#EURegionsWeek UNIVERSITY: Global Talents, Immigration Policy and Regional Innovation

Wed 9, October 2019
11:30 - 13:00

European regions are competing globally in attracting the brightest talents. In fact, many leading economic industries would not exist without these capacities. However, the high concentration of high-skilled workers in a few hot spots is also a source of concern, as benefits and costs of immigration are not evenly distributed across regions, jobs and sectors. As result, anti-immigration sentiments are flourishing in Europe and elsewhere. This session explores ways in which European cities and regions can deal with these challenges by keeping borders open to global talents as well as addressing the fear and concerns of those who feel excluded by the benefits of high-skilled immigration.

European countries and regions are facing social and economic challenges due to long-term trends, such as an ageing population and low fertility rates, along with sluggish productivity growth and labour shortages. The relative disadvantage, compared to the US and other Anglo-Saxon countries to attract high-skilled migrants adds to the above pressures. Overall it puts the competitiveness of European regions at risk, in particular those that suffer a net loss of students and skilled workers. This is taking place despite the several policy initiatives put in place following the launch of the Lisbon Strategy (e.g. Europe 2020). These declared ambitions could be met with further discontent and antagonism following the widespread backlash against immigration now present in several EU Member States. These resentments have the potential to undermine the whole European free movement policy, and in the long run might jeopardise the whole European fabric (as Brexit advocates).This session addresses the abovementioned topics and seek to actively engage policy makers and practitioners in a discussion about the role of high-skilled immigration for the economic competitiveness of European regions and cities. The session will be also opened to the floor; short interventions by practitioners, policy makers and students will help to get insights on their experience with/as high-skilled immigrants.


Cornelia Lawson, Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor), University of Manchester, United Kingdom.
Ernest Miguelez, Research fellow, GREThA-University of Bordeaux, CNRS, France.
Andrea Morrison, Associate Professor, Department of Management and Technology, Bocconi University and Department of Human Geography and Planning, Utrecht University., Netherlands.
Marte Solheim, Centre for Innovation Research, University of Stavanger (UiS) Business School, UiS, Norway.
A more socially integrated Europe
Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP), European Regional Science Association (ERSA), Regional Studies Association European Foundation
english (en)
SQUARE - Brussels Convention Centre - 201 A+201 B.
Address: Mont des Arts, 1000 Brussels

Session summary

The “Global talents, immigration policy and regional innovation” session was organised during the EU regions week, University sessions in Brussels, on 9 October. Approximately 60-70 people attended. The session started out with a question using slido, where the audience were asked to answer the statement “Global talents are a source of economic growth and innovation in my region”, 29 answered and the majority of attendees (21) answered that they agree or strongly agree while only three disagreed completely or in part. The first half of the session was organised with the panellists introducing the main topics based on their research. Dr. Ernest Miguelez, research fellow at the CNRS, the French National Centre for Scientific Research, attached to the University of Bordeaux, gave an overview of “the broader picture” of high-skilled migration in European countries and regions. Dr. Andrea Morrison, associate professor at Utrecht University and Marie Curie fellow at Bocconi University introduced how and why migrants can be regarded as carriers of knowledge, by emphasising the role of European migrant inventors in the US during the nineteen century. Dr. Cornelia Lawson, associate professor at the University of Manchester, presented her work on mobility, and knowledge exchange patterns of native and foreign-born academics. Finally, Dr. Marte C.W. Solheim, associate professor and head of the Stavanger Centre for Innovation Research at the University of Stavanger, presented her work on diversity and firm-level innovation. The first part of the session lasted approximately 50 minutes. We then turned to slido for poll and questions from the audience. We had two more polls, in short we first asked if migrants compete with natives in local labour markets (27 out of 31 disagreed) and we also asked the most important actions to attract global talents to Europe (among other things mentioned: incentive, opportunities, harmonization, openness, welcoming). The session received several questions from the audience, both through the app (9 questions) and in person from the audience.

Key conclusions: The session provided a broad overview of the relationship between high skilled migrants and innovation.

Take away message

Highly skilled migrants (HSM) represent a growing component of migration flows. In particular patent inventors and academics represent important contributors to innovation in destination countries. Migration, by increasing the diversity of the workforce, is also an important determinant of innovation in firms, regions and countries. However, with few exceptions Europe is lagging behind the US in attracting HSM. Immigration policy in the EU should change to increase the attractiveness of EU regions and remove obstacles to within-EU mobility.


Marte C.W.Solheim: “For me, the legitimacy of research is in the fact that we disseminate the knowledge the state has invested in, and by expanding research dissemination, that research has more potential to be useful. The #EURegionsWeek provided a great opportunity to present and interact with a diverse audience group”.

Cornelia Lawson: “Policy is geared towards highly-skilled migrants. But they have families. If we want them to stay, we need to acknowledge that for every highly-skilled migrant there will be low-skilled migrants.”

Andrea Morrison: “From the Neolithic era to the mass migration of Europeans to US in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the movement of people has been an extraordinary way through which knowledge can circulate over long distances”.

This is Your session – comment and interact!
Be the first to add your comment regarding to this session!
Any comment not related to the session itself will be ignored and deleted.