The IPL newsletter: Volume 17, Issue 352

News from the IPL


President Sign American Innovation and Competitiveness Act into Law

Committee on Science, Space and Technology
The president recently signed into law the bipartisan American Innovation and Competiveness Act (AICA) (S. 3084).  AICA represents a bicameral, bipartisan agreement that includes nine House Science Committee bills that passed the full House over the last two years, including H.R. 1806, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015. This legislation incorporates the national interest criterion as part of the National Science Foundation (NSF) merit review process, which ensures transparency and accountability by requiring a non-technical justification of all federally funded research projects. S. 3084 also reforms NSF major research facility construction to prevent future nine-figure cost overruns and prohibit use of taxpayer funds for liquor, lobbyists and foreign travel. In addition, this legislation strengthens cybersecurity research and IT coordination at all federal agencies. The American Innovation and Competitiveness Act authorizes and encourages private-public science prizes to solve important science and technology problems. It also encourages broader participation in STEM studies and careers.

New Manufacturing Hubs Awarded in NY and NH

SSTI Weekly Digest
Two new hubs have been announced in the Manufacturing USA network, one focusing on sustainable manufacturing innovation and the other on tissue biofabrication, bringing the total network of institutes to 13 since its inception four years ago. Efficiency measures will be the focus of the latest institute, announced recently by the Energy Department. The new Reducing Embodied-energy and Decreasing Emissions (REMADE) Institute will be headquartered in Rochester, New York, and be led by the Sustainable Manufacturing Innovation Alliance. It will leverage up to $70 million in federal funding, subject to appropriations, and will be matched by $70 million in private commitments from over 100 partners. In late December, the Department of Defense announced the award of a new $80 million biofabrication manufacturing hub to the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI).  ARMI will combine the federal award of $80 million with more than $214 million from a consortium of 87 partners across the country to establish the Advanced Tissue Biofabrication (ATB) Institute, which will be will be headquartered in Manchester, New Hampshire.

NIST Awards $12 million to MEP Centers in 11 States

The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program has awarded a total of nearly $12 million in first-year funding to 11 organizations that will operate MEP centers in Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Carolina and Wyoming. MEP centers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico support small and medium-size manufacturers and are dedicated to enhancing the productivity and technological performance of U.S. manufacturing.

Editor's Pick

Digital Transformation of the Canadian Economy

David A. Wolfe, Policy Options
For the past four decades, a relentless wave of innovation in information and communications technologies (ICTs) has washed across the global economy. The embedding of microprocessors and sensors in a growing range of products is part of a neural system that communicates and interacts, controlling the rhythm at which it operates. Few countries can afford to ignore this trend, and most are positioning their digital sectors as the drivers of future growth. Brian Arthur said in the McKinsey Quarterly in 2011, “How we will fare in this world, how we will adapt to it, how we will profit from it and share its benefits, is very much up to us.” An important part of this transformation is the shift from hardware to software. This shift in functionality is lowering the entry barriers to many industries, making it easier for companies to introduce innovative new products that can disrupt existing industries — from automobiles and taxis to hotels and financial services — with cheaper software opening up infinite opportunities for disruptive new products. The critical policy challenge arising from this transformation is to determine where Canada can compete in the rapidly changing digital economy, and which value-added activities can be most profitable domestically. Previous generations of federal policy were focused on the hardware side of the telecom and mobile sector during the boom, and it is this sector that has been hardest hit by the commoditization of hardware. The current shift of functionality from hardware into systems, through the embedding of software code, holds the key to the future of Canada’s place in the digital economy. The critical question is, how should government respond to these changes? Canada needs new programs to support innovation in the high technology and digital sectors of the economy.

Innovation Policy

Obama’s Technology Legacy

MIT Technology Review Editors
As @POTUS contemplates his legacy, the editors of MIT Technology Review took a look back at some of the most important technology initiatives of his eight years to assess that record. He succeeded in some important ways, such as supporting net neutrality and joining global action on climate change. But there were failures, too—remember—and even some of the successes are now in question as a new administration comes into power. Here is an assessment of five particular signature technology topics: upgrading government use of technology, net neutrality, stimulus spending on technology, electronic medical records, and advanced manufacturing.

 Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy

Executive Office of the President
Accelerating artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities will enable automation of some tasks that have long required human labor. These transformations will open up new opportunities for individuals, the economy, and society, but they have the potential to disrupt the current livelihoods of millions of Americans. Whether AI leads to unemployment and increases in inequality over the long-run depends not only on the technology itself but also on the institutions and policies that are in place. This report examines the expected impact of AI-driven automation on the economy, and describes broad strategies that could increase the benefits of AI and mitigate its costs.

Investing in “Innovation Infrastructure” to Restore U.S. Growth

Peter L. Singer, ITIF
Recovery from the Great Recession has been painfully slow. To address such stagnation, one policy that has gained traction from some economists and President-elect Trump is infrastructure stimulus. When this was first proposed in 2013, the focus was on jobs; since then, employment levels have recovered, but the underlying problems of investment and productivity growth remain. Support for traditional physical infrastructure could help increase employment if it is debt-funded, but we should not expect it to address the underlying structural problems of low investment and productivity stagnation. Nor will it do much to revitalize the manufacturing sector, which suffered unprecedented output and job losses in the 2000s. More broadly, innovation-based growth seems to have stalled except in software. Filling potholes and repairing sewers will do nothing to address these deeper problems. Instead, restoring an innovation- and investment-led economy depends on spurring growth through investments in America’s “innovation infrastructure,” including scientific and engineering research in the public, academic, and private sectors. This, more than traditional concrete and steel, should be the focus of any stimulus program. This report reviews the prevailing analysis of “secular stagnation,” including the demand-side perspective of economist Lawrence Summers and the supply-side perspective of economist Robert Gordon. The report assesses the shortcomings of standard monetary and fiscal policy responses, including the limits of traditional infrastructure spending. It then describes the potential benefits associated with increasing investments in “innovation infrastructure”.

Manufacturing USA Program Design and Progress: A Third Party Evaluation

A true interagency program, Manufacturing USA is sponsored by the US Department of Commerce, the US Department of Defense, the US Department of Energy, and others. Since the program’s inception four years ago, it has established or announced 13 new manufacturing innovation institutes. The manufacturing institutes are public-private partnerships, each with distinct technology focus areas, that work toward a common goal: to secure America’s future through manufacturing innovation, education, and collaboration. Manufacturing USA engaged Deloitte as a third-party evaluator to help formulate recommendations and develop a strategy to capitalize on existing successes and improve the program’s effectiveness. To complete the assessment, Deloitte brought together specialists in advanced technologies and manufacturing, world-class consulting methodologies, and innovative analyses and tools.

Clusters & Regions

Innovation, Creativity and Governance 8 Years On: Social Dynamics of Economic Performance in City-Regions

David A. Wolfe and Allison Bramwell, Innovation: Organization & Management
Confronting the challenges facing twenty-first century urban economies demands coherent responses that neither the private sector nor government operating alone can provide. Our research leads us to conclude that the capacity of city-regions for economic transformation depends not just on supportive public policies and favourable markets, but also on their underlying social and political structures. Many city-regions are experimenting with innovative institutional arrangements that seek to shape their future growth trajectories while attempting to mitigate the negative social consequences of innovation-intensive growth. Success in the contemporary knowledge-based economy depends not only on the innovative capabilities of local firms, the underlying strength of research infrastructure that supports those firms, and access to local pools of talent and creativity, but most fundamentally on the institutional structures that integrate the complex and diverse set of interests found in those city-regions into new more collaborative forms of civic governance.

The Toronto-Waterloo Innovation Corridor

McKinsey & Co.
Canada’s Toronto-Waterloo Innovation Corridor already contributes a substantial amount to the country’s GDP. Can it become one of the world’s true technology superclusters? This report examines that possibility, summarizing McKinsey’s research and analysis of technology clusters to assess Toronto-Waterloo’s relative position. It also frames the potential benefits of Toronto-Waterloo becoming a supercluster, both regionally and for the broader Canadian economy.

Reimagining Cities from the Internet Up

Dan Doctoroff, Sidewalk Labs
In this retrospective on the first year of operation at Sidewalk Labs its CEO, Dan Doctoroff, shares some lessons, visions, and questions that will drive future initiatives. In particular, he describes a thought experiment centered around the question: What would a city look like if you started from scratch in the internet era? What would it look like if it was a place where ubiquitous connectivity is truly built into the foundation of the city, and where people use the data that’s generated to enhance quality of life? Although the thought experiment is just beginning the team has made some interesting findings: They think you’d get a place that gives people more of what we love about cities with less of what we don’t. A place that’s adaptable, constantly evolving with changing demands, technologies, and tastes. A place that’s personalized for our needs and desires. A place that’s shareable in a million new ways. A place that’s more transparent, with greater trust among neighbors and greater faith in government. A place that feels like a city but functions like a local community. In short, you get a place where these virtues, which all great cities already strive to provide, are the norm and not the exception.

Improving Urban Mobility Starts with Better Travel Data

Corinna Li, Sidewalk Labs
It might come as a surprise to anyone who doesn’t work in transportation, but cities have a pretty limited understanding of where, when, why, and how people travel. For the most part, they have no idea where entire neighborhoods of people go when they leave home (let alone specific individuals). And they know even less about the trips people aren’t taking but might take if they had more affordable or convenient transportation options. This information gap matters a lot for cities on the move. For transportation agencies, greater insight into travel behavior helps design roads, manage transit service, and plan capital projects to meet people’s daily needs. It also helps them adapt to the times as residential patterns changework geographies shift, and new mobility services emerge. Maybe it’s time to change a bus route, or add a bike lane, or partner with an on-demand ride service. And for people like you and me, better information helps us decide how to get around, whether that means carpooling with someone who has a similar commute schedule or avoiding congested roads. In fact, big advances in travel data have powered many of the recent innovations in urban transportation. Ride-hail companies (like Uber and Lyft) and demand-responsive transit services (like Bridj) require direct access to individual travel needs. Successful bike-share networks depend on knowing which docks are popular at which times. This precise, real-time understanding of who wants to travel where and when enables coordination with available services. These are big steps forward. But there’s still a long way to go when it comes to understanding how people move around cities. Fortunately, recent advances can help us gain more complete insights, form stronger public-private collaborations, and answer the hard questions about what we want our transportation systems to achieve.

Developing a Common Narrative on Urban Accessibility

Adie Tomer and Jeffrey Gutman, Brookings
Throughout the world, people struggle to effectively, affordably, and safely reach destinations they value, such as workplaces, hospitals, homes, and shopping centers. Caught in a built environment that has long been planned and designed around “mobility”—where reducing congestion and boosting travel speeds are paramount—people are often disconnected from economic opportunity. Existing transportation options, for instance, may fail to conveniently connect people to jobs, while housing may be distant from other essential services. In turn, the lack of urban “accessibility” has made it difficult for cities to support equitable and sustainable development that ultimately helps people get where they need to go. The Moving to Access (M2A) initiative represents a multidisciplinary effort aimed at informing and promoting a more accessible built environment across the developing and developed world. Although the idea of accessibility has gained greater traction among researchers over time—and new tools and performance measures have been created to quantify urban needs—its widespread adoption has proven challenging. However, by pioneering new research and establishing stronger networks among academics, practitioners, and other leaders, M2A aims to move the concept of urban accessibility from theory into practice. To meet this objective, the M2A initiative commissioned three think pieces that discuss accessibility from these perspectives. The authors of each piece followed broad guidelines to better define the challenges and opportunities cities face when implementing an accessibility-focused approach, with an eye toward cross-cutting solutions. Each paper stands on its own, offering an intellectual tour of accessibility through its discipline.

Statistics & Indicators

OECD Science, Technology and Innovation Outlook 2016

A decline in government funding of science and technology research in a number of countries could pose a threat to innovation at a time when global challenges like climate change and ageing populations demand solutions, according to this new OECD report. It warns that a backlash against globalization and migration in some countries could also become a cause for concern given that innovation is increasingly driven by cross-border cooperation and the ability of scientists, students and entrepreneurs to move about and work in different countries over their careers. The report says government funding of R&D is likely to plateau at current levels or decline further given pressure on public finances in many countries and sluggish economic growth. A tendency among governments to focus more on offering R&D tax incentives to firms than funding R&D in universities and public laboratories is also tilting the balance towards the private sector. That can mean funds are allocated to where new products or profits are most likely rather than to less directly focused research which is often the source of unexpected breakthroughs. Business R&D tends to favour development over pure research.

A Historical Perspective on Tech Job Growth

Michael Mandel, Progressive Policy Institute (PPI)
General Motors reached 300,000 employees in 1941, 32 years after its 1909 founding. American Telephone & Telegraph hit the same milestone in 1926, 27 years after its 1899 absorption of the local Bell systems. And Walmart went over 300,000 associates in its 1991 fiscal year, its 21st year as a public company. But in 2016, Amazon became the fastest American company to reach 300,000 workers, hitting that mark in its 20th year as a public company. That figure was before Amazon’s January 12, 2017 promise to add more than 100,000 full-time jobs in the US over the next 18 months. That’s an amazing growth rate. But Amazon is not alone. In fact, tech giants such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft are adding jobs as fast or faster than the great job-producing companies of the past, like GM, AT&T, Walmart, IBM, GE, US Steel, and Bethlehem Steel. What’s going on here? We remember the giant corporate employers of the post World War II period. But we fail to remember how they had generally been in existence for many decades before they reached that mammoth size. And just like it takes many years for an oak tree to grow from an acorn, it turns out that employment growth simply takes time. We also forget that today’s tech firms are genuine startups. By comparison, most of the big job producers of the past started as mergers or roll-ups of companies that had existed for years or decades before. When we compare today’s tech leaders with the employment leaders of the past at a similar stage of development, it turns out that the job creation performance of the tech sector looks quite good. 

A Human Capital Challenge in Information Technology

Lester Gunnion, Deloite. University Press
Job openings in the United States are at an all-time high.1 Low unemployment means that business executives have a smaller pool to source talent for open positions. Though the challenge spans the entire economy, it is starker in certain sectors. One such sector is information technology (IT). Not only is IT likely to create many more jobs in the future, it is also likely to account for the most number of unfilled jobs. Certain factors such as the relatively quick shift in demand for skills and the growing trend of part-time, project-specific employment aggravates the challenges faced by talent acquisition and management efforts in the IT sector. Conventional acquisition and management methods are likely to require technological enhancement in order to ease the problem.

Policy Digest

 Ensuring Long-Term U.S. Leadership in Semiconductors

President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST)
PCAST emphasizes that the United States will not remain a semiconductor leader if it confines its efforts to making it cheaper and easier to build today’s semiconductors and to opposing damaging Chinese industrial policy. Ultimately, to maintain a strong and globally competitive semiconductor industry, the United States needs an economic and policy environment that fosters innovation and keeps the U.S. industry at the technological frontier. The report proposes pursuing a series of “moonshots”—for example, developing cutting-edge medical technologies and game-changing biodefense detection systems (these and other example moonshots are described in the report)—that have society-wide benefits and would require radical semiconductor advances of much broader applicability. The moonshots recognize that the future of semiconductors and computing lies in simultaneously innovating along multiple dimensions: new ways of performing calculations (such as non-von Neumann and approximate computing), utilization of materials other than silicon (such as carbon nanotubes and DNA for computation and storage), and novel approaches to integrating semiconductors into the devices we use (such as embedding into fabrics and the Internet of Things).  

Semiconductors are essential to modern life. Progress in semiconductors has opened up new frontiers for devices and services that use them, creating new businesses and industries, and bringing massive benefits to American workers and consumers as well as to the global economy. Cutting-edge semiconductor technology is also critical to defense systems and U.S. military strength, and the pervasiveness of semiconductors makes their integrity important to mitigating cybersecurity risk.

U.S. semiconductor innovation, competitiveness, and integrity face major challenges. Semiconductor innovation is already slowing as industry faces fundamental technological limits and rapidly evolving markets. Now a concerted push by China to reshape the market in its favor, using industrial policies backed by over one hundred billion dollars in government-directed funds, threatens the competitiveness of U.S. industry and the national and global benefits it brings.

The global semiconductor market has never been a completely free market: it is founded on science that historically has been driven, in substantial part, by government and academia; segments of it are restricted in various ways as a result of national-security and defense imperatives; and it is frequently the focus of national industrial policies. Market forces play a central and critical role. But any presumption by U.S. policymakers that existing market forces alone will yield optimal outcomes – particularly when faced with substantial industrial policies from other countries – is unwarranted. In order to realize the opportunities that semiconductors present and to effectively mitigate major risks, U.S. policy must respond to the challenges now at hand.

Core Findings
The United States will only succeed in mitigating the dangers posed by Chinese industrial policy if it innovates faster. Policy can, in principle, slow the diffusion of technology, but it cannot stop the spread. And, as U.S. innovators face technological headwinds, other countries’ quest to catch up will only become easier. The only way to retain leadership is to outpace the competition.

That does not mean that the U.S. government should be silent or passive in the face of Chinese industrial policies. We found that Chinese policies are distorting markets in ways that undermine innovation, subtract from U.S. market share, and put U.S. national security at risk. While stepping up the pace of innovation, the United States should also act in the short term to try to reduce this market-distorting behavior and its impacts. Our recommendations therefore focus on three approaches. First, the United States should attempt to influence Chinese behavior by working to improve transparency around Chinese policy through discussions in bilateral and multilateral forums, joining with allies to coordinate and strengthen inward investment security and export controls, and responding firmly and consistently to Chinese violations of international agreements. The United States also should calibrate its application of national-security controls in response to Chinese industrial policy aimed at undermining U.S. security.

Second, the report finds that a competitive domestic industry is critical to innovation and security. It therefore recommends policies aimed at developing and attracting talent, funding basic research and development that is critical to innovation, reforming corporate tax laws, and reforming permitting practices. As noted above, however, a level playing field and a strong business environment are necessary but not sufficient. The final set of recommendations focuses on driving transformative innovation. The Committee proposes a series of “moonshots”—such as developing game-changing biodefense systems and cutting-edge medical technologies—that have independent merit and would, if achieved, also deliver radical semiconductor advances of much broader applicability. Delivering on such transformative innovation, as on our other recommendations, will require strong cooperation among government, industry, and academia to be maximally effective.


Big Ideas Discussion Series @ Rotman – Tech North: Building Canada’s First Technology Supercluster – Canada’s Opportunity To Build Toronto-Waterloo In To One of the World’s Top Technology Superclusters

Toronto, 27 January, 2017
In late December 2016 a white paper was released titled “Tech North: Building Canada’s First Technology Supercluster”. It is about Canada’s opportunity to build Toronto-Waterloo in to one of the world’s top technology superclusters. The single most important message of the report is that there are very large non-linear gains associated with winning, dense technology clusters. Canada – both the private and public sector – must really start to get behind Toronto-Waterloo and other nascent tech superclusters in Canada (Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, etc.) and to help them succeed on a global scale.  These clusters need to start thinking like clusters.  Policymakers need to drive real collegiality and connection across the cluster and eventually between clusters.  Building dense, focused technology superclusters that are globally relevant and globally competitive is the best way to benefit these regions and all Canadians. This isn’t about favoring one area over another – it’s about focusing energy/resources/policies to win on a global scale as the best way to benefit all Canadians. Winning begets winning

Smart and Sustainable Planning for Cities and Regions

Bolzano, Italy, 22-24 March, 2017
This second edition of “Smart and Sustainable Planning for Cities and Regions” – SSPCR 2017 – faces the challenge of inspiring the transition of urban areas towards smarter and more sustainable places to live. Towards this aim, planners and stakeholders are called to take over – in a multidimensional perspective – both the urgent issues related to climate change and energy efficiency, and the new potential changes introduced by cities’ digitalization and the integration of ICT in infrastructures, mobility, and social interactions. In this scenario, planning requires a global overview and understanding of the past and current state of cities as well as a holistic approach in redirecting their future development and regeneration. Therefore, SSPCR 2017 warmly welcomes contributions coming from different research fields: urban and regional planning, environmental and social sciences, transportation, engineering and energy-related studies, as well as from the professional community. Alongside with oral, poster and virtual dissertations, cooperation and demonstration projects are also warmly invited to join SSPCR 2017, in the spirit of disseminating innovative approaches, implemented activities and achieved results.

CFP: 11th Workshop on the Organization, Economics, and Policy of Scientific Research

Torino, Italy, 18-19 May, 2017
The aim of the workshop is to bring together a small group of scholars interested in the analysis of the production and diffusion of scientific research from an economics, historical, organizational, and policy perspective. The workshop aims at including papers form various streams of research developed in recent years in and around the area of public and private scientific research. 

Regional Studies Association Conference 2017: The Great Regional Awakening – New Directions

Dublin, Ireland, 4-7 June, 2017
A ‘Great Regional Awakening’ is underway. There is a growing realization that regional inequalities have both contributed to, and amplified, the ‘Great Recession’ that shook advanced and emerging economies alike. It is also becoming apparent that the crisis has been having very different impacts spatially. This will only help to further exacerbate uneven economic development, fueling more trouble down the line. In Europe, major economic fault-lines are re-emerging between and within national economies; between the core and the periphery; between urban and rural areas; between city-regions and within cities themselves. This pattern is replicated elsewhere – in advanced, emerging and developing world. There is an urgent need to re-examine all aspects of local and regional development and how it relates to national and international economic dynamics; and to social, political, cultural, technological and environmental processes. Having spent over 50 years advocating more balanced regional development, the Regional Studies Association is now spearheading a major effort to address these pressing issues in such challenging times.


New York, USA, 12-14 June, 2017
DRUID and NYU Stern School of Business are proud to invite senior and junior scholars to participate and contribute with a paper to DRUID17, hosted by NYU Stern in New York. Presenting distinguished plenary speakers, a range of parallel paper sessions, and a highly 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. DRUID17 invites paper submissions on innovation, entrepreneurship and other aspects of structural, institutional and geographic change.

Atlanta Conference on Science and Innovation Policy

Atlanta, USA, 9-11 October, 2017
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. Spanning three days, the conference will include plenary sessions reflecting different facets of the science and innovation system, presentations of well-developed research, and an early career poster session to allow young researchers to present their work. Submissions should address issues relevant to the science and innovation system, and may fall into one or more topic areas related to the STI/research system.

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