The IPL newsletter: Volume 18, Issue 358

News from the IPL


Canada Funds $125 Million Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy

via CNW
The Government of Canada is funding a Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy for research and talent that will cement Canada’s position as a world leader in AI. The $125 million strategy will attract and retain top academic talent in Canada, increase the number of post-graduate trainees and researchers studying artificial intelligence, and promote collaboration between Canada’s main centres of expertise in Montreal, Toronto–Waterloo and Edmonton. The program will be administered through CIFAR, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

White House Creates a New Office for American Innovation

President Donald J. Trump recently announced the White House Office of American Innovation (OAI).  The OAI will make recommendations to the President on policies and plans that improve Government operations and services, improve the quality of life for Americans now and in the future, and spur job creation.  These recommendations will be developed in collaboration with career staff along with private-sector and other external thought leaders. Individuals involved have already hosted listening and working sessions with more than 100 private-sector CEOs, other external thought leaders, and senior Government officials.  OAI will create task forces to focus on initiatives such as modernizing Government services and information technology, improving services to veterans, creating transformational infrastructure projects, implementing regulatory and process reforms, creating manufacturing jobs, addressing the drug and opioid epidemic, and developing “workforce of the future” programs.

Editor's Pick

New Thinking on Innovation: A CIGI Essay Series

Centre for International Governance Innovation
Innovation is the puzzle at the heart of the knowledge economy. Unlock its secrets, and innovation will drive productivity and, in time, standards of living. Yet it remains a conundrum for many small open economies. In Canada, productivity has been stubbornly flat: in 2015, it stood almost exactly where it was 30 years earlier in 1985 — leading to a preoccupation with policies that stimulate innovation. In the coming weeks, a series of essays will marshall new thinking on innovation, and bring together a community of scholars and practitioners who offer fresh approaches for Canada and for the global economic cooperation system. The essays explore three distinct themes. The first theme is the role that international trade plays in stimulating innovation — a central argument being that as the centre of gravity shifts from goods and services to ideas, the way countries negotiate trade deals must also change. The second theme is the role of domestic policy, with an emphasis on the impact of patent regimes and intellectual property strategies on competitiveness. The third theme is how global processes led by, for example, the World Trade Organization and the Group of Twenty, might foster a climate in which the innovation strategies of smaller countries might be accommodated. CIGI hopes the ideas contained in this first set of essays stimulate a discussion, at home and abroad, on how the engine of prosperity in the twenty-first century — innovation — can best be stimulated to serve the widest set of needs possible.

Innovation Policy

The Nature of Problem Solving: Using Research to Inspire 21st Century Learning

Solving non-routine problems is a key competence in a world full of changes, uncertainty and surprise where we strive to achieve so many ambitious goals. But the world is also full of solutions because of the extraordinary competences of humans who search for and find them. We must explore the world around us in a thoughtful way, acquire knowledge about unknown situations efficiently, and apply new and existing knowledge creatively. This report presents the background and the main ideas behind the development of the PISA 2012 assessment of problem solving, as well as results from research collaborations that originated within the group of experts who guided the development of this assessment. It illustrates the past, present and future of problem-solving research and how this research is helping educators prepare students to navigate an increasingly uncertain, volatile and ambiguous world.

The Applied Value of Public Investments in Biomedical Research

Danielle Li, Pierre Azoulay, and Bhaven N. Sampat, Science
Scientists and policy-makers have long argued that public investments in science have practical applications. Using data on patents linked to U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants over a 27-year period, the authors provide a large-scale accounting of linkages between public research investments and subsequent patenting. They find that about 10% of NIH grants generate a patent directly but 30% generate articles that are subsequently cited by patents. Although policy-makers often focus on direct patenting by academic scientists, the bulk of the effect of NIH research on patenting appears to be indirect. The authors also find no systematic relationship between the “basic” versus “applied” research focus of a grant and its propensity to be cited by a patent.

Cities, Clusters & Regions

Future Cities Dialogue: A Project Investigating Urban System Integration in the UK

Innovate UK
Cities increasingly have to do more with less. This means they can no longer just look to do things better, they have to do better things. A critical way to do this is to integrate city systems so that they reinforce rather than antagonize one another. A simple example is health — obesity and respiratory conditions from poor air quality are huge challenges facing the UK and elsewhere. Building urban transport systems such that they encourage more exercise and remove polluting vehicles from urban areas would help solve both of these complaints, but all urban transport planning in the past has been designed solely to meet the needs of the transport system — how to get people and goods from a to b. Taking a systemic approach to city planning allows the whole to be seen together, and to create infrastructure systems that work synergistically. In our highly networked world, it is a simple and intuitive idea. But integrating infrastructure systems is fraught with legacy challenges — the legacy of the way urban systems have been built, and the legacy of citizen expectations about how they should be used. Because this is such an important market opportunity for those who create the solutions, one of Innovate UK’s four thematic programmes is focused on the challenge of Infrastructure Systems — understanding how to optimize and integrate infrastructure in cities such that it is more efficient and resilient. This piece of work supports that in a number of ways. Firstly it looks at the variety of initiatives that are being developed in isolation and applied to city challenges to understand the impacts of their convergence. It helps us understand which approaches are mutually incompatible, and by extrapolating to 2040 we have an idea of the kinds of futures that citizens can expect. For the first time, this work shows what city–level system integration could look like as a whole picture, rather than as a series of disjointed snapshots. Having these visions is crucial to galvanizing practical action and planning an effective strategy. With them we can help stakeholders across the economy understand the role that each of us needs to play to build successful and sustainable integrated systems, but without them we have nothing to aim at or measure progress against.

Statistics & Indicators

The Next Digital Talent Wave: Navigating the Digital Shift – ICTC’s Labour Market Outlook Report 2017-2021

A nation’s capacity to innovate is a fundamental driver for economic growth and social prosperity. At the heart of this equation is skilled digital talent that continues to fuel the creative capital of our nation. However, the workforce of tomorrow is rapidly changing amidst unprecedented technological advancements, evolving global economic outlook, as well as social, demographic, trade, and environmental prospects. While these and many other factors are redefining the global labour market, in Canada, the demand for skilled digital talent continues to intensify. ICTC’s outlook report asserts that by 2021 around 216,000 critical digital talent positions will need to be filled. While this is indicative of  a vibrant digital economy, the proportion of youth entering the ICT workforce is several folds smaller compared to the proportion of older workers nearing retirement. The recent 2017 Federal Budget set out welcomed measures in investments in workforce development that will further heighten Canada’s digital advantage in a global economy.


Policy Digest

Investing in Canada’s Future: Strengthening the Foundations of Canadian Research

Advisory Panel on Federal Support for Fundamental Science
This report accordingly outlines a comprehensive agenda to strengthen the foundations of Canadian extramural research. It recommends legislation to create an independent National Advisory Council on Research and Innovation (NACRI). Working closely with Canada’s new Chief Science Advisor (CSA), the new council would raise the bar in terms of ongoing evaluations of all programming. The report also recommends wide-ranging improvements to oversight and governance of the four agencies, including the appointment of a coordinating board chaired by the CSA. Other changes would promote life cycle oversight of national-scale research facilities, and improved methods for initiating, reviewing, and renewing or terminating contribution agreements with external non-profit entities operating in the research realm.


Canadian gross domestic expenditure on R&D from all sources relative to GDP (GERD intensity) has been declining slowly over the last 15 years, as contrasted with our G7 peers and key east Asian nations. Worldwide, including non-OECD nations, we are no longer in the top 30 nations in terms of total research intensity. HERD is a subset of GERD related to extramural research conducted by institutions of higher education and affiliates. In 2014 Canada’s HERD intensity was seventh in the OECD, but highest in the G7.

This higher standing compared with overall R&D spending is often linked to the growth in federal research spending that started in 2001, and seems at odds with the extensive concerns about funding that we heard from scientists and scholars. However, in 2015 almost 50 per cent of HERD in Canada was funded by universities and colleges themselves, while the federal government contributed only 23 per cent. Internationally this is a highly anomalous situation, and it is having adverse effects on both research and higher education across Canada.

As well, growth in federal spending was matched by growth in the number of people engaged as researchers at Canadian universities and colleges. Thus, in constant dollars, granting council funding per researcher has been in steady decline since 2008-09. We examined a number of international peer jurisdictions and found no evidence that there was either unusually fast growth in Canada or that there is now a uniquely Canadian glut of extramural researchers. Indeed, for doctoral-level graduation rates, Canada ranked 22nd among 35 comparator OECD countries in 2013; contrary to popular belief, Canadian enterprises in the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors are hiring PhDs at a rate commensurate with rising graduation rates.

The years from 2006-07 to 2013-14 also saw a shift in funding away from independent research, be it basic or applied, that allows individuals or teams to define their topics and/or the structure of the research collaboration. We estimated that scholars, scientists, and trainees wishing to pursue fully independent research work saw a decline of available real resources per researcher of about 35 per cent in that period.


There are many possible measures of the quality and impact of science and scholarly inquiry. Two commonly used are summarized here: bibliometric analyses of publication counts in indexed journals and profiles of major prizes and awards. Canada’s publication output is growing, but, according to a December 2016 update from the Council of Canadian Academies: “Production of publications in most fields of research in Canada grew more slowly than the world average in 2003–2014. This is a change from the 2012 report, which noted that half of the fields grew more quickly than the world average in 1999–2010.” As a result, Canada’s global rank in total research output dropped, from seventh in 2005–2010 to ninth in 2009–2014, as Italy and India moved ahead. Examining numbers of recent publications in Nature and Science, the two flagship journals of basic research, Canada ranked 8th among nations, with only 1 Canadian institution in the top 20 worldwide, and 2 more in the top 100.

Citations, which occur when publications are referenced in articles by other scientists and scholars, are a proxy for impact of Canadian-authored work. Canadian papers were cited at a rate 43 per cent higher than the global average in 2009–2014, standing commendably in the top six nations globally. However, our growth rate ranked 15th, suggesting again that Canada is stalling relative to peers. Examining the numbers of publications in the top 1 or 10 per cent worldwide for frequency of citation, on a per capita basis Canada lags other small nations such as the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Canada’s performance in winning international prizes is trailing traditional powerhouses such as the U.S. and U.K. It is also well behind Australia, which now outperforms Canada on several other measures. In recent decades, twice as many Canadians have won research-related Nobel prizes while working in the U.S. as have been awarded to Canadian-born or foreign-born scientists working in Canada.


The writers of the report emphasize that the summary of findings and recommendations below is highly abbreviated. It would be irresponsible for any secondary summary or other interpretation of our report, let alone policy action, to depend solely on this précis rather than on careful reference to the full text.

Broad Oversight and Rigorous Evaluation
Based on consultations and its own research, the Panel concluded that Canada’s federal research ecosystem, despite many strengths, is weakly coordinated and inconsistently evaluated, and has not had consistent oversight. Further, the links between extramural and intramural research should be strengthened, as should federal-provincial-territorial (FPT) collaboration. The current external advisory body, the Science, Technology and Innovation Council (STIC), has no independent reporting authority and a constrained disciplinary mandate. The imminent appointment of a new Chief Science Advisor (CSA) for Canada is a major step forward, but more needs to be done.

Selected Recommendations:

  • Wind down the STIC and replace it with a new National Advisory Council on Research and Innovation (NACRI);
  • NACRI should be mandated not only to review proposals to create new third-party delivery organizations, but also to guide the periodic review processes for all existing third-party organizations, and advise as to the continuation or modification of their contribution agreements;
  • The Privy Council Office, working with departmental officials and the newly appointed CSA, should examine mechanisms to achieve improved whole-of-government coordination and collaboration for intramural research and evidence-based policy-making;
  • CSA convene a Special Standing Committee on Major Research Facilities (MRFs), chaired by an eminent scientist. This body would provide advice on the life cycle of federally supported MRFs, extending from a peer-reviewed decision to initiate an MRF, through budgeting, planning, and construction, then periodic reviews of effectiveness, and finally a decommissioning plan;
  • Strong FPT collaboration is essential if Canada is to compete internationally. The CSA, with advice from NACRI, should take the lead in promoting a shared agenda on matters of national concern. Ongoing interactions and annual in-person meetings should be established to strengthen collaborative research relationships among FPT departments with major intramural or extramural research commitments;
  • The Government of Canada should propose and initiate planning for a First Ministers’ Conference on Research Excellence in 2017, both celebrating and cementing a shared commitment to global leadership in science and scholarly inquiry as part of Canada’s sesquicentennial celebrations.

The Four Agencies: Strengthened Core, Better Coordination
The granting councils and CFI have made a vital contribution to Canadian science and scholarly inquiry. However, while assorted self-commissioned evaluations have occurred, the Panel could not find any broad external review of the federal agencies and research ecosystem since the 1970s. It is perhaps unsurprising that the Panel heard and read concerns about coordination, governance, strategy, budgeting, and programming. For example, while there is some apparent congruence in the conceptual basis of the Discovery (NSERC), Insight (SSHRC), and Foundation (CIHR) programs, success rates, funding levels, and peer review practices have all diverged across those programs to a degree that is hard to explain based on disciplinary differences alone.

Selected Recommendation:

  • The Ministers of Science and Health should mandate the formation of a formal coordinating board for the four agencies, chaired by the CSA, with membership including agency heads, department officials, and external experts;
  • The Government of Canada should direct the new Coordinating Board to develop and harmonize funding strategies across the agencies, using a lifecycle approach that balances the needs and prospects of researchers at different stages of their careers;
  • The Board should also create a mechanism for harmonization as well as continuous oversight and improvement of peer review practices across the three councils and CFI, starting with a common set of guiding principles or values for peer review;
  • There should be concerted efforts to address equity and diversity issues while maintaining standards of excellence;
  • The three granting councils should collaborate in developing a comprehensive strategic plan to promote and provide long-term support for Indigenous research, with the goal of enhancing research and training by and with Indigenous researchers and communities.

Strategic Clarity and a Multi Year Plan for Renewal
The Panel’s overall conclusion is that independent science and scholarly inquiry have been underfunded for much of the last decade, as the federal government has concentrated resources on innovation-facing and priority-driven programs. In reaching that conclusion we considered the small and declining share of HERD attributable to the federal government; Canada’s anomalous dependence on institutional subsidies to carry the extramural research enterprise; and our declining research performance on multiple measures, as compared not just with traditional powerhouses, but with smaller nations such as Australia and the Netherlands.  A major boost to funding for the ecosystem is urgently needed, with shortfalls affecting research operating grants, personnel awards, reimbursement of the institutional costs of research, and operations and maintenance of specific types of facilities. 

Selected Recommendations:

  • The federal government should rapidly increase its investment in independent investigator-led research to redress the imbalance caused by differential investments favouring priority-driven targeted research over the past decade. The recommended investment is $485 million, phased in over four years, directed to funding investigator-led research. This is an increase of about 30 per cent on the $1.66 billion envelope currently committed to direct project funding for both priority-driven and investigator-led research.
  • The Government of Canada should direct the new Four Agency Coordinating Board to amend the terms of the NCE program so as to include the fostering of collaborative multi-centre strength in basic research in all disciplines. This would mean, inter alia, removing requirements for knowledge “exchange and exploitation” and expectations of funding self-sufficiency for some competitions;
  • International collaborations have become the norm in research. A stronger mechanism is needed for funding smaller- and mid-scale collaborative projects so that Canadian agencies and researchers can be more effective partners and participants in global science and inquiry;
  • Multidisciplinary research continues to grow in prevalence and importance. More must be done—not only to welcome and fairly review multidisciplinary proposals, but also to ensure that individuals working in convergent fields (e.g., health law, medical anthropology, design) are not orphaned.
  • The Government of Canada should shift CFI to a stable annual budget scaled at minimum to its recent annual capital commitment (currently around $300 million per year).


Expert Panel Report: Review of Federal Support for Fundamental Science

Toronto, April 19, 2017
Join us for a special presentation on the final report of the expert panel on Canada’s Fundamental Science Review. The presentation will be followed by a Q&A session. About the report: Commissioned by the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, the report by the blue-ribbon panel offers a comprehensive review of the mechanisms for federal funding that supports research undertaken at academic institutions and research institutes across Canada, as well as the levels of that funding. It provides a multi-year blueprint for improving the oversight and governance of what the panelists call the “research ecosystem.” The report also recommends making major new investments to restore support for front-line research and strengthen the foundations of Canadian science and research at this pivotal point in global history.

4th Annual Creating Digital Opportunity Partnership Network Conference

Montreal, 1-3 May, 2017
With the need to better understand how Canadian information technology firms, digital media content producers and technology users can most effectively participate in the rapidly expanding global digital economy, the research partnership’s goal is to provide a clearer understanding of how Canada can benefit from changes, based on solid research, to help business, governments and communities develop effective strategies for Canada’s digital future.

CFP: ZEW/MaCCI Conference on the Economics of Innovation and Patenting

Mannheim, Germany, 15-16 May, 2017
The Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) and the Mannheim Centre for Competition and Innovation (MaCCI) are pleased to announce their 7th conference on the economics of innovation and patenting. The goal of the conference is to present new research and to stimulate discussion between international researchers conducting related empirical and theoretical analysis. As a novelty, we will organize a special plenary paper speed dating session. Theoretical, empirical, and policy-oriented contributions from all areas of the economics of innovation and patenting are welcome.

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.

Creating and Communicating Knowledge, Practices, and Values: Exploring the Dynamics of Local Anchors and Trans-Local Communities

London, UK, 29 August – 1 September, 2017
Economic geographers have long been interested in the links between local-global economic dynamics (e.g. Bathelt et al., 2004). Within this sphere of interest, focus has been given to so-called ‘local anchors’ as the nodes through which regional, national, or global relations and dynamics function and occur. Specific physical places may, for instance, serve as local anchors for social movements (e.g. the maker movement) (Toombs and Bardzell, 2014), trans-local scenes (e.g. in music) (Hauge and Hracs, 2010; Lange, 2007), global knowledge communities (e.g. communities of enthusiasts) (Brinks and Ibert, 2015; Müller and Ibert, 2015) or global processes of value creation (Berthoin Antal et al., 2015; Pike, 2009; Power and Hauge, 2006). We  observe a wide spectrum of local anchors that help to disseminate ideas and knowledge, enable and encourage participation in specific practices (e.g. tinkering, designing, building), serve as (temporary) productions sites (e.g. local workshops for music) and facilitate curation and consumption (e.g. pop-up stores, record stores). Despite this conceptual variety, these anchors are physical spaces through which economic and social activities occur and that actors utilize for creating objects, artifacts and products and to generate and disseminate ideas, brands and values. These local spaces have also drawn the attention of policymakers striving to capitalize upon local-global dynamics. However, very often these spaces are regarded overly optimistically and lack a critical reflection as to how they actually contribute to social, cultural and / or economic value creation. This session aims to nuance our understanding of the interplay between ‘the global’ and ‘the local’ as well as ‘physical’ and ‘virtual’ spaces. We aim to explore the role of local anchors within local neighborhoods and scenes as well as trans-local scenes, communities and virtual networks. More specifically, the session aims to consider the diversity and specificity of local anchors which may comprise craft collectives, performance venues, records stores (Hracs and Jansson, 2016), coworking / maker/ hacker spaces / open creative labs (Merkel, 2015; Schmidt et al., 2014; Schmidt et al., 2016), universities (Cooke, 2011) and knowledge production sites (Power and Malmberg, 2008).

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.

12th Regional Innovation Policies Conference RIP2017

Santiago de Compostela, Spain, 26-27 October, 2017
The 12th Regional Innovation Policies Conference (RIP2017) will be held at the University of Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia (Spain). The conference will be organized by the ICEDE Research Group and it will take place on the 26th and 27th of October 2017 at the Faculty of Economics and Business, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of economics studies in Galicia. The conference is a venue for researchers, practitioners and policy-makers with an interest in regional innovation, regional development and innovation policy. Participants are encouraged to submit papers on topics in relation to the conference themes listed in the full call for papers.

Subscriptions & Comments

Please forward this newsletter to anyone you think will find it of value. We look forward to collaborating with you on this initiative. If you would like to comment on, or contribute to, the content, subscribe or unsubscribe, please contact us at

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