Course 2019-2020 a.y.


Department of Social and Political Sciences

Course taught in English
Go to class group/s: 31
CLMG (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/06) - M (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/06) - IM (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/06) - MM (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/06) - AFC (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/06) - CLELI (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/06) - ACME (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/06) - DES-ESS (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/06) - EMIT (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/06) - GIO (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/06) - DSBA (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/06) - PPA (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/06) - FIN (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/06)
Course Director:

Classes: 31 (I sem.)

Class-group lessons delivered  on campus

Mission & Content Summary


Half of the world’s population already lives in cities, generating more than 80 percent of global GDP today. In 2025 we expect the first 600 urban centres to account for about 60 percent of worldwide GDP. Urban growth leads the prosperity of the future world while, at the same time, enormous problems affecting people’s wellbeing are concentrating in cities. Why do cities exist? Why do people and firms cluster together in cities and global city-regions? The course guides students in understanding the forces producing agglomeration and goes into micro-foundations of urban economies. Beyond cities there are regions, and territories not only play a positive role in providing competitive ‘environment’ to individual companies but they also play a direct and pro-active role in the process of knowledge accumulation. Why do some regions grow more than other regions? This main question opens the door to new concepts such as the ‘regional innovation system’. A main conclusion is certainly that whatever would be the specific regional growth model, innovation exerts a critical central role. The closure of the circle is the relevance of human capital and talent attraction for cities and regions, helping them to be innovative and to nurture their sustainable growth. The course addresses the ‘thickness’ of urban labour markets as a catalyst for creativity.


  • [*Here and there, I reported some judgements expressed by students attending the previous two editions of the course – italic, in square brackets].
  • The course offers an original view to a ‘glocal’ perspective on competitiveness and growth where territories matter and ‘place-based’ policies exert a pro-active role in strengthening sustainability and wellbeing. [*Chose this course if you want a broad and comprehensive introduction to the most important issues of regional economics. If you want to learn how technology, innovation, and human capital have an impact on cities and regions, this is the right course!].
  • The course has been designed for students interested in ‘mesoeconomics’ (in between micro – firms and actors – and macro – States and governments), it is a natural complement to both micro and macro competences already developed. [*A course teaching you – and showing you – why mesoeconomics can be useful to promote territory and increase welfare. Useful, interesting and concrete. The course can be a useful tool in understanding more about cities and the dynamics of growth which are useful in professions in public sector/international organizations].
  • The presentation of real-world case studies further enhances the link between theoretical frames and specific policies. [*The balance between theoretical lectures and operational tools and presentation of other students is well achieved and relevant].
  • The course is divided into five modules very integrated and mutually reinforcing: cities, regions, innovation, and human capital, plus two technical instruments frequently used in the field analysis: composite indicators and network analysis:
    1. The first module provides a critical insight into the main contemporary literature in discussing the role and the challenges of cities on a global scale, its role in promoting sustainable growth and the relevant policies.
    2. The second module analyses the concept of region and its intertwined linkages with the city. Concepts such as ‘global city-region’ are addressed in some detail and territories are analysed as the producer of knowledge accumulation.
    3. The third one is devoted to the analysis of innovation networks and their urban and regional dimensions. The concepts of ‘cluster’ and ‘isles of innovation’ are widely used to look at the dynamic paths of territories [*As an EMIT student, I can recommend the class as it builds upon the insights of innovation economics from the previous year and develops hands-on policy advice on the regional level].
    4. The fourth module develops an analysis of urban and regional job markets and their recent evolution within the paradigm of the knowledge-driven economy. Policies to develop human capital and to attract talents are presented in depth.
  • In developing these four main contents of the course we come through two specific tools, widely applied in the relevant literature: composite indicators (the ‘global city competitiveness index’ or the ‘regional innovation scoreboard’, to name but a few) and network analysis. The course dedicates some time to deepen these technical tools, allowing students to become ‘users’ at least at an intermediate level [*Strong theoretical background on the economics of cities and regions plus useful tools to apply the theory into practice].

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)


At the end of the course student will be able to...

[*It is a very informative course in terms of policy analysis and public management but it also offers practical sessions to apply knowledge]:

  • Describe and interpret the development path and the challenges of an urban/regional context [*I learned a lot about the reason why cities and agglomerations exist and what determines their growth, size and economic performance]. 
  • Identify the role played by innovation as a main source of regional competitiveness.
  • Interpreting urban and regional policies to strengthen the ‘regional innovation system’ and to attract talents.
  • Describe and interpret the relationship between innovation, creativity and human capital [*I have learned about the concept of ‘island of innovation’, as well as about network analysis as a tool to assess connectivity between cities/regions].
  • Acquire the rationale and the constructive challenges of a ‘composite indicator’.
  • Acquire the rationale and the building blocks of the ‘network analysis’.


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Act as a policy maker’s advisor for urban and regional growth policies [*I learned to be careful of ‘one-size-fits-all’ policies and policy intervention in general].
  • Mix in a proper way bottom-up and top-down approaches in the analysis of urban and regional dynamics.
  • Look at urban phenomena understanding sustainability issues.
  • Use in a critical way already existing ‘composite indicators’ on urban and regional phenomena;
  • Interpret network modelling of urban and regional dynamics [*We always speak about the importance of networks but through this course, the understanding of its relevance got to a deeper level].
  • Develop the analysis of an urban/regional innovative environment detecting strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
  • Develop teamwork skills [*The course helped me develop my synthesis abilities, thanks to the workgroup we have to do].
  • Interact and communicate effectively in multicultural contexts.

Teaching methods

  • Face-to-face lectures
  • Guest speaker's talks (in class or in distance)
  • Case studies /Incidents (traditional, online)
  • Individual assignments
  • Group assignments


The learning experience of this course includes, in addition to face-to-face lectures, incidents discussion, small group presentations, real examples and interactions with guest speakers.

  • We schedule one external guest for each of the developed module. Each topic is analyzed from a data-driven (bottom up) and a theoretical (top down) perspectives, so as to make the students aware of the strict interlink between theory and reality [*At the end of the course I have a much more clear vision on how economics deals with regional development issues from both a theoretical and policy view].
  • Over the course students are engaged in two short group projects presenting and discussing specific issues chosen among a set made available and related to the issues presented during the lessons. Students prepare a power-point presentation summarizing the evidences of their exercise. These presentations are used for the student assessment as well as a basis for a discussion of the cases in class, during which students are encouraged to bring their own views and to share insights, comments and conclusions.
  • Attendance is recommended for all the students staying in Milan during the I semester. The course is open, without any limitation also to non attending students and specifically for those abroad under different programmes. In the previous experience the written essay (see below Assessment methods) has been frequently chosen accordingly to the ongoing foreign experience.

Assessment methods

  Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Written individual exam (traditional/online)
  • Group assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)
  • Active class participation (virtual, attendance)
  • Peer evaluation


With the purpose of measuring the acquisition of the above-mentioned learning outcomes the student assessment is based on three main components:

  1. In-class discussion and participation (20% of the final grade) aimed at testing the student ability to interact in a multicultural environment and to think critically through contribution given to the class discussions.
  2. Small group assignments (25% of the final grade) designed for the purpose of verifying the student ability to:
    • Identify and analyze the main issues of the selected readings.
    • Connect the presented material with methodologies learnt in class.
    • Suggest recommendations for policy making. The deliverable consists of a power point presentation.
  3. Final written exam (55% of the final grade), based on open questions of the relevant program, which aims to assess the student’s learning level of the main concepts, methods and tools detailed in the teaching material.


Student assessment is based on two main components:

  1. Written exam, (65% of the finale grade) based on open question of the relevant program, which aims to assess the student’s learning level of the main concepts, methods and tools detailed in the teaching material.
  2. Class participation is substituted by a short written essay (around 25,000– 30,000 characters) agreed in advance with the course Director (35% of the final grade).

Teaching materials


  • There is no distinction between attending and non-attending students.
  • There is no textbook. Specific materials are provided by the instructors on the course e-Learning: slides, teaching notes, compulsory readings.
Last change 16/06/2019 20:20