We live in turbulent times, but when has this not been the case? The history of regions and the ‘regional studies project’ has always had at its core concerns relating to new and increased social and spatial inequalities resulting from economic and political change. Whatever change has occurred to cause this turbulence, some people and places have taken advantage and raced ahead while others were disadvantaged and left behind. The difference today is that the stakes are higher, with more people and more places exposed and being impacted than ever before.

Indeed, regional research is once again spearheading major efforts to provide the type of reliable, robust knowledge necessary to correct the opening of gaps between people and places which are emerging as winners and losers. In order to find innovative solutions to wicked problems it is critical to ask fundamental questions about how we do regional research. Do our existing theories and concepts adequately explain present instabilities and new realties, or, do we need to rethink our analytical frameworks in the new tumultuous reality? Do existing policies and frameworks help (or hinder) cities and regions, or are there alternatives that we should be promoting? More fundamentally, are we asking the right questions and looking in the right places to find the innovative solutions that can enable a more spatially balanced, sustainable and inclusive model of economic growth and political stability.

The Regional Studies Association Winter Conference 2019 presents a timely opportunity to discuss and debate these important issues, to establish the need and nature of future research imperatives in the field, and to address the concerns and challenges confronting practitioners and policymakers. The focus on problems and solutions is an invitation to step outside the narrow confines of existing debate to address issues of profound relevance, significance and importance to future regions and cities.