Working Group Economic Geography

Research Projects

Exploring the impact of COVID-19 on regional resilience and disparities in Germany and China



Prof. Dr. Robert Hassink, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel (CAU), Germany 

Prof. Dr. Annekatrin Niebuhr, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel (CAU), Germany

Mercator Fellow Prof. Dr. Canfei He, Beijing University, China

Mercator Fellow Dr. Huiwen Gong, Eawag, ETH Domain, Switzerland


Commission: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

Duration: 2021-2024


Large crises affect regional economies differently, partly because of the specific characteristics of the crisis in question, but also because of differences in regional economic structures, in experiences in dealing with previous crises and in policy reactions at the national and regional level. The effects of the current COVID-19 crisis undoubtedly also differentiate between countries and regions. However, previous research provides only limited evidence on regional economic effects of pandemic crises and existing findings are often not applicable because basic conditions with respect to globalisation, ICT and mobility of individuals and goods differ significantly from the current situation. Based on first observations, we see two outstanding effects of COVID-19. First, containment measures restrict mobility and face-to-face interaction thereby diminishing classical agglomeration advantages and in particular learning opportunities that cities provide. Secondly, and simultaneously, global production networks are strongly disturbed which may lead to a regionalization of value chains, however, without agglomeration advantages. How this complex situation will affect regional resilience and disparities will be the core aim of this project. It will do so, by comparing the regional effects of COVID-19 in Germany and China, using complementary quantitative techniques and qualitative case-study methods. The project will not only lead to policy-relevant empirical research results, it will also reevaluate the explanatory power of theoretical concepts in economic geography and regional economics around agglomeration advantages, global production networks and regional resilience. 

The project will deal with four main research questions:
1) How does the COVID-19 crisis affect regional economies in Germany and China and do, in particular, agglomeration effects and an integration in global value chains influence the size of the regional shock and economic recovery of regions? How do economic crisis and health crisis interact at the regional level?
2) Does the crisis reduce agglomeration advantages because work from home and declining labour mobility might weaken learning effects?
3) How does the crisis affect global value chains and global production networks and what are the implication for regional disparities in Germany and China?
4) Do we need to revise the current theoretical approaches on regional effects of major crises because evidence derived from the WP 1 to 3 suggests that their assumptions and argu-ments do not apply anymore?

Energize Co2mmunity: Real-life Implementation of Renewable Community Energy Projects

Co2mmunity is a network of organisations which are scattered across eight different countries in the Baltic Sea Region (BSR). Our mission is to facilitate community energy (CE) project development as part of a transition to renewable energy sources. To achieve this mission, we create local partnerships for energy project development, provide knowledge, develop tools, and organise stakeholder meetings. Instead of working in isolation, we exchange ideas and experiences while continuously supporting one another. Doing so will help us improve our understanding of CE barriers and enablers, and thus relay the aquired knowledge to policy makers. Therewith, the Co2mmunity project contributes to the European Union’s vision of providing Clean Energy for all Europeans.

Based on the outputs and experiences of Co2mmunity, in this follow-up project phase, our 8 partners in the pilot regions will further advance the successful work and implement CE projects. A transnational Partner Agreement will deepen the identified cooperation possibilities among the partner regions. This takes form in a transnational pairing approach, teaming up frontrunner regions with follower partner regions. Study visits as well as exchanging good practice experiences and know-how will support the piloting regions and involve and connect regional CE stakeholders.

We also plan to reach CE stakeholders in the pilot regions beyond the partnering projects and to facilitate and start the RENCOP (Renewable Energy Co-operative Partnerships) idea in other places with the constructive good practice achieved. Energize Co2mmunity means to support the implementation of CE projects also beyond the own RENCOP.

The project aims to put life and broaden real-life CE projects, based upon the mobilisation process out of the RENCOPs and upon transnational pairing and piloting support. Ultimately, Co2mmunity's aim to promote sustainable renewable energy in the Baltic Sea Region remains.

Commission: INTERREG-BSR (Baltic Sea Region)

Budget: 666,657.80 €, thereof 519,628.35 € from the European Union (European Regional Development Fund)

Duration: 01.10.2020 - 30.09.2021

Project Website

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