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The place race: the role of place in attracting and retaining talent in Scottish cities


The report aimed to explore how Scotland’s four city regions - Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow - are currently performing and the prospects for improving their performance across the broad range of issues that impact on the place/talent relationship. In particular, the report looked at: what affects where talented people choose to move for work; how and why ‘place’ matters to these decisions; and how governments, public agencies and the private sector can use this knowledge to improve the ability of places to attract and retain talent.


The methodology consisted of: a literature review on the relationship between talent, mobility and place; qualitative fieldwork of 42 in-depth interviews with talented incomers and target industries and 9 focus groups with in-migrant, potential and ‘lost’ talent; the ‘Reputation, Opportunities, Values and Assets model (ROVA index), a quantitative benchmarking tool for analysing the relative performance of Scotland’s city regions on four dimensions of talent attraction; and qualitative case studies of urban regions in other countries.


The report shows that the mobility of talented people is determined by both ‘motive’ or motivational factors and ‘opportunity’ or structural factors, which interact in unique ways to create individual mobility pathways. Place has an impact on both motivational and structural factors but is rarely the principal reason for moving to a certain city. However, place can affect the decision to move. While relationships to place are unique, there are a number of general factors that act as a positive or negative influence on decisions to move to a place. Common patterns also emerge when comparing different career types and life stages. Career types affect the propensity for mobility, while life stage affects both this, and also the relative importance of place in decision-making.


The report outlines eight strategies for talent-attraction policy, suggesting that: talent strategies should be tailored by life stage; broad networks should be invested in to build affinity and generate ‘motives’ for relocation; specific target industries need specific targets; the values of a place should appear tangible; talent attraction can be gradual process; city regions need to develop collaborations within priority industries, between different local authorities and companies, across the boundaries of city regions, and with citizens; talent attraction should be integrated into broader economic development strategies; and the best policies capitalise on each city-region’s distinctive assets. The report also lists specific priorities, actions and recommendations for each city-region.

Author Kirsten Bound, Joost Beunderman, Melissa Mean, Demos
Published Year 2010
Report Type Research
  • Business infrastructure
    Area regeneration