Abstract This paper presents an overview of various models of regional growth that have appeared in the literature in the last 40 years. It considers the past, and therefore supply-side models, such as the standard neoclassical, juxtaposed against essentially demand-side approaches such as the export-base and cumulative causation models (as integrated into the Kaldorian approach); before moving on to the ‘present’ and more recent versions of the neoclassical model involving spatial weights and ‘convergence clubs’, as well as new economic geography core–periphery models, and the ‘innovation systems’ approach. A key feature of the more recent literature is an attempt to explicitly include spatial factors into the model, and thus there is a renewed emphasis on agglomeration economies and spillovers. Discussing ‘present’ and ‘future’ approaches to regional growth overlaps with the current emphasis in the literature on the importance of more intangible factors such as the role of ‘knowledge’ and its influence on growth. Finally, there is a discussion of the greater emphasis that needs to be placed at the ‘micro-level’ when considering what drives growth, and thus factors such as inter alia firm heterogeneity, entrepreneurship and absorptive capacity.