The IPL newsletter: Volume 17, Issue 346

News from the IPL


Nearly 60 U.S. Local Governments Apply to Join Sidewalk Labs’ Smart Cities Collaborative

Transportation for America
Nearly 60 local governments from 31 states applied to join the collaborative — including nearly half of the Smart City Challenge applicants and a number of the seven finalist cities — underscoring their desire to find ways to thoughtfully use technology to solve their pressing transportation and mobility challenges. Each applicant city identified a transportation-based problem they’re challenged by, an outcome they’re seeking, and a specific project they’re interested in developing to meet their needs. The applications showcased a diverse array of projects that shared an innovative drive toward problem identification, solution generation, and a willingness to take risks. The application also included a list of fifteen potential technical and topical working groups to focus on in the collaborative.

Editor's Pick

FinTech in Canada: British Columbia Edition

The Digital Finance Institute and McCarthy Tétrault LLP
This report reviews the current FinTech landscape in Canada, with a special focus on Vancouver, and a comparative overview of FinTech in 16 international jurisdictions. A product of a unique internationally collaborative process, the report brings together insights of key stakeholders in Canadian FinTech, including banks, government agencies, tech firms, law firms, advisory firms, universities, VCs and industry associations. The report maps the FinTech ecosystem in Canada, and its strengths, challenges, and opportunities with a view to understanding the future of FinTech, in Canada and globally. It also includes recommendations and a roadmap for Canada to capitalize on its FinTech opportunity and be an international leader in FinTech.

Innovation Policy

National Nanotechnology Initiative Strategic Plan

National Science and Technology Council
Over the fifteen year life of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), nanotechnology has evolved from an area of fundamental research focused on understanding and exploiting the phenomena that occur at the nanoscale to what is now a broadly enabling technology. Recognizing this evolution, the focus of the NNI has broadened from investments in foundational (fundamental) research in nanomaterials and nanotechnology-enabled devices to include activities directed at how these novel materials and devices can be incorporated into nanotechnology-enabled systems. This update of the NNI Strategic Plan reflects that evolution and addresses how the NNI agencies will collaborate with each other and the broader nanotechnology community to expand the ecosystem that supports fundamental discovery, fosters innovation, and promotes the transfer of nanotechnology discoveries from lab to market.

Fiscal Incentives for R&D and Innovation in a Diverse World

Thomas Neubig, Fernando Galindo-Rueda, and Silvia Appelt, OECD
Public policy has an important role to play in promoting research and development (R&D) the development, diffusion, and use of new knowledge and innovations. Fiscal incentives, including tax policies, should be directed at specific barriers, impediments or synergies to facilitate the desired level of investment in R&D and innovations. Without careful design, policies can have unintended consequences such as favouring incumbent firms, encouraging small firms to undertake less efficient activities, or creating arbitrage and rent-seeking activity. R&D tax policy needs to be considered in the context of the country’s general tax policies, its broader innovation policy mix, and its other R&D support policies. More R&D activity in one country does not necessarily result in an overall increase in global innovation if it is simply shifted from another country. More research is needed to determine the extent to which R&D fiscal incentives in one country increase overall R&D, the quality of that R&D, and its positive spillovers to other sectors of the economy and other countries.

Enhancing National Laboratory Partnership and Commercialization Opportunities

Innovation Associates Inc.
National laboratories are innovation powerhouses. They conduct wide-ranging research and development (R&D) on clean energy, national security, supercomputing, nanotechnology, materials and other scientific and engineering research, pushing technological breakthroughs and expanding new frontier boundaries. The laboratories have been responsible for research leading to the internet, integrated circuits, optical digital recording technology, maglev trains, proton accelerators, and many other technologies that make people’s lives better and safer. Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the 17 laboratories are all, except for one, managed by nonprofit and private sector contractors such as Battelle Memorial Institute (Battelle), Lockheed Martin, University of California, and University of Chicago. With an annual budget totaling more than $11 billion, and employing 55,000 researchers and staff, they are the nation’s leading technology discovery and innovation force. Partnerships with industry and the promotion of technology transfer and commercialization are increasingly important in ensuring the widespread dissemination and deployment of national laboratory innovations. In order to enhance industry partnerships, technology transfer, and commercialization, Argonne National Laboratory (Argonne) contracted with Innovation Associates (IA) of Reston, VA to identify exemplars from national laboratories that could serve as models for Argonne and other national laboratories. IA identified programs and practices at several national laboratories and additional exemplars from universities and other institutions. Based on this work and previous National Science Foundation work on universities, this report provides suggestions for adapting selected exemplars.

Innovation Starts Here: ICT Fundamentals for Canada’s Innovation Agenda

Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC)
This is the first in a series of five innovation papers that underscore the challenges faced by the information communications technology (ICT) sector. ICT is the fuel that ignites Canada’s Innovation Agenda and as such ITAC recommends fundamental policy changes and investments in four core areas: the modern digital economy; competitiveness and trade; modern digital governance; and, talent and skills development.\

Digital Economy Supply: The Immigration Stream

Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC)
This report examines the labour market impact of immigrants in Canada’s digital economy and the importance of immigration as a competitive advantage for Canada in the global digital economy. It provides a detailed breakdown of immigrants employed in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) roles and provides specific recommendations on what Canadian policy makers, employers, and educators need to do to secure top international digital talent in the competitive global labour market.

Cities, Clusters & Regions

National Urban Policy: A Roadmap for Canadian Cities

Abigail Friendly, Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance
Over the past 50 years, interest in a national urban policy in Canada has waxed and waned. Although the 1960s represented a high water mark in terms of creating national institutions on urban issues, efforts to develop a national urban policy languished until the early 2000s. While national urban policy can mean different things, a useful distinction is made between explicit urban policies directed to cities and implicit policies that may significantly affect cities but are not targeted at cities. The 21st century has seen a renewed interest internationally in national urban policies. This paper draws on the experience of countries that have explicitly pursued national urban policies to solve complex and interrelated urban challenges.

The First Principles of Urbanism: Part I

Rohit Aggarwala, Sidewalk Labs
In the first part of his “First Principles of Urbanism” series, Aggarwala argues that, in order to answer the question of how technology will affect cities of the future, we need to understand the essential elements of a city: people and space. He analyzes the advantages and costs of urban density. Essentially, when technology favors density, places will become denser. When it favors space, development will be less dense. He argues that understanding this “Jekyll-and-Hyde” nature of cities can help us develop a framework to evaluate how changes in technology might affect urban systems in thoughtful and systematic ways.

The First Principles of Urbanism: Part II

Rohit Aggarwala, Sidewalk Labs
This continuation of the “First Principles of Urbanism” series applies the density framework developed in Part I to historical cases. He finds that during the 1880s and 1920 available technologies favored density. The middle of the 20th century tipped the scale in the opposite direction. Currently, it appears as though the advantages of density are again favoring urban-like development that emphasizes walkability, bikeability, and access to public transit. Aggarwala concludes that, while the future is impossible to predict, technology will again reduce the advantages of urban density. But he also suggests that it is likely to reduce the costs as well. Ultimately, what matters isn’t whether technologies will change the efficiencies and costs of density, but which will change faster. He concludes with a call to arms for urbanists, technologists, and policy makers: the speed of the reduction in the costs of urban density will largely depend on the ability of the public sector to integrate technology effectively into urban systems. As such, urbanists and technologists need to work together to innovate, adapt, and adopt technology to make cities better places.

Prototyping Equity: Local Strategies for a More Inclusive Innovation Economy

Equitable Innovation Economies (EIE)
Federal and local leaders have increasingly looked to the innovation economy as an opportunity to catalyze growth. While investments in the innovation economy may drive new jobs and economic growth, they can also exacerbate inequities for cities confronting the loss of middle-wage jobs and widen economic and racial disparities. The EIE focus differs from the status quo by targeting equity in the innovation economy and manufacturing and leveraging assets such as entrepreneurship programs, advanced manufacturing firms, and makerspaces to create diverse, good quality jobs for underserved and disenfranchised communities. The vision for EIE stems from the recognition that achieving more inclusive growth in innovation and manufacturing will require deliberate, holistic approaches to program design.

CONNECT Innovation Report

CONNECT (San Diego)
CONNECT, an innovation company accelerator in San Diego that creates and scales great companies in the technology and life sciences sectors, released this report that shows that the innovation economy in San Diego is continuing to grow and now accounts for almost $52 billion, or 24 percent, of San Diego’s GDP. The report provides an overview of the strength and impact of the innovation economy in San Diego, and tracks the growth and strength of the innovation economy by comparing data year over year and across industry clusters.

Does Fiscal Decentralization Foster Regional Convergence?

Hansjorg Blochliger, OECD
Across the OECD, GDP per capita is converging. In contrast, regional disparities – or differences in GDP per capita across jurisdictions – are rising, mainly as a result of widening productivity differences. Fiscal decentralization could help reduce them again. According to new OECD research, assigning more own source revenue to sub-national governments dampens regional GDP disparities and underpins regional convergence.

Statistics & Indicators

OECD Economic Surveys: United States 2016

Seven years after the financial crisis, the US economy has rebounded : output has surpassed its pre-crisis peak by 10%, robust private-sector employment gains have sharply reduced unemployment, fiscal sustainability has been largely restored and corporate profits are high. The short-term outlook is for further growth near potential (albeit crisis-reduced at about 2%), where well-designed investments in infrastructure, skills, and green growth would contribute to a more robust and sustainable expansion.

NSF InfoBrief: U.S. R&D

SSTI Weekly Digest
U.S. research and development (R&D) performance rose to $477.7 billion in 2014 – an increase of $21.1 billion over 2013. When adjusted for inflation, growth in U.S. total R&D performance (1.2 percent annually between 2008 and 2014) matched the average pace of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Of the $477.7 billion in R&D funding, approximately 63 percent ($300.1 billion) went to experimental development with the remaining 37 percent supporting basic research ($84 billion) and applied research ($93.6 billion). In line with a two-decade trend, the business sector remained the largest performer of U.S. R&D – accounting for $340.7 billion (71 percent) of the total in 2014. Industry was also the largest funder of R&D, accounting for $318.6 billion (67 percent) of the 2014 total. Approximately 98 percent of industry-funded R&D was directed at companies to perform the R&D. The federal government was the second largest funder with $119.8 billion (25 percent);  $34.4 billion of its funding was dedicated to R&D at federal agencies, $34.1 billion to academic institutions, $26.6 billion to businesses, and $17.5 billion to FFRDCs.

A New Tool for Monitoring Global Value Chains

Michael Ferrantino and Siddhesh Kaushik, The World Bank
Understanding global value chains (GVCs) has become an important tool in the World Bank Group’s program to make trade work for development. GVCs involve trade, investment, and cooperation between many countries. By taking advantage of recent improvements in global logistics and communications, GVCs also enable smaller and poorer countries to participate in, and derive value from, specializing in parts of the production process of complex and technologically advanced products that would not have been feasible just a few decades ago. The World Bank Group’s World Integrated Trade System (WITS) offers a new tool for analyzing countries’ participation in three key global value chains:  apparel and footwear, electronics, and automotive goods. This new data tool will help researchers by enabling the tracking of GVCs at the sector and product level, revealing their linkages at different stages of the production process and across countries and regions.  It differs from the widely-used approach of tracking GVCs using value-added data derived from global input-output tables in that it provides more disaggregated information for goods, is easier to implement for small countries, and is more accessible mathematically.

Policy Digest

Supply Chains and Equitable Growth

Washington Center for Equitable Growth
The U.S. economy has undergone a structural transformation in recent decades. Large firms have shifted from doing many activities in-house to buying goods and services from a complex web of other companies. These outside suppliers make components and provide services in areas such as logistics, cleaning, and information technology. Deregulation, market failures, and corporate policies have led to the rise of supply chains comprised of small, weak firms that innovate less and pay less. These problems in supply chains threaten U.S. competitiveness by undermining innovation, and also contribute to the erosion of U.S. workers’ standard of living. A different kind of outsourcing is possible. Instead of suppliers and contingent workers engaged in a race to the bottom, supply chains could be comprised of skilled specialists who collaborate with each other on innovative products and services. This paper suggests policies to promote supply chain structures that stimulate equitable growth—that is, policies that both promote innovation and also ensure that the gains from innovation are broadly shared.

While decisions about how to structure supply chains matter greatly for working Americans, this topic rarely takes a front seat in discussions of policies to address inequality. This paper aims to remedy this oversight. In order to stimulate equitable growth, policymakers must understand how the economic pie is created—not just how it is divided. Because of the size and importance of supply chains to the U.S. economy, their structure and governance are key determinants of the viability of “good jobs strategies.” Moreover, the way the economic pie is created affects the way it is divided.

The report first describes important characteristics of supply chains in the United States. While there are important differences based on industry and lead firm strategy, in general U.S. supply chains are responsible for a significant part of product costs, consist of interconnected networks of independent firms, are largely domestic, and are increasingly made up of small firms.

It then analyzes the impact of outsourcing strategies, and find that the current structure and governance of supply chains have had largely negative consequences for innovation and job quality. Next, it highlights the market failures and other failures that have led to this state of affairs, and present examples of how more collaborative governance of supply chains and the ecosystems in which they exist leads to better outcomes.

The report closes with a discussion of ways that supply chain public policies and private business practices can be improved. Key recommendations to improve job quality and boost innovation include:

  • Encourage collaborative relationships between lead firms and suppliers
  • Nurture productive eco-systems of firms, universities, communities, and unions
  • Promote the formation of supply chains in industries that advance national goals
  • Promote good jobs and high-road strategies
  • Discourage low-road production strategies
  • More fairly share the benefits and risks of contingent work

These kinds of public policies and business practices would help to turn the outsourcing of jobs from a weakness into a strength. They would improve the productivity of firms across supply chains, boost innovation, and raise workers’ wages. Taken together, supply chain reforms are vital to enhancing U.S. competitiveness in the global economy, and a key pathway toward equitable growth.


CityAge: Build the Future

Toronto, 6-7 October, 2016
This conference takes a special look at how the business of city-building is essential to manage rapid urban growth. Participants at the conference will discuss the investments in infrastructure, innovation, resilience, transportation and energy systems that are required to build a globally competitive urban economy in the 21st Century. The broader Toronto metropolitan region will see its population increase from 9 million to 13.5 million people by 2041. How can the region, and other Canadian and global cities like it, thrive amid this growth, rather that be choked by it? This is a gathering of leaders in business, government, academe and society who are shaping the business opportunities and partnerships that build better cities and grow the economy. 

5th European Colloquium on Culture, Creativity, and Economy

Seville, Spain, 6-8 October, 2016
In recent years, myriad links between culture, creativity and economic practice have become major topics of interdisciplinary debates. There is a growing consensus that the intersections between these spheres, and symbolic and culturally embedded values in particular, pervade the global economy. Culture is not confined to artistic practice or heritage, nor is creativity confined to networks of creative workers and entrepreneurs: culture and creativity are practiced by workers and individuals in a range of occupational, institutional and geographical settings. Indeed, far from being restricted to global cities and urban settings, a growing body of research highlights the presence and uniqueness of cultural and creative activities in suburban and rural settings and across the Global South. Moreover, digital technologies and processes of globalization continue to create, destroy and restructure the markets and conditions under which cultural production, intermediation and consumption are undertaken and experienced. These are in turn underpinned by a plurality of micro-spatialities and micro-processes through which the dynamics and spaces of culture and creativity emerge. Together, this underlines the importance of paying critical academic attention to the particularities of the different social, political, technological and cultural models that enable, hinder or displace the creative and cultural economy. For research and policy, there is a strong need to generate nuanced and tempered accounts which understand both the potentialities and limitations involved in the intersections of culture, creativity and economy. There is a need to pursue new research avenues that not only encompass but go beyond critical engagement with policies. For example, a “critical agenda on critical approaches” might unveil significant aporias and pitfalls in the ways we study the webs that tie culture, creativity and economy together. More than ever perhaps there is a need for critical and radical academic debate that addresses questions about the value and values inherent in culture and creativity; questions surrounding the ownership and marketization of culture and creativity; and the dynamics of cultural and creative spaces, production and work.

2016 Barcelona Workshop on Regional and Urban Economics

Barcelona, Spain, 27-28 October, 2016
The workshop will be focused on innovation and the spatial diffusion of knowledge with emphasis in collaboration networks. Its aim is to bring together researchers in urban and regional economics who are working in topics where the broad concept of the geography of innovation plays a fundamental role. Particular attention will be paid to papers dealing with the mechanisms and actors of knowledge diffusion (knowledge spillovers, networks, technological collaboration, and knowledge relatedness). Although the Workshop will focus on empirical papers, theoretical studies are also welcome.

CFP – Regional Studies Association Research Network on EU Cohesion Policy – ‘EU and the CITY’

Delft, Netherlands, 14 October, 2016
More than two thirds of EU citizens live in urban areas and that share is set to grow further. Cities are Europe’s core hubs for economic growth, innovation and employment. However, at the same time cities magnify some of the key challenges that Europe faces, from environment, social deprivation, quality of life, mobility, to integration of migrants and refugees. The importance of cities for Europe’s future is reflected in recent European strategies and agreements such as the Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities, the Toledo Declaration or the more recent Urban Agenda for the EU, acknowledging the cities as focal points for economic development and as actors with a key responsibility in achieving territorial cohesion and the EU’s strategic goals. This in turn resulted in a pledge for boosting the urban dimension in EU cohesion policy as well as the development of national urban policies across all of the member states. Consequently, there is a growing number of instruments and initiatives as part of EU cohesion policy (e.g. JESSICA, Community-Led Local Development) and other initiatives (Adaptation Strategies for European Cities, European Urban Knowledge Network, URBACT, etc.) that support sustainable urban development and facilitate cooperation across municipal boundaries to promote development in metropolitan areas (e.g. Integrated Territorial Investment). Echoing these developments DG Regio recently changed its name to Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy. But what is behind those changes? What have been the effects of the new instruments? How have cities responded to them and who actually benefits from them? To what extent these new instruments contribute to Europe 2020 goals? To what extent and how has the EU influenced national urban policies and practices of urban practitioners on the ground? Does this new EU urban agenda stimulate new urban governance solutions? Do the EU instruments help to respond to the emerging challenges in the cities? These are some of the questions that this workshop in Delft aims to address. By bringing together scholars and practitioners working on this still under-researched but vitally important topic, the workshop seeks to offer a significant contribution to the scholarly debates and a forum for a critical reflection on the emerging EU urban policy.

2016 Regional Innovation Policies Conference

Cardiff Wales, November 3-4, 2016
Welcome to the 11th Regional Innovation Policies Conference 2016.  For more than a decade the Regional Innovation Policies Conference has been an essential date in the diaries of researchers, policy-makers and practitioners with an interest in the field of regional innovation, regional development and innovation policy.  The conference will feature keynote addresses and parallel sessions on a number of key themes arranged around the central topic of regional innovation, regional development and innovation policy.  The role of regions in innovation debates; the role of innovation in promoting the growth of innovation; the spatial distribution of innovation, and the role of regional policies in both stimulating and harnessing innovation are recurrent themes for the Regional Innovation Policies Conference.

The 2016 Technology Transfer Society Annual Conference

Phoenix, Arizona, 3-5 November, 2016
At least two decades of research show that new knowledge is a critical component of economic and social development.  Recent comprehensive reviews of the technology transfer literature conceptualize university technology transfer in terms of a patent-centric linear model—formal technology transfer—including technology disclosure, patent filing, and licensing.  This paradigm not only overlooks a diversity of practices by technology transfer offices, it also neglects other innovative practices or conceptualizations relating to the creation and exchange of new knowledge. To address the aforementioned gaps, the 2016 T2S Annual meeting will focus on alternative practices, policies, and conceptualizations of knowledge exchange that go beyond formal university technology transfer.  We are especially interested in empirical works that utilize frameworks and methodologies from a variety of disciplines and that utilize a variety of perspectives.

Regional Studies Association Winter Conference 2016 – New Pressures on Cities and Regions

London, UK, 24-25 November, 2016
This conference provides an intellectual and policy-relevant platform for scholars around the world to address the new and emerging challenges facing cities and regions. The global economic slowdown poses major concerns to many territories – through shortfalls in employment, household incomes, corporate profitability and tax revenues. The steel industry has been one of the hardest hit, forcing massive plant closures and redundancies from China to the UK. Austerity in public finances threatens the infrastructure required to lay the foundation for future growth and development. Economic uncertainties and uneven development also contribute to growing social unrest and new waves of international migration. Heightened regulation of the banks and other financial institutions is bound to have an impact on the funding of house-building and other real estate development, with uncertain consequences. Meanwhile the accelerating pace of technological change in many industries and occupations means different skills and capabilities are required of the workforce, causing painful adjustments for many communities. And looming concerns about climate change and accelerating environmental degradation complicate the task of urban and regional revitalization. The 2016 Winter Conference of the Regional Studies Association presents a timely opportunity to discuss these issues, to clarify the research imperatives, and to consider the challenges facing policymakers and practitioners. The conference organizers are keen to attract papers and sessions that address a broad research and policy agenda, including contributions from any discipline which can offer relevant insights into the urban-regional-global nexus.

European Cluster Conference

Brussels, Belgium, 30 November – 2 December, 2016
The fifth edition of the European Cluster Conference will be an inspiring event not to be missed by policy-makers from national and regional authorities involved or interested in cluster policies and cluster practitioners. The last edition of the European Cluster Conference in 2014 gathered over 340 cluster stakeholders from across Europe. As the 2016 edition is limited to 250 participants, early registration is advised – once possible; the registration platform is expected to be open in September. This year’s conference will focus on Cluster 4.0 – Shaping Smart Industries and include high-level plenary speeches, panel discussions and interactive sessions where participants will have the chance to share their experiences and challenges. Parallel discussions will take place in four priority areas related to industrial modernization, namely smart manufacturing and digital transformation, the circular economy, key enabling technologies, and creative and data-driven services. The parallel discussions will all cover the same key horizontal topics in different sessions. These include the role of clusters in boosting the innovation uptake and growth opportunities through strengthening cross-sectoral value chain linkages, strategic European partnering, international collaboration and skills towards shaping smart industries.

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