CONTEXT Over the last 250 years regional economies have become increasingly integrated into national and international economic systems. During the next decade the trend towards increasing openness of regional and national economies is expected to continue, notably with the creation of the Single European Market. However, the continued evolution of this integrated and international economy may well be supplemented by the development of smaller scale and self-sustaining local economies. There are likely to be conflicting trends towards greater distinctiveness and greater uniformity in local and regional industrial and occupational structures, contrary tendencies towards centralisation and decentralisation, and growth in both large and small firms as increased industrial concentration spawns new opportunities tor small firms.