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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  News & Events  /  News  /  News Archive  /  2011  /  March 2011  /  The Past and Future of the London Economy

The Past and Future of the London Economy

2011 Frank Carter Lecture given by Peter Wood

The Past and Future of the London Economy

Professor Frank Carter was one of the leading British geographical experts on Eastern Europe who worked both at UCL and the School of Slavonic and East European Studies. 2011 marks the 10th anniversary of his untimely death.  In 2008 his wife Krystyna established a scheme of prizes for Masters dissertations and an Annual Lecture at UCL in his name.

On 8th March the fourth Frank Carter Lecture was delivered by Peter Wood, Emeritus Professor in UCL Geography, on The Past and Future of the London  Economy. Peter, like Frank, spent his formative years in the Birmingham-Black Country area. Both came to work at UCL at about the same time in the 1960s, and spent the rest of their working lives in the city.

The lecture reviewed the transformation of the London economy during this period, including the rising attention given to financial, tourist and, more recently, the creative services. Peter argued that, more important in employment and output terms than any of these, and subsuming most of them, London’s economic base depends most on its ‘knowledge intensive business services’ (KIBS). These include financial and creative activities, but also professional services such as accountancy and law, and a more diffuse and often neglected range of business services, such as computer and management consultancy, marketing and advertising, and engineering, architectural and design specialists.

Looking to the future, he saw international KIBS firms, including financial institutions and major consultancies, beginning to move their international activities more towards growing markets in East and South Asia and Latin America. London’s global status was being threatened by the intensification of this trend during the current recession, and away from the ‘North Atlantic’ business culture that has been the basis of so much business service expertise in the past.

London retains many specialist knowledge intensive strengths in financial, creative, professional and consultancy activities. In future, however, employment may depend more on the myriad of smaller KIBS businesses benefiting from the traditional agglomerative advantages of working in the city. These benefits now also extend across the South East region, however, into London’s wider ‘mega-city region’. For inner London, the operating costs there, especially of property, may discourage such developments, and become more critical as the conditions favouring London’s global city status in recent years perhaps begin to weaken.