Research emphasis: Urban Social Geography, Urban Policy
Urban areas are the microcosm of society, growth centers of a country’s economy, the location of research and development and gravitational centers of cultural and societal change. Social and societal developments have their real world manifestations in urban space and social and economic developments in urban areas are reflected in structural characteristics of urban sub-areas. The structure, dynamics and distribution of the urban population influences the financing of urban functions and developments in the housing and labor markets. Market potentials and private sector investment decisions, too, are related to the development of urban and metropoplitan areas.
This field of research deals with (1) population structure and demographic change, and the development of urban areas as centers of employment and places to live, (2) economic or demographic phenomena and their differentiation (their concentration, densities, distribution, growth) in urban space (3) questions of urban development and policy with a view on building up long term local comparative advantages. Micro scale urban social geography analyses detailed socio-economic structural patterns and processes of change and the the increasing differentiation of urban social milieus at the block level using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Survey methods are used to analyze activity systems/patterns of individuals or households, as well as preferences, felt needs, perceived quality of the urban environment, locational/residential behavior or social group behavioral patterns, appraisal, group perception and evaluation of spaces. The results urban research increasingly serve as a basis for decisions on public investment, allocation of resources, and socio-economic and urban development policy.
Competitive Regions, Regional Development
Analyses and documents patterns and processes of regional growth under conditions of global competition. Regional science concepts, geostatistical methods and GIS-tools are applied as are survey methods for the analysis of enterprises, households and consumers. The objective is to understand the development and functioning of competitive regions and to identify the determinants of competitiveness and the functioning and making of competitive regions (e.g. The Greater Basel Area, the Upper Rhine Valley, Switzerland, or selected growth areas of Asia). Among the determinants are the innovative capacity of a region and its attractiveness for knowledge intensive firms, the engineering of competitiveness through identity and image, and the marketing of cities and regions, spatial and regional planning, in developing countries through development policy (see also research emphasis Developing Countries and Development Strategies). Competency acquired qualify for academic or professional careers in public administration (business promotion activity, spatial planning, statistical and information services), in private enterprises (market and market area analyses), and in non governmental organisations (endopgenous potentials and local capacity building). Most studies have a practical orientation and are carried out in cooperation with potential end users, hence, the studies provide a direct link to the labor market.
Developing Countries and Development Cooperation
The focus is on (1) basic needs in selected developing countries that are among the premier growth areas of the world, in particular India and countries of Southeast Asia, (2) the social stratification of poverty areas with a view on factors that account for upward social mobility and poverty reduction, (3) regional disparities, sustained economic growth and development, (4) regional science and statistical methods, GIS-applications and survey methods for the enhancement of endogenous potentials. Internships and Master’s theses at the local scale of the communities and the micro scale of the household on planning issues for which data bases have to first be collected enable graduates for employment in various governmental and nongovernmental development agencies. Cooperation exists with All India Disaster Mitigation Institute of Ahmedabad, India on questions related to satellite and GIS-assisted slum mapping and social science surveys in urban slums and disaster areas.