The process of globalization is marked by two related processes: the growing integration of individual economies in terms of investment, trade, research and development, and even product identification and marketing; as well as the emergence of a new set of information technologies that link computers, telecommunications and media together in digital form. Together, these processes are affecting the ability of governing institutions to efficiently and equitably assist firms and their workers to adapt to these changes. The Program on Globalization and Regional Innovation Systems (PROGRIS) at the Munk School of Global Affairs was established in 1998. Directed by Professor David A. Wolfe, the mandate of PROGRIS is to study how these firms and institutions interact to foster the innovation process in an urban and regional context.

While attention has traditionally focused on the role of the nation state in the global economy, the new forces at work are shifting interest towards the sub-national and regional levels of government. The trend towards globalization reinforces the role of regions in several ways. The geography of production in the new economy is marked by a paradoxical consequence of globalization: the increasing importance of the locality as a site for innovation. The role of knowledge and creativity in this economy places a premium on the kind of localized, or regionally-based, innovation that is fostered by proximity. Innovative capabilities are frequently sustained through regional communities that share a common knowledge base and interact through common institutions. The forms of collaboration and interaction which occur in these communities draw attention to the role that regional institutions can play in supporting innovation in a global economy. The goal of PROGRIS is to investigate how the interaction of firms and regional institutions in Canada and other countries facilitates, or impedes, the process of innovation and social learning that is critical for success in the new global economy.