They proved to be superb organizers of the final conference as well.
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