Places that don’t matter? Socio-economic transformation of industrial towns in Switzerland and Slovenia

fundamental research project
Basic Info


The industrial sector accounts for a large share of employment in small and medium-sized towns (SMSTs) (see Kotzeva et al., 2016). The academic literature tends, however, to focus on industrial transformation in well-performing regions and large urban centres; making policy recommendations derived from such “best-practice models” ill-adapted to SMSTs’ contexts (see Florida et al., 2017; Miörner & Trippl, 2019). Researchers are increasingly interested in SMSTs to provide policymakers with contextualised place-based policies (see Servillo et al., 2014). Additional research must be conducted to understand how industrial and socio-economic transformation plays out in SMSTs. Using a comparative approach, we examine industrial and socio-institutional transformation in six industrial towns in Switzerland and Slovenia. The research methodology is based on in-depth comparative case-study approaches and participatory workshops to identify the processes behind industrial and socio-institutional transformation in SMSTs. The research project will attempt to provide an explanation to favour community-level responses when tackling industrial and socio-institutional transformation and mitigate increasing populist resentment from citizens in SMSTs who “feel that they don’t matter” compared with citizens in large urban centres (Rodríguez-Pose, 2018).


Picture: Methodological framework of the project (click on for picture)

Project steps

  • Task 1 (1st year): we will conduct a historical analysis on how and why different shocks (global – like the recent economic crisis or local – like the environmental crisis when shutting down mines etc.) happened. The goal is to trace the transformation trajectories of different industrial towns.
  • Task 2 (2nd year): we will conduct qualitative research in each case study town. Narrative analysis will be used, whereby we will be able to interpret and attach meaning to local experiences of socio-economic transformation in times of shocks or important changes.
  • Task 3 (3rd year): we will conduct a participatory action research to know how stakeholders at the community level respond to socio-economic transformation processes. This will be co-produced together with participants from the local community identified in first and second step of the research, by a series of workshops.

socio-economic transformation
slow innovations
industrial culture
industrial towns