The IPL newsletter: Volume 20, Issue 401

News from the IPL


New Growth and Innovation Network to Support Scale-Ups in Ontario

Invest Ottawa
Canadian businesses drive innovation, create good, middle-class jobs and generate economic growth that improves the lives of all Canadians. To succeed in the global innovation race, we need to help promising companies take the next step and grow into global firms. That’s why the Government of Canada is investing in a growth and innovation network along the Waterloo–Toronto–Ottawa corridor. Recently, the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, announced a FedDev Ontario investment of $52.4 million to bring together three top innovation hubs—Communitech, MaRS Discovery District and Invest Ottawa. Together, they will implement the Scale-Up Platform to help innovative companies grow more quickly and contribute to the creation of 18,000 high-quality, skilled jobs.

Editor's Pick

Disrupt or Be Disrupted: Findings from the Creating Digital Opportunities Project

Evolving digital technologies are critical to the global economy and to Canada’s future economic growth and prosperity. The rapid pace of innovation, along with shifting global leadership in digital technology, are creating major challenges for Canada’s digital industries, but also new opportunities. This dynamism creates new opportunities for entry into the field, but also new threats to Canada’s existing strengths. For Canada to benefit from this shift, we must take appropriate action. Canada’s future competitiveness and our prospects for economic growth are inextricably linked to our ability to seize the ‘digital opportunity’ being created. The CDO project focused on three key questions.

  • How can Canada best respond to the challenges posed by a rapidly changing digital landscape, while benefiting from emerging opportunities to promote our economic prosperity?
  • How can we situate Canada’s digital opportunity in a global context in order to frame policy that strengthens our international competitiveness and contributes to a broader public debate?
  • How can we identify where the greatest opportunities and risks lie and propose the most effective policies to secure the future prosperity of Canadians?

The project was organized around four thematic areas. Key findings in each are summarized below:

Canada’s Position in Global Production Networks
Canada enjoys a tremendous opportunity to grow its digital economy both at home and globally. Domestic upgrading and global integration, to be sure, are two sides of the same coin. Growth and development in firms’ productive capacity and upstream R&D in the digital economy in Canada should create opportunities for Canadian firms and organizations to “plug into” the global scene. Despite opportunities for Canadian global firms to create digital opportunities, several challenges continue to mitigate success in the sector:  governments and firms constrain entry into supply, production and innovation networks; Canadian digital firms lack the scale and patience to penetrate international markets; and they  must localize their products and services to meet the demands (and tastes) of varied international markets.

The Local Context for Global Networks
As Canada and its cities face the emergence and evolution of new and potentially disruptive technologies, it is important to understand how firms in Canadian cities benefit from their location in particular local and regional innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems. While the pursuit of talent, capital and markets for firms in the digital space may be global in scope, the received wisdom is that these activities are best supported when firms themselves are deeply embedded in local and regional innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems. Firms benefit from close proximity to suppliers, customers and competitors, as well as the activities of universities and colleges, other research institutions and think tanks, industry associations, innovation intermediaries (including accelerators and business incubators), the presence of investor and mentor networks, and various government policies and programs. They can also exploit other unique place-based advantages, including access to deep labour markets and specialized skills. Overall, this collective body of in-depth research is unequivocal about the importance of local agents, such as flagship firms, business and civic leaders, entrepreneurs, and associative actors that play key roles in anchoring digital industries. Furthermore, local assets, including universities and colleges, private and public research institutions, pools of highly skilled and talented workers, unique place characteristics, and the quality of the built environment provide the foundational social and knowledge infrastructure that support the development of digital opportunities.

Diffusion of Digital Technologies Across the Economy
Understanding the full implications of the digital technologies for Canada’s growth prospects requires an analysis of the resource, manufacturing and service industries that are being transformed through the application of information technologies and digital media. One major theme was that there is more than one pathway of value migration driven by digital innovations. Understanding environments that encourage innovation are just as important as understanding the flows of value migration. In some sectors, digital technologies are not only being adopted and deployed within the sector but are transforming the nature of the sector by challenging the traditional boundaries of firms. Technology allows activities that used to be inside the firm to be performed externally and previously external processes can now be performed internally. The impact of digital technologies in traditional manufacturing has changed the production model from macrostructural to microstructural manufacturing and extended supply chains in ways that now challenge the established models of value creation and the boundaries of the firm.

Digital Inclusion and Intelligent Communities
Projects in this theme aim to advance our understanding of the equity implications of the digital economy in Canada. This includes work on Smart Cities, rural and remote communities, ride-hailing and the platform economy and economic restructuring in mid-sized manufacturing cities. Asking whether and how digital opportunity is being created and for whom, each researcher explores the challenges, opportunities, and policy prospects for expanding digital opportunity to more people and places. Projects found that post-industrial economic advantage in knowledge-intensive sectors requires the capacity to develop and apply digital technologies, and tends to concentrate in large, economically secure urban regions with abundant employment opportunities. In other words, economic advantage in the 21st century tends to go to those who are already advantaged.

Broad findings

  • There is a growing gap between ICT enabled firms & the rest:
    – 100 global frontier firms are more productive, more capital & patent-intensive (intangible) & have larger sales & profits
  • Challenges for small open trading economy are the same as identified in 1980s:
    – Need to export & trade in high technology products to grow
    – Lack of large oligopolistic domestic firms
    – Inability to scale
    – Plus capital markets not geared to financing technology firms
  • Greater challenges greater for digital underdogs, rural & remote

Innovation Policy

Return on Investment Initiative: Final Green Paper

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
The United States (U.S.) has led the world in innovation, research, and technology development since World War II, but that leadership is being challenged on a global scale. At risk is America’s leadership in industries of the future such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and robotics. In combination with the rapid, foundational advances in technology, innovation has never been more critical to U.S. economic competitiveness and national security than it is today. The President’s Management Agenda (PMA), released March 20, 2018, lays out a long-term vision for modernizing the Federal Government for the 21st Century. The Return on Investment (ROI) Initiative directly supports the PMA and is designed to unleash American innovation. ROI refers here to the economic and national security return to the Nation based on the investment in Federal research and development (R&D) by the American people. This Green Paper provides a summary of key stakeholder inputs and identifies findings by NIST that will help inform future deliberations, decision-making, and implementing actions by the relevant departments and agencies that could further enhance the U.S. innovation engine at the public-private interface.

Maximizing Innovation and Technology Commercialization of Federal Research Investments: Best Practices at Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities

University of Michigan Economic Growth Institute
Research universities and Federal Research Labs (FRL) are the cornerstone of American innovation. The country’s national competitiveness depends on these institutions to increasingly perform, translating research into the innovative products the country needs. Understanding how to best facilitate translating research into the market is complex. Practitioners understand that research translation is both an art and a science, requiring a careful balancing act among research, its funding mechanisms, government, and industry. Critical to building on the successes of research translation is understanding gaps in the processes, incentives, and support systems, as well as opportunities for growth. The intent for this study is to improve national competitiveness by providing a practical roadmap for universities based on lessons from past successes around the country.

The Department of Energy’s Clean Energy Investments Are Catalyzing Innovation Nationwide

Madhur Boloor and Jackie Wong, NRDC
This issue brief highlights some of the clean energy investments made in 2018 by two critical DOE offices—the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E). These investments have supported a wide portfolio of technologies ranging from electric vehicles and advanced lighting to offshore wind turbines. Proposed energy R&D budget cuts threaten future innovations and demonstrate a need to strengthen DOE’s clean energy budget, which will allow innovators to develop new and improved technologies to help reduce the worst impacts of climate change.

Cities, Clusters & Regions

Towards a More Socially- and Spatially-Inclusive Innovation Economy

Kenan Fikri, Brookfield Institute
The innovation- and technology-led economic development model of the past couple of decades rested on two beliefs that, in retrospect, were overly optimistic: That, within countries, technology would be a force both for economic diffusion geographically and for economic inclusion socially. Yet, instead of spreading economic activity, technology has concentrated it. We have gone from “the death of distance” to “winner takes all” economic geography in a few short years. In the United States,  geographic fracturing is laid on top of deep-seated social and economic inequalities that fracture even further along lines of race, ethnicity, and education. The prospect of automation threatens to shatter the mosaic even further. The United States may have, characteristically, carried these developments to extremes, but in general they reflect the recent experiences of most advanced economies and reveal important lessons for Canada as it strives to forge a more inclusive model of innovation-driven growth.

The Canadian Cluster Handbook

The Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity
The announcement of the Innovation Superclusters Initiative by the federal government in 2017 ignited interest from various cluster actors. In late 2018, the Institute hosted the 21st TCI Network Global Conference, which brought 340 leaders from business, government, and academia from 37 countries to Toronto to share key lesson on cluster development. This Working Paper is therefore a timely interjection that proposes best practices for cluster initiatives in Canada.

Statistics & Indicators

The 2019 U.S. State Innovation Index

Shelly Hagan and Wei Lu, Bloomberg
The Golden State is living up to its nickname, with California ranking as the most innovative economy in America. That’s according to Bloomberg’s latest U.S. State Innovation Index based on six equally-weighted metrics: research and development intensity, productivity, clusters of companies in technology, “STEM” jobs, populous with degrees in science and engineering disciplines, and patent activity. Massachusetts, Washington, Connecticut and Maryland followed California at the top of the innovation scale to round out the top five.


Policy Digest

Innovation Policies in the Digital Age

Dominique Guellec and Caroline Paunov, OECD
This paper looks at how digitalisation is transforming innovation, and the consequent need for innovation policies to adapt. The paper shows that the digital transformation affects the economics of information and knowledge, in particular pricing and allocation. The reduced costs of producing and handling information and knowledge and the increased fluidity change innovation dynamics. Data have become a core input for innovation. Other changes include more opportunities for versioning; an acceleration in innovation, more experimentation and collaboration; servitisation; and higher risk associated with these general purpose technologies. The digital transformation also has economy-wide effects in terms of business dynamics, market structures and distribution. In view of this transformation, changes to innovation policy are required in the digital age. Innovation policies need to address data access issues; become more agile; promote open science, data sharing and co-operation among innovators; and review competition for innovation and intellectual property policy frameworks.

The impact of digital technologies
Digital technologies have drastically reduced the costs of searching, sharing and analysing data. They have also increased the fluidity of knowledge and data. Once available, digitised knowledge (knowledge put in the form of digital data) and digitised data can be shared instantaneously among any number of actors, no matter the geographic distance or other barriers, and each of those actors have full access to the whole package. These changes have affected innovation processes and outcomes in the following ways:

1. New possibilities for handling data have made them core inputs for innovation in all sectors of the economy. The ways data feed into innovations range from using information on consumer behaviour to enabling entirely new services (such as transportation services as illustrated by Uber that relies on instantaneous information about demand and supply for transportation services).

2. Innovation has become more collaborative, due to the reduced costs of collaborating and the greater need for interdisciplinary research.

3. Opportunities for launching new products and processes at lower cost using the Internet and relevant platforms facilitate versioning and experimentation of products for differentiated customers. Innovation can also be more frequent: in the automotive industry, while new car models are launched once a year, software updates (which are innovations and modify the models concerned) are issued at a high frequency, e.g. by Tesla Motors. These shorter cycles, however, do not necessarily imply progress at greater speed, as these innovations are also more incremental than before. Frequent, sometimes even daily, software updates are an example.

4. The digital transformation creates opportunities for innovation in services, as digital technologies allow for reduced costs and greater fluidity in reaching and interacting with consumers and in tracking their behaviour. It also moves manufacturing towards mixed models for providing goods and services.

5. Digital technologies are also relatively young, general purpose technologies (GPTs) that offer new opportunities for innovation. They are both far ranging and fast evolving, hence generating much uncertainty as regards their current and future development. This is particularly true of artificial intelligence (AI), a set of technologies that can emulate functions normally accomplished by human intelligence based on pattern recognition and prediction. Not only is AI expected to transform economic activity, but it also raises complex societal and ethical issues.

Digital innovation policy

The effective development of digital innovation requires government to adopt a policy mix, which includes introducing an entirely new policy domain – access to data – to the existing policy domains subject to the transformations outlined above. The mix would comprise the following priorities:

– having a strong public research system (science policy);

– having large, competitive firms and vibrant entrepreneurship (entrepreneurship and competition policies);

– providing sufficient support and incentives to innovation (innovation and intellectual property policies)

– having a skilled labour force (education and training policies)

– ensuring the broadest access to data and knowledge while respecting constraints in relation to data diversity, trust (privacy, ethics, etc.), economics (firm competitiveness and competition, intellectual property rights) and national policy considerations (access to data policies).

The OECD–wide horizontal Going Digital Project presents an integrated policy framework for making the transformation work toward growth and well being. This framework explicitly considers “innovation” as an area in which multiple policy domains need to be considered, including science and technology, digital government, entrepreneurship and SMEs, competition, and sectoral policies such as energy, finance, education, transport, health and education. It aims to provide a guide to cutting across policy silos to ensure a coherent and cohesive whole of government approach, to fully realise the potential of digital transformation and address its challenges


Workshop Series on Migration, Globalization and the Knowledge Economy

Utrecht, Netherlands, 16-17 May, 2019
The workshop will consist of a 2-day plenary session with presentations and discussions, and two keynote speakers. The keynote speakers of the Utrecht workshop will be Ina Ganguli, from University of Massachusetts, and Ufuk Akcigit, from the University of ChicagoWe aim to attract both senior and junior scholars dealing with research topics such as the role of high-skilled migration in fostering innovation in receiving countries, the relationship between diversity and innovation, the role of skilled diasporas and return migrants in diffusing knowledge back to their home countries, the emerging role of MNC in shaping scientists’ and engineers’ migration flows as well as temporary migration and knowledge sharing, migration and innovation-based start-ups formation, regions and mobility, and so forth.

8th ZEW/MaCCI Conference on the Economics of Innovation and Patenting

Manheim, Germany, 16-17 May, 2019
The conference aims to stimulate discussion between international researchers conducting related empirical and theoretical analysis. In addition to keynote lectures by Professor Dietmar Harhoff and Professor Timothy Simcoe as well as parallel sessions, there will also be an invited session on innovative public procurement with Professor Dirk Czarnitzki and Professor Giancarlo Spagnolo. Theoretical and empirical contributions from all areas of the economics of innovation and patenting are welcome. Interested researchers are invited to submit a paper or an extended abstract (min. 3 pages) in PDF format to no later than 15 February 2019.


Bordeaux, France, 20-21 May, 2019
We aim to attract contributions from both junior and senior scholars; a minimum number of slots are reserved for junior researchers (PhD students or postdoc scholars who obtained their PhD in 2016 or later). Up to 18 papers will be selected from open submissions on the basis of peer review. Contributions are invited on (but not limited to) one or more of the following topics:

  • The evaluation of science policy
  • Organising research activities in universities, PROs and private R&D labs
  • Spillovers from scientific research
  • Role of gender and family in scientific research
  • Science research networks and collaboration
  • Scientific careers and mobility

Deadline for the submission of papers or extended abstracts (min 3 pages) is January 31st 2019. Submissions should be previously unpublished works. All submissions are reviewed with respect to novelty, academic quality and relevance.

CFP: A Great Transformation? Workshop on the Impact of Automation and Artificial Intelligence on Regional Economies

Torino, Italy, 27-28 May, 2019
RENIR and Despina are pleased to announce the RENIR Workshop on the impact of automation and artificial intelligence on regional economies, sponsored by Collegio Carlo Alberto and the University of Turin.We aim to attract contributions from both junior and senior scholars. Up to 18 papers will be selected from open submissions on the basis of peer review.

School of Cities Spring Symposium: Governing Cities in the 21st Century

Toronto, 28 May, 2019
What should governance look like in the 21st century? Can we leverage national, provincial and municipal relationships to advance urban governance? How do we scale up local responses to reach collective goals? At the School of Cities spring symposium, Governing Cities in the 21st Century, these crucial questions will be discussed with experts, including a lightning talk by Nasma Ahmed, Director, Digital Justice Lab; a keynote by Michelynn Laflèche, Vice President, United Way Greater Toronto; and a fireside chat with Bill Peduto, Mayor of Pittsburgh and Richard Florida, University Professor, School of Cities and Rotman School of Management. Join urban thought leaders, policy makers, planners, community advocates and business leaders as we exchange ideas on ways to meet the challenges of governing cities in the midst of change.

CFP: 2019 University-Industry Interaction Conference

Helsinki, Finland, 18-20 June, 2019
This key event for university leaders, practitioners from both business and university, policymakers and educators attracts more than 500 participants from over 60 countries to interact, share knowledge and establish new relationships. During this three-day event, you will encounter presentations from over 100 organisations, tour innovation spaces, have access to a wide variety of workshops and participate in numerous networking opportunities to gain new insights into the bigger picture of university-industry interaction.


Copenhagen, Denmark, 19-21 June, 2019
Since 1996, DRUID has become one of the world’s premier academic conferences on innovation and the dynamics of structural, institutional and geographic change. DRUID is proud to invite senior and junior scholars to participate and contribute with a paper to DRUID19, hosted by Copenhagen Business School. Presenting distinguished plenary speakers, a range of parallel paper sessions, and an attractive social program, the conference aims at mapping theoretical, empirical and methodological advances, contributing novel insights, and help identifying scholarly positions, divisions, and common grounds in current scientific controversies within the field. Keynotes delivered by top scholars from innovation studies, management, economic geography, and numerous other research fields. Plenary speakers at DRUID19 include Stefano Brusoni, Dimo Dimov, Nijanlana Dutt, Annabel Gawer, Martine Haas, Adam B. Jaffe, Michael G. Jacobides, Sarah Kaplan and Dan Levinthal.

The 2019 Technology Transfer Society Annual Conference

Toronto, 26-28 September, 2019
The Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy and the Technology Transfer Society would like to invite you to submit a paper* to the 2019 Technology Transfer Conference. The main themes of the Conference will revolve around technology transfer and innovation policy, technology commercialization and entrepreneurship (with a focus on universities), and inclusive innovation. Submissions featuring longitudinal and historical studies, ideally using mixed-methods research are particularly encouraged. Submissions based on other methods are also welcome. For more information on how to submit an abstract, visit the Call for Papers page.

Atlanta Conference on Science and Innovation Policy

Atlanta, GA, 14-17 October, 2019
The Atlanta Conference on Science and Innovation Policy provides a showcase for the highest quality scholarship addressing the multidimensional challenges and interrelated characteristics of science and innovation policy and processes.

Regional Innovation Policies 2019: Technological Chance, Social Innovation, and Regional Transformation

Florence, Italy, 7-8 November, 2019
The Conference will focus on the paths of regional transformation that emerge as a response to technological and social change. Sustainability issues require regions to face change by trying to balance economic growth with social innovation. We will discuss the role that regional policies can play within such scenarios, by supporting the creation of new assets and resources, as well as favouring multi-level alignments of visions and interests.

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This newsletter is prepared by Jen Nelles.
Project manager is David A. Wolfe.