The Role of Entrepreneurship in the Development of Micropolitan Regions

A new research project at Jönköping International Business School (JIBS), Jönköping University, aims to focus on the growth and entrepreneurship in Swedish micropolitan regions. Despite being an important link between larger cities and rural areas, these regions have received limited attention in research and policymaking. By studying smaller municipalities in Jönköping County and across the country, the project seeks to answer how entrepreneurship affects growth in these areas.

Photo: Alexander Lindell/Unsplash

Traditionally, research has focused on the growth and development of larger cities or has treated non-urban regions as a homogeneous group. However, given that about one-third of Sweden's 290 municipalities can be classified as micropolitan regions (municipalities with smaller towns surrounded by rural areas), and in Jönköping County, six out of 13 municipalities, it is crucial to understand the unique challenges and opportunities these places offer.

"We believe that entrepreneurship can be of particular importance because smaller municipalities offer more limited job opportunities via the traditional labour market, which is often concentrated to manufacturing industries. At the same time, there are good opportunities for entrepreneurs to leverage the unique skills and natural and cultural resources often found in less densely populated areas to start new businesses," says Sofia Wixe, Associate Professor in Economics at JIBS and project leader for the research project.

Generating Policy-Relevant Research

The project aims to generate policy-relevant research at the intersection of entrepreneurship, growth, and regional development, particularly targeting micropolitan regions. To fulfil this aim, three central questions are posed:

  1. What growth and entrepreneurship patterns can be found for micropolitan regions and how do they differ from more rural and more urban regions?
  2. What role does entrepreneurship play in the growth of micropolitan regions and how is this role different compared to more rural and more urban regions?
  3. How do other place-specific factors interact with entrepreneurship and influence the growth of micropolitan regions?

The researchers start from the premise that many smaller municipalities, especially those remotely located, exhibit lower growth rates in both population and productivity compared to larger cities or municipalities close to them. At the same time, there may be (untapped) potential for higher entrepreneurial activity, which can be expected to play a more central role in the growth of micropolitan regions than in larger cities with more varied industry structure. Additionally, location-specific factors such as natural and cultural resources, demographic structure, and industrial structure are expected to influence the opportunities for entrepreneurship and, consequently, growth in micropolitan regions.

Contributing to Sustainable Cities and Communities

By deepening the understanding of the driving forces behind growth and entrepreneurship in Swedish micropolitan regions, the researchers believe that the project can contribute to better-adapted and locally anchored strategies for regional development. This is particularly relevant for Jönköping County but also for similar regions both nationally and internationally. By addressing the urban-rural divide, the research can make significant contributions to achieving the UN's global goals for sustainable cities and communities, decent work and economic growth, and reduced inequalities.

"The research project represents an important step towards a deeper understanding of the role of micropolitan regions in Sweden's development and how entrepreneurship can be promoted to stimulate growth and survival in these places. By identifying success factors and sharing knowledge between different municipalities, we can contribute to more inclusive and sustainable development," says Lina Bjerke, Assistant Professor in Economics and one of the researchers in the project.


The research project "Survival of the small(er): Entrepreneurship and growth in Swedish micropolitan regions" will continue until 2027. It has been granted over three million kronor from the Inger and Sixten Norhed’s Foundation in Värnamo. The project leader is Sofia Wixe, Associate Professor in Economics. Other project members include Lina Bjerke, Assistant Professor in Economics, Charlotta Mellander, Professor in Economics, and Deborah Strumsky, Assistant Professor in Economics.