The UK space economy as practised by advanced producer service firms: identifying two distinctive polycentric city-regional processes in contemporary Britain

Cities and city regions are back on the research agenda in the UK. Taking the world city literature as a guide, this article uses advanced producer service firms to study contemporary inter-city relations in the UK space economy. We employ an interlocking network model, initially developed for global scale analysis, to assess signs that recent globalization is effecting a revival outside the London region, and to identify leading urban areas in the UK national economy. Two different analyses are presented: a connectivity analysis, which indicates how well cities and towns are linked into the UK space economy, and a fuzzy clustering analysis, which classifies the cities and towns in order to search out hierarchical and regional tendencies. From these findings, we identify two distinctive polycentric city-regional processes in contemporary Britain: a Jacobs-style polycentric mega-city regional process out of London, which creates new important service centres and reaches selected smaller cities and towns; and a polycentric multi-city regional process beyond London, which mainly enhances the service capacities of selected larger cities. A concluding section considers the implications of the two processes for spatial planning in the UK.