There is now widespread agreement that we are witnessing the 'resurgence' of regions as key loci in the organization and governance of economic growth and wealth creation. A previous special issue of this journal ('Rethinking the Regions', Regional Studies (2003) 37(6/7)) was devoted to recent developments and debates in regional development theory. The present special issue on 'Regional Competitiveness' is intended to complement that earlier collection of papers by focusing on what has become one of the most discussed aspects of the new concern with regions, namely their competitive performance. The competitiveness of regions is an issue not just of academic interest and debate, but also of increasing policy deliberation and action. However, as the papers in this issue make clear, the very notion of regional competitiveness is itself complex and contentious, and even though policy-makers everywhere have jumped onto the regional and urban competitiveness bandwagon, we are far from a consensus on what is meant by the term and how it can be measured: as is often the case, policy has raced ahead of conceptual understanding and empirical analysis. The papers included in this issue are intended to advance that understanding and analysis. The purpose of this extended Editorial introduction is to provide some of the background to this project.