The IPL newsletter: Volume 18, Issue 360

News from the IPL


Sidewalk Labs May Build a High-Tech City District from Scratch in Toronto

Kelsey E. Thomas, Next City
Downtown Toronto could be getting a “smart city” development from Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet, Bloomberg Technology reports. Sidewalk Labs responded to the city’s request for proposals to develop a 12-acre strip, and may seize the opportunity to fulfill its ambition of creating a smart city hub from scratch. Details of the proposal are private — and Bloomberg’s article has few specifics — but two people familiar with the plans told the news outlet that the bid fits with the company’s ambitions. The district would be part of Quayside, a 2,000-acre waterfront community that is intended to “serve as a test bed for emerging technologies, materials, approaches and processes that will address these challenges and create a new global benchmark for sustainable, inclusive and accessible urban development,” according to an RFP for the project. Waterfront Toronto, a public corporation, is overseeing the project and requested proposals in March for an “innovation and funding partner” for the community.

Uber Opening Toronto Research Hub for Driverless Car Technology

Kate Allen, The Toronto Star
Uber is launching a research group devoted to driverless car technology in Toronto, creating a third hub — its first outside the U.S. — for the company’s ambitions in a frenzied field that Uber and its competitors believe will upend transportation, generating billions of dollars in the process. The Advanced Technologies Group will be led by Raquel Urtasun, a University of Toronto computer science professor who holds a Canada Research Chair in machine learning and computer vision. Urtasun uses artificial intelligence, particularly deep learning, to make vehicles and other machines perceive the world around them more accurately and efficiently.

Editor's Pick

Papers from the Annual Creating Digital Opportunity Conference – May 2017

Innovation Policy Lab
Evolving digital technologies are critical to Canada’s future economic growth and prosperity. Global leadership driving this rapid pace of innovation is also in constant flux—posing a challenge for Canada, but also an opportunity. To benefit, we must take appropriate action, as our prospects for competitiveness and economic growth are inextricably linked to our ability to seize the ‘digital opportunity’ being created. The Creating Digital Opportunity project, now in its third year, identifies strengths in current and emerging digital sectors, by examining the place of Canadian corporations, products and services in global production networks. It also examines how individual regions and locales can invest in the appropriate skills and infrastructure and design appropriate policies to attract outside firms and assists local ones to participate in these networks as well as build upon existing expertise and success across sectors. It also investigates the extent to which digital technologies are being adopted and diffused across a wide range of other sectors—from advanced manufacturing to natural resources and business services—all of which are crucial for the future competitiveness of the Canadian economy and ask if we are taking full advantage of the opportunities on offer. This series of papers was presented at the Annual Meeting of the project participants in Montreal this May.

Innovation Policy

Analysis: U.S. Budget Deal Supports Innovation and Research

SSTI Weekly Digest
Congress has passed a budget for FY 2017 that largely continues support for federal innovation programs and R&D investments. Among the highlights are $17 million for Regional Innovation Strategies (a $2 million increase over FY 2016), level funding of $130 million for the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership and $5 million for SBA’s clusters program. In reviewing dozens of line items, offices that had received significant cuts in the White House’s skinny budget appear to receive some of the largest funding increases (such as the Appalachian Regional Commission, Community Development Block Grant and ARPA-E). However, with the exception of multi-billion dollar increases for Department of Defense R&D, many increases are rather small in terms of overall dollars. This is, at least in part, a reflection of non-defense spending caps rising by only $40 million for FY 2017, limiting the availability of new funds. In this context, science and innovation gains are particularly impressive, with a five percent overall increase for federal R&D that particularly benefits NASA and NIH. This post includes tables that provide a more detailed breakdown of innovation- and research-related funding.

False Alarmism: Technological Disruption and the U.S. Labor Market, 1850-2015

Robert D. Atkinson and Jason Wu, ITIF
It has recently become an article of faith that workers in advanced industrial nations are experiencing almost unprecedented levels of labor-market disruption and insecurity. From taxi drivers being displaced by Uber, to lawyers losing their jobs to artificial intelligence-enabled legal-document review, to robotic automation putting blue-collar manufacturing workers on unemployment, popular opinion is that technology is driving a relentless pace of Schumpeterian “creative destruction,” and we are consequently witnessing an unprecedented level of labor market “churn.” One Silicon Valley gadfly now even predicts that technology will eliminate 80 to 90 percent of U.S. jobs in the next 10 to 15 years. As the ITIF has documented, such grim assessments are the products of faulty logic and erroneous empirical analysis, making them simply irrelevant to the current policy debate. When we actually examine the last 165 years of American history, statistics show that the U.S. labor market is not experiencing particularly high levels of job churn (defined as new occupations being created while older occupations are destroyed). In fact, it’s the exact opposite: Levels of occupational churn in the United States—defined as the rates at which some occupations expand while others contract—are now at historic lows. The levels of churn in the last 20 years—a period of the dot-com crash, the financial crisis of 2007 to 2008, the subsequent Great Recession, and the emergence of new technologies that are purported to be more powerfully disruptive than anything in the past—have been just 38 percent of the levels from 1950 to 2000, and 42 percent of the levels from 1850 to 2000.

Clusters & Regions

Six Things that Cities Need to Know About the Future of Autonomous Vehicles

Anthony Townsend, Bloomberg Philanthropies
The AV transition poses many urgent questions for cities. When will autonomous vehicles arrive in significant numbers? What types will take off first? Where will the hotspots of AV use be? Who are the key players in this new industry and what do they want from cities? How can cities assess the risks and opportunities and act strategically to maximize the potential benefits and minimize negative impacts? With the future of two of the world’s largest industries hanging in the balance – cars and computers – there’s no shortage of speculation on where AVs may take us. But where can cities turn for insights? To give cities a head start in understanding what the AV transition could mean for them, we have combed through a growing body of research and opinion. To help cities proactively and strategically prepare for the accelerating shift to autonomous vehicles, this report distills the six key insights for mayors and other city leaders.

SuperClusters! Lessons and Opportunities for Canada

Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity
In its 2017 budget, the federal government committed to investing $950 million in a small number of big bets, with the goal of creating “superclusters” – which we understand to be clusters that will boost the global competitiveness of Canadian industries, producing a large number of high-growth companies and successful exits. To win globally, collaboration will be needed between Canada’s large businesses, startups, and post-secondary and research institutions to share the costs of research and development (R&D), move research to market, attract capital, and deepen the pool of research and business talent. As the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy articulates, it will also require strong connections between centres of excellence across the country. This degree of collaboration will not emerge without a deliberate strategy. This is the challenge that the government’s supercluster investment aims to tackle. As the name implies, superclusters are an ambitious goal. Realizing this goal will require close attention to the appropriate roles for government, private and academic actors, a long-term commitment to performance management and evaluation, and coordination between governments and ministries to share data and streamline services. This report outlines some of the lessons and opportunities that policymakers should keep in mind as they implement this agenda.

Statistics & Indicators

Cluster Linkages in Canada

Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity
This analysis examines how different industries are connected in Canada for each of the 51 traded clusters. It is meant to help policy makers, firms, industry organizations, and research institutions understand how different industries are connected in Canada. The analysis introduces the project, its methodology, and compiles the linkages for all 51 traded clusters. Linkages for each of the 51 traded clusters are also available under the Data By Cluster view in the Canadian Cluster Data Portal.

Anchor Institutions in the NY Region

Alex Moscovitz, RPA Lab
In the New York region, we have a rich array of anchor institutions, from very old universities and hospitals like Yale and Mount Sinai to community colleges and smaller health systems.  These institutions are important, well-established presences in their communities. Traditionally we rely on government and developers to drive the investment and infrastructure of places, but these institutions can play a greater role, serving as potential partners for community development. This map highlights the region’s colleges, universities and hospitals and the race and poverty landscape of their surrounding neighborhoods.

Policy Digest

Regulating Disruption: Governing in an Era of Rapid Technological Change

Sunil Johal and Michael Crawford Urban, Mowat Centre
This report examines the relationship between regulation and innovation in rapidly-changing technological industries. Drawing on extensive interviews with representatives from industry, academia and government, the report analyzes a number of new challenges confronting Canadian policymakers and regulators as they seek to adapt regulatory frameworks for the digital age. Building on this analysis and informed by examples from other jurisdictions, the authors suggest a suite of reforms to Canada’s regulatory frameworks and development processes aimed at enabling them to become more encouraging of innovation.

Governments across the world are scrambling to respond to the arrival of innovative new digital services such as Uber, Netflix and Airbnb. While these services promise great benefits for Canadians, they also pose novel regulatory challenges to how governments are structured, engage with stakeholders and hire and train their staff.

Driving Questions

  • How should governments regulate global services headquartered in other jurisdictions but available digitally within Canada?
  • How can governments engage and encourage innovators and balance their needs with other stakeholders when government agencies struggle to hire and retain personnel who understand the technical issues involved?
  • How can regulators successfully reconcile the deliberate pace of regulatory processes with the accelerating speed of innovation?

Towards Solutions

Identifying solutions to these questions will be a vital step towards securing Canada’s prosperity in the digital age. Other countries have already launched serious efforts aimed at reducing the burden of regulation as well as other measures designed to make their regulatory systems more innovation-friendly. Without renewed attention to this issue, Canada risks being left behind.

This report argues that Canadian governments can and should undertake a serious and sustained effort to bring their regulatory practices and culture out of the industrial age and into the digital age. Canadian governments have the opportunity to significantly boost innovation in several exciting ways, ranging from a greater embrace of design thinking in their regulatory design processes, to the initiation of programs for enhancing technological capacity within government, to the development of new tools to ensure vigorous competition in digital markets. By leveraging these opportunities, governments can make a significant and positive contribution to Canada’s future and ensure Canadians are well-positioned to promote and reap the benefits of innovation.


Develop Relevant Skills Within Government
Regulators’ knowledge of the fields they are regulating must remain current in order for them to be effective. Traditionally, this has meant regular training updates and desk-study on relevant topics. In a digital world, where today’s knowledge base might be out of date within six months, the imperative for real-time, rapid training that is frequently renewed is more important than ever.

To the extent possible, regulators should also explore secondment opportunities for their staff to private sector firms, not-for-profit institutions and government research and development agencies to facilitate knowledge transfer and understanding of looming challenges and emerging trends. Such opportunities can also help build the improved relationships with private sector actors that regulators increasingly need. Similar programs have long been in place in reverse in the legal community, wherein private sector lawyers are seconded to securities regulators.

While committing to hiring more workers who are technologically adept and to upgrading the skills of existing employees are both important steps for governments and regulators to take, as was discussed earlier, doing so successfully may require governments to also focus on expanding the pool of technologically-skilled workers available across the economy. Steps taken in this direction would help to ensure that technologically-skilled workers are available for government to hire, and would also have the additional benefit of ensuring a deep talent pool exists to support the emergence and growth of innovative private firms.

Update Government Structures
Given the often insular nature of government policy and regulatory development processes (i.e. typically behind closed doors at the cabinet table), we propose a more radical structural change to ensure that innovation is a key consideration at those discussions. As part of the Innovation Canada platform announced in its 2017 budget, the federal government should create an Innovation Advocate mandated to challenge regulators, publicly report on opportunities for innovation in regulatory and policy design, identify regulatory capture and unreasonably protected markets and other similar issues. The Innovation Advocate should be a deputy minister-level appointment with a direct reporting relationship to the Clerk of the Privy Council (an Officer of Parliament could provide even more independence). Provincial governments should also consider a similar role within their organizations.

Governments should also continue and expand existing efforts to enhance pathways for information sharing between regulators at the federal, provincial and municipal levels. A focus on formal policy development and coordination fora that tackle cross-jurisdictional issues with political leadership, as well as time-limited problem-focused “tiger teams” of regulators who are brought together to tackle specific thorny issues on short- to medium-term assignments, would mitigate some of the risks of developing inconsistent and varied approaches in silos. More information sharing and secondments with international peers could also be a strong benefit to Canadian regulators looking to both learn from, and share knowledge with, other best-practice jurisdictions.

Uniform commercial codes, such as the Personal Property Security Act, have significantly enhanced the ability of provinces in Canada to adopt shared approaches on commercial law transactions. A similar approach should be adopted for digital economy challenges posed by companies such as Airbnb and Uber which have, to date, prompted discrete, time-consuming and possibly redundant responses from many different provinces and municipalities. Given that municipalities have been the order of government under the most pressure from these new services – while simultaneously possessing the least policy capacity – such a collaborative approach offers a significant opportunity for improvement on the status quo.

Priority should be given to policy development and coordination processes involving all three levels of government. These processes should explore best-practice solutions and draft model legislation or by-laws that can be adopted by many jurisdictions, with minimal amendments to reflect local realities.

Adopt Flexible and Innovative Strategies
In business “what gets measured is what gets done.” A key starting point for governments across Canada is to gain a baseline understanding of where regulatory frameworks currently stand. What burdens do they impose? Which regulations and laws should be updated to reflect the new digital economy and society in which we live? Can we create more inter-operable databases and systems within and between governments to share information and enhance regulatory outcomes?

An ongoing performance tracking report submitted regularly to cabinet, or the head of government, should also be prioritized to ensure focus on regulatory improvements does not waver. Once such a system is set up, politicians should take the plunge and commit to reducing regulatory burdens by a specified amount over a specified period of time. Other measures related to the quality of consultations, development of regulations and ongoing inspection and oversight should also be considered.

Often, different regulators require the same information from businesses. By working collaboratively and coordinating their actions, regulators should be able to make their interactions with citizens and businesses less burdensome. Similarly, technology is now enabling new ways of ensuring minimum quality in some industries that could drastically reduce the regulatory burden on some businesses if new quality control and safety assurance systems were devised.

The advent of new technologies has opened up a host of new options for governments and regulators in how they can conduct consultations and engage the public. By broadening and improving the way they do consultations, government and regulators can improve the quality of the regulations they do create, the efficiency of their enforcement of the rules, and the climate for innovation. The successful deployment of these new techniques, however, requires expertise and training of its own.

Governments and regulators need to recognize the importance of the migration to digital and take the actions necessary to facilitate this shift and ensure that government itself is sufficiently established online that it is able to engage adequately with the public in this environment. By taking the steps needed to ensure a vibrant and competitive digital ecosystem and by ensuring that citizens and businesses are able to comprehensively engage and interact with government and regulators in this space, government can increase the efficiency of its regulation and enable innovative new benefits for the public.


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.

GeoInno2018: 4th Geography of Innovation Conference

Barcelona, Spain, January 31st, 2017 – February 2, 2018
The aim of this event is to bring together some of the world’s leading thinkers from a variety of disciplines ranging from economic geography, innovation economics, and regional science, as well as economics and management science, sociology and network theory, and political and planning sciences.

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