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Social and Economic Research Unit

Social and Economic Research Unit

Social and Economic Research Unit

Social and Economic Research Unit

Social and Economic Research Unit

Welcome to our new Social and Economic Research Unit. Explore our reports for insight into some of the most pressing issues affecting Cornwall's people and local communities today - from work and education to community life and job prospects.

On this website, you'll find research into these issues from ourselves, our partner organisations and our academic community. 

Full Reports

Our full reports - from ourselves and partner organisations - collect together recent data about different aspects of Cornwall’s socio-economic landscape.

The State of Cornwall: What we currently know about our socio-economic landscape

  • 'The State of Cornwall' is a new report from the Institute of Cornish Studies, which brings together the latest research into the social and economic issues affecting Cornwall today.
  • We know that beyond Cornwall’s scenery and visitor attractions, we have considerable poverty and inequality. Equally we have massive social and economic potential, cultural possibilities and environmental activism. 
  • However, despite some noteworthy research projects, our knowledge of the ‘State of Cornwall’ is partial and fractured. Our new Social and Economic Research Unit was set up to try to address this knowledge gap through social and economic research.
  • The ‘State of Cornwall’ project is our first step. Our intention is to scope the overall picture in Cornwall, from the perspective of organisations working within it. What do they see as the main problems we face and what might be a way forward? Where should our research priorities lie?

Read the full report here >>

Local Housing Affordability in Cornwall

  • This detailed report examines local housing affordability in Cornwall.
  • Rather than looking at affordability in Cornwall as a whole, the team have conducted analysis down to postcode level for both buying and renting.
  • The overall conclusion is that whilst there are variations in house prices and rents across postcodes, there are very few postcodes where there is no affordability crisis.

Read the full report here >>

Affective Assemblages and Local Economies 

Project lead: Dr Joanie Willett 

Key Findings:

  • People haven’t caught up with the changes in their economies so new jobs are either invisible or feel inaccessible.
  • There is a really important talent pool that is under-used because of the difficulties that people have accessing information about their localities.
  • There are important infrastructural problems that mean that people are not physically able to connect with new opportunities.
  • We need to begin looking at regional economies from different starting points, thinking about the experience of people living and working in the region.
  • We need to explore and understand the spaces where vital connections are not (yet) being made.

» Find out more about this project

Natural Capital

Eilish Calnan (Project Lead) 

Key points:

  • This report summarises the research being done by the University of Exeter onthe topic of natural capital
  • Natural capital has always been important for Cornwall’s heritage, present, and future
  • From using seaweed as biofuel to micro-climate farming, this report brings together a range of research

» Read more about this project

A Basic Income for Cornwall 

University of Exeter researchers teamed up with Autonomy, to find out how a basic income could reduce poverty and improve living standards in Cornwall.   

Key findings:

  1. A basic income in Cornwall could drastically reduce poverty rates in the region, and redress the ongoing consequences of inequality.
  2. A more introductory basic income – at a much lower cost – could still almost halve poverty in Cornwall.
  3. Cornish stakeholders interviewed were optimistic about the prospect of a basic income.

» Read the key findings from this report

Cornwall Marine and Maritime Growth & Innovation Report 2017-18

Ms J Pye, Dr A T Alexander, University of Exeter Business School, Cornwall.
Project Partners: Cornwall Council
Cornwall Marine Network

Key findings:

  • Contribution of the Cornish marine sector to the local economy is estimated to be £1.1bn
  • The number of active marine businesses identified in the sector has increased since 2008 from an estimated 650 to an estimated 855.
  • Levels of innovation and entrepreneurship are also considered to be high.
  • Companies also know that they need to diversify to remain competitive
  • Demand for suitable and high quality workspace appears to hold back expansion and diversification
  • Staffing issues are a concern for companies, many with an ageing workforce; those in more peripheral locations in particular have difficulties in retaining skilled staff due to travel and access issues.

» Read more about this project

Digital Skills in Cornwall: a report from the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Digital Skills Partnership

Key points:

  • For the first time, this research shines a light on CIoS's vibrant digital and tech sector.
  • But the industry is facing a recruitment crisis that shows no sign of slowing. 

» Read the full report here

Economic Growth in Cornwall: reports from Cornwall Council's Economic Growth Team

Key reports on:

  • Social mobility indicators across the region, by constituency.
  • The latest data on economic growth and the labour market.
  • The factors shaping Cornwall's future and the Council's 2050 Vision for Cornwall.  

» Find all the reports here

State of Cornwall Reports

Our State of Cornwall reports share insights from practitioners and academics about what they are witnessing and experiencing in contemporary Cornwall.

Careers Hub Cornwall and Isles of Scilly: Understanding Local Labour Needs and Careers Education

Key findings:

  1. Cornwall has significant potential job opportunities in sectors such as data & space, visitor economy, digital, creative, marine and clean energy, to name a few.
  2. Careers Leaders, who can help young people to understand what jobs are available, require more time and resource to devote to their significant and challenging roles.
  3. To ensure Cornwall's young people are aware of the opportunities available to them, we need to keep building networks, equip Careers Leaders with the right skills and qualifications, make better use of data to understand how aspirations' align with labour market opportunities, and make sure that delivery in schools is up-to-date and impactful.  

» Read more about this project 

Loic Rich, Cornwall Councillor (Truro Tregolls) and Leader of the Independent Group, on the challenges facing Truro's residents:

The main challenges I am witnessing as a councillor are the collapse of the private rental residential market, resulting in a significant increase in homeless working family households being housed in temporary accommodation, often due to section 21 no fault evictions. The already challenging housing situation in Cornwall is now a major crisis.

There is a lack of understanding of the nature of the problems and also the consequences – such as loss of jobs, inaccessibility to education, not being able to cook meals, families in cramped conditions and the long term mental health effects. Latest figures show 357 children in Cornwall are in local authority temporary accommodation. This could be as far away as Wales.

We need research to give us a better understanding of the solutions to the housing crisis. We all know the causes of the housing crisis - but we might not necessarily agree or be best informed or aware of the best solutions.

Radical reform of the housing market is probably needed but this is not being done. Otherwise lots is being done but not necessarily tackling the heart of the issue which is not to say some solutions are working for some people.

Penzance Council - what are the main challenges faced by our community?

  • There is widespread poverty in Penzance, and a grant scheme which funds local organisations working to help those most in need.
  • The Council has resolved to support the Penzance Living Wage Place initiative and reduce the feeling of disconnect between electors and decision makers.
  • There is anger concerning second home ownership and its effects on communities, which is being considered in the upcoming Penzance Neighbourhood Plan.

>> Read the full report here 

Addressing Local Needs in Bodmin: a report from Bodmin Town Council

Key points:

  • Like other towns in the UK, Bodmin suffers from the broad effects of deprivation.
  • The town experiences low-income levels, low employment levels and elevated levels of poor health, disability and homelessness.
  • Bodmin Town Council plan to revitalise the town, by placing innovation and community at the heart of future developments. 

» Read the full report to find out more

Renewable Energy in Cornwall

Professor Richard Cochrane, Associate Professor for Renewable Energy, University of Exeter (Penryn Campus)

Key points:

  • Cornwall has a long history of pioneering energy developments, and was the site of the country's first wind farm.
  • Currently, Cornwall is leading energy developments in hot rocks and offshore wind turbines.

» Read the full report here 

Foodbanks in Cornwall 

Key points:

  • Nearly 900 people were fed by Truro Foodbank in 2022 (so far), up from 463 in 2019.
  • The main reason for food bank referral is 'low income'; the second is 'benefits'.
  • Moving forward, we need more information about the true cost of living in Cornwall, and research into how Universal Basic Income in Cornwall could help those in need. 

» Read the full report here 

Think Tank - ideas for Cornwall's future

Our Think Tank series explores ideas about what Cornwall's future could look like, by gathering together more detailed reflections on the challenges and opportunities for various sectors in Cornwall.

Green Jobs in Cornwall: Report from the Green Jobs Summit 2021

Collaborators: Joanie Willett, Peter Lefort, Friends of the Earth, Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Cornwall Neighbourhoods for Change, the Green Futures Network.

Key findings:

As we start to move towards a more sustainable economy, green jobs in Cornwall need to be:

  1. Accessible and equitable for all.
  2. Supported by skills and training.
  3. Foster genuine environment benefits.

» Read more about this project 

High Street Revival 

Lead author: Phoebe Lawlor.

Project coordinators: Dr Joanie Willett and Professor Clare Saunders

Key Findings:

  • The high street is where people naturally meet and feel part of a collective.
  • Initiatives such as the US Main Street Programme, 20 Minute Neighborhoods in Australia  and repair cafes in Amsterdam and France offer learning opportunities for Cornish high streets.
  • Repair cafes, and spaces to share expertise around making, mending, and modifying clothing provide opportunities to bring people on to the high street for the experiences that they offer.

» Find out more about this project

Economy and Business Research

Our Economy and Business research explores the issues affecting Cornwall from a wider perspective, informed by real-world evidence and academic theory.

ICS Report: Cornwall’s Post Covid-19 Socio-Economic Recovery

Zachary Collins

Key questions:

  • Ensuring innovation is encouraged through a circular economy, providing technological investment in the creative sector that remains within local economies.
  • Developing and embracing new measures of success- i.e. average PAYE- in order to get a better eye to detail when analyzing inequalities.
  • Being aware of the effects of our stories on Cornwall’s present and future development.
  • Inclusive growth by making sure we are better connected to our communities- and the community is better connected to us to aid resilience efforts.
  • Facilitating better community engagement using our parish and town councils to share information and address local needs.

» Read more about this project

Establishing Environmentally and Commercially Sustainable Techniques for Farming Seaweed

Carly Daniels and Dr Ian Ashton, Renewable Energy, University of Exeter

Key findings:

  • Seaweed cultivation is a growth area in sustainable food production but also shows huge potential for combating ocean acidification and providing wider ecosystem services.
  • Seaweed is extremely versatile, and can be used in food, biofuels, bioplastics, pharmaceuticals, medicines and even clothing!
  • Cornwall is playing a key role in the development of seaweed aquaculture in England.
  • This study will gather practical, biological and engineering data to explore how seaweed cultivation can be best achieved in a sustainable way. 

» Read more about this project

Assessing the Implications for EU Structural Funding Programmes: Why did Cornwall Vote for Brexit?

Joanie Willett, Garry Tregidga, Rebecca Tidy, Phillip Passmore, Institute of Cornish Studies (Politics and Humanities), University of Exeter, Cornwall.

Key findings:

  • People felt deeply uncertain and insecure about many of the things that they relied on to make their lives function well (such as public services, housing, access to healthcare).
  • In this sense of uncertainty, people felt that the nation state should be able to protect them. When it was unable to make their lives easier, they were then able to say that the UK is under threat from the EU, and felt protective towards the UK.
  • People also felt that many funded projects didn’t reflect things that they felt were important and made their lives feel better. We recommend a more participatory approach to development decisions and that structural funding take a broader approach to the types of projects that can be funded.

» Read more about this project

Challenging Peripheralising Discourses: Connecting New Regional Knowledges.

Joanie Willett, Politics, University of Exeter, Cornwall

Key findings:

  • The stories that we tell about our region are really important for how we want to develop our future.
  • The stories that we tell about Cornwall are compromised by the fact that people don’t always know how the economy has changed in recent years.
  • In Cornwall, one way that we might challenge this would be to make it more clear to people wanting to train and re-train, what skills are needed in the local economy, and where those skills might be gained.

» Read more about this project

Climate Risks and Opportunities for Agriculture in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly

Alexandra Gardner, Ilya Maclean, Environment and Sustainability Institute

Key findings:

  • A key challenge for Cornwall is to increase food production whilst leaving space for nature, in an era of climate change
  • This project uses the latest climate models to identify the parts of Cornwall that are most climatically suitable for growing novel crops.
  • Growing crops that are well suited to the changing climate may also help to reduce the amount of land required to cultivate in order to make a profit.nologies such as community mobile phone applications might be one way to do this.

» Read more about this project

Labour as Space: Rhythms of Migrant Mobility in the Cornish Agri-food Industry

Dr Constantine Manolchev (University of Exeter Business School), Dr Celal Cahit Agar (University of St Andrews)

Key findings:

  • Migrant workers experience Cornwall and the other locations where they find themselves, through different ‘rhythms’.
  • ‘Regulating’ rhythms control the extent to which migrants can participate in local labour markets, and the type of participation.
  • ‘Connecting’ rhythms link migrants to their home communities.
  • ‘Dressage’ rhythms speed up or slow down their lives, through work or leisure activities.

» Read more about this project

ExeMPLaR Exeter Centre for Multi-Disciplinary Plastics Research

Peter Hopkinson and Tamara Galloway, University of Exeter Business School.

Key points:

  • The hub uses the principles of the circular economy to address the accumulation, impact and costs of plastics in the environment,
  • The 18–month programme addresses both the causes of the problems and efforts to solve them,
  • This research effort connects technical solutions, human behaviours, social, environmental and economic systems with circular economy principles.

» Read more about this project

Tevi

Key points:

  • Tevi is a unique EU-funded collaboration bringing together expertise from across the University of Exeter (circular economy, engineering, ecology, mathematics, business innovation and product design) alongside that of Cornwall Council (environmental growth, policy and strategy, rewards and recognition), Cornwall Wildlife Trust (habitat management, biodiversity conservation) and Cornwall Development Company (grant funding expertise, programme delivery).
  • The aim of Tevi is to help businesses thrive by contributing to Cornwall's environmental growth and transitioning to a circular economy.

» Read more about this project

The Impact of Tourism Economies on Housing in Cornwall: A Critical Evaluation
In partnership with Cornwall Council (Economic Growth and Development, Housing Strategy and Partnerships)

Michael Ireland, Lucy Ellis, Institute of Cornish Studies.

Key questions:

  • How inter-related is the relationship between tourism, the economy of Cornwall, and housing supply and demand?
  • Is there a dependency relationship between tourism and host communities; and tourism and the local authority?
  • What myths regarding housing supply can we explore and challenge, and what do the existence of these myths tell us?

» Read more about this project