Research Fellow

PhD, Columbia University, New York


+65 6499 4840


Dr Powers’ research areas are in the fields of city and regional planning and economics, particularly in comparative metropolitan regional economic growth and development.  Studying the relationship between how capabilities develop dynamically and the underlying social and spatial relations of production and innovation are key parts of understanding how cities evolve in the contemporary period of capitalist urban development.  This has led John to focus on planning and economic theory to study how human and organizational capabilities coalesce around economic and technological goals, and how this in turn helps create new structural meanings for urban systems.  He has carried out research for his doctoral dissertation on innovative regions by studying R&D behavior in the ICT sector in Dublin, Ireland and Beijing in the Peoples’ Republic of China, as well as key aspects science and technology and urban redevelopment policy.  In June of 2016, Dr. Powers completed a twenty two month research project for the LKY-CIC on the Future of the Economy of Singapore as part of the Centre’s Future of Cities Project (funded by the National Research Foundation and the Ministry of National Development).  This study had as its principal aim a forward looking investigation of Singapore’s economic growth model in relationship to the key trends and sources of future robustness as it regards growth sectors, jobs and skills, innovative effort, the economic role of government, and managing urban land for economic production.  Publication of the results of the study is being planned while the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Singapore is using the study to input into its Master Plan.

Current research work and interests relate to the role of innovation in cities, the factors that propel it forward, and especially its connection to achieving more inclusive welfare-enhancing forms of development.  Dr. Powers also has over a dozen years of management consulting and international experience for Booz Allen Hamilton as well as full-time positions with international organizations such as the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).  This work has been focused on international development, economic policy, growth strategy, privatization and public-private partnership development, infrastructure planning and investment, public sector reform, and has entailed extensive in-country roles across Africa, East and Southeast Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and North America.

Dr Powers received his master’s degrees in city and regional planning from MIT, a master’s degree from the Université de Paris (Sorbonne), and received his PhD in Urban Planning in May of 2013 from Columbia University.


  • PhD, Columbia University, New York (topic focus: urban planning) (2013)
  • MA, City Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge (1996)
  • Maîtrise (2nd cycle diploma), Problems and Practices of Urban Planning in Developing Countries, Université de Paris I – Panthéon-Sorbonne, France (1993)
  • BA, St. Lawrence University, Government & French, New York (1991)

Selected Publications

  • Powers, John C., 2013, “‘Un-traded Interdependencies’ as a Useful Theory of Regional Economic Development: a comparative study of innovation in Dublin and Beijing,” PhD dissertation, Urban Planning Department, Columbia University, New York, NY.
  • Powers, John C., 2013, “Accessing Marketing Infrastructure for Agriculture Sector Development,” in the Agribusiness Commercial, Legal and Institutional Reform (AgCLIR) Diagnostic for Benin, prepared for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Washington DC.
  • Powers, John C., 2013, “Market Structure and Infrastructure Access for Agriculture Development,” in the Agribusiness Commercial, Legal and Institutional Reform (AgCLIR) Diagnostic for Myanmar, prepared for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Washington DC.
  • Fainstein, Susan S. and Powers, John C., 2007, “Tourism and New York’s Ethnic Diversity: an underutilized resource?” in Rath, Jan (ed.), Tourism, Ethnic Diversity and the City, Routledge, London.
  • Powers, John C., 2006, “The Challenge of Economic and Technological Learning in Assessing Regional Economic Development,” URBAN, Spring Issue, Columbia University, New York, NY.
  • Coombs, Joanne; Menière, Natalie; Powers, John C.; and Rice, Stephan; 1994, “Results from an International Survey of Non-governmental Organisations in OECD Member Countries,” in Directory of Non-governmental Organisations in OECD Member Countries Engaged in Population-related Activities, Development Centre, OECD, Paris, France

International/Regional Conference Papers/Presentations

  • “Thoughts on Innovation Ecosystems and Evidence from The Future of the Economy Study under the Future of Cities Project,” 2016, presentation given at IPS-CFE Conference on the Future Economy of Singapore, Singapore
  • “What are ‘un-traded interdependencies’ and why are they important for understanding regional economic development: lessons in applied theory from Dublin and Beijing,” 2013, paper presented at the AESOP/ACSP Congress, Dublin, Ireland.
  • “Dynamic Capability Development and its Significance for Understanding Regional Change,” 2013, presentation given to the International Issues Group, Columbia University, New York, NY.
  • “Value Chain Analysis: limitations for market development,” 2010, presentation given (with Andy Keck) at the Seminar on New Approaches to Promoting Global Food Security, USAID-Senegal, Dakar, Senegal.
  • “Transaction Costs and Evolutionary Economic Learning: under-worked constructs for a useful theory of regional change,” 2008, presentation given at the Workshop on Innovation and Cities sponsored by Enterprise Ireland, Dublin, Ireland.
  • Sociology Research, (May), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Beijing, China.
  • “Un-traded Interdependencies as a Framework for Assessing Regional Development: a proposed comparative study,” 2006, paper given at the Global Workshop on Poverty Alleviation and Globalization, Brooks World Poverty Institute, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.
  • “The Challenges of Economic Learning in Contemporary Theories of Regional Economic Development,” 2005, paper presented to the Symposium on International Development and Globalization, Columbia University, New York, NY.
  • “A Transaction Cost Approach to Social Impact Analysis for Poverty Alleviation,” 2004, paper prepared for the Social Development Department, The World Bank, Washington DC.