The spatial economics domain covers a large number of complicated policy problems that require sound scientific analysis. There are plenty of examples to illustrate the complexity of the problems that the discipline addresses. How can the limited amount of space available in densely populated areas be structured in such a way that people with diverging cultural and ethnic backgrounds, different ages and incomes can live and work peacefully and healthily alongside one another? How can urban and rural areas be developed for sustainable land use in the broadest sense of the word, while taking into account all kinds of economic, ecological and social factors? How can we guarantee the accessibility of economic centres when the continued concentration of economic activity in successful centres leads to ever-increasing traffic flows that threaten the success of those centres? Policy initiatives to increase accessibility have often been disappointing, partly because of feedback effects on the location choices made by firms and households. Policies that favour strong cities and vital rural areas often have adverse effects on accessibility and environmental quality.
The programme's mission is to seek, maintain and further develop a nationally and internationally recognised top position in academic and project research on the economics of space, transport and the environment.
The objectives that follow from this mission are:
- Perform innovative research at the international forefront in the programmes fields, and to be the world's leading groups in a selected number of thematic spearheads
- Maintain high publication standards, in terms of quality and productivity
- Maintain a strong impact in the field, in terms of influence and also as reflected in citations
- Secure sufficient external funding, from diversified sources
- Maintain strong and productive ties with selected research groups from the international arena
- Be and remain visible not only as authors, but also in positions serving international associations and journals
- Translate empirical and theoretical research findings to practical policy questions and serve society by facilitating evidence-based policy advice.
The research programme addresses four interrelated themes:
- Urban & regional dynamics: agglomeration economies, housing markets, regional labour markets, migration
- Land use: land rents, spatial externalities, flood risk, spatial planning
- Transport: congestion, network reliability, accident risks, sustainable transport, transport policy
- Environmental & resource economics: biodiversity, agri-environmental schemes, renewable resources, green paradox, climate change adaptation.
The research group has been successful in achieving substantial outside funding for its research in addition to the funding from the university. The share of outside sources is about 70%. Main parts of the outside sources stem from NWO (the Netherlands organisation for scientific research), FES programmes for strategic research on urban dynamics, sustainable transport, climate change, etc.) and other sources including EU project funds.
The group is proud that it hosts no less than three holders of advanced grants ERC grants (Erik Verhoef, Cees Withagen, Rick van der Ploeg). The research group cooperates in a structural manner with agencies such as CPB, PBL, KiM and TNO.
The research themes of the group are also the key components of Master programmes STREEM (Spatial, Transport and Environmental Economics) and UNIGIS. Members of the team with systematic prominent positions on lists of Dutch economists in terms of publications, citations and H index include Richard Tol, Peter Nijkamp, Piet Rietveld and Erik Verhoef. This is also confirmed by high scores on REPEC lists. On average each year about six PhD candidates from the department successfully defend their thesis.