The IPL newsletter: Volume 18, Issue 376

News from the IPL


Canadian Government Announces Winners of the $950 Million Supercluster Initiative

SSTI Weekly Digest
Canada’s federal government has announced that five industry-led organizations will share up to C$950 million as part of the country’s supercluster initiative. The superclusters program, a part of the Trudeau government’s innovation and skills agenda announced last year, seeks to encourage leaders from business, research institutions, and the public sector to support the growth of targeted industry sectors. Other elements of the strategy include investments in venture capital, entrepreneurship, and collaborative R&D projects.  Although there were originally nine semi-finalists for the superclusters awards, many of the losing bids ended up joining forces with the five winning initiatives:

  • An “AI-powered supply chain” supercluster led by Quebec City’s Optel Group and other research organizations and companies;
  • An “advanced manufacturing” supercluster, led by key stakeholders from the Toronto-Hamilton-Waterloo corridor and led by innovation hub organizations Communitech of Waterloo and MaRS Discovery District in Toronto;
  • A “Digital Technology Supercluster” in British Columbia led by large technology companies, with a focus on projects related to health, natural resources and industrial applications;
  • An “ocean supercluster” in Atlantic Canada, led by companies in the energy, seafood, and shipbuilding industries, as well as Atlantic Canada’s main research universities; and,
  • A “protein innovations” supercluster from Saskatchewan, led by leading agriculture companies, and with a focus on plant proteins and related food ingredients.

Big Money for Innovation in Canada’s 2018 Federal Budget

“Innovation” is the buzzword of this Liberal government. The 2018 budget is no different, setting out a smorgasbord of strategies to help Canadians come up with new ideas, commercialize them, and sell them at home and abroad. Researchers are in line for one of the biggest gifts under the budget tree, with $1.82 billion in new money flowing through various measures across the three federal granting organizations that fund those developing new ideas at universities and hospitals. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) will receive a larger portion than usual of that money compared to the councils that pay for applied science and health. Along with money for researchers, the budget allocates significant new money for infrastructure and systems. The largest single new line item is $2.8 billion for new federal research centres. The plan is to bring together government scientists from across departments and fields to look into climate change, ocean protection and health, among other topics. Commercialization both inside and outside universities and colleges receives some focus in the budget. An existing program that provides funding for private-sector research is being expanded and funded to the tune of $700 million, and an existing pool of money for collaborations between academia and business being retargeted at larger projects.

Editor's Pick

A National Data Strategy for Canada: Key Elements and Policy Considerations

Rohinton P. Medhora et al., CIGI
This paper outlines the key elements of a data strategy for Canada. The paper starts by making the case for a data strategy and describing its possible ambit. It considers the sectors in Canada where a national data strategy is most needed and examines the domestic and international policy considerations. While this paper cannot flesh out such a strategy in detail, it is hoped that it will start a much-needed conversation among political leaders, policy developers, business people and civil society about how Canadians can prosper from the data revolution in a way that respects our fundamental values. In the coming weeks, CIGI will publish a series of essays that will consider many of the issues raised in this overview paper.

Innovation Policy

Financing SMEs and Entrepreneurs 2018: An OECD Scoreboard

This report contributes to filling the knowledge gap in SME finance trends and conditions. This annual publication provides information on debt, equity, asset-based finance, and conditions for SME and entrepreneurship finance, complemented by an overview of recent policy measures to support access to finance. By providing a solid evidence base, the report supports governments in their actions to foster SME access to finance and encourages a culture of policy evaluation. The 2018 report covers 43 countries world-wide. In addition to the core indicators on SME financing, it provides additional information on recent developments in capital market finance for SMEs, crowdfunding and related activities, and findings of demand-side surveys. It contains a thematic chapter on the evaluation of publicly supported credit guarantee schemes.

Publicly Funded National Labs Important to U.S. Innovation

Philip Rosetti, American Action Forum
As the U.S. government is projected to run $1 trillion annual deficits, deficit hawks in the administration are seeking to cut the federal government’s funding for innovation research. Specifically, in the crosshairs are Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Laboratories (National Labs, or Labs), which receive roughly $12 billion. Priorities reflected in the administration’s proposed budgets for research conducted by the Labs are on security and early stage science research, rather than energy research. Advocates of cuts contend that the applied research organizations like the Labs could be replaced by the private sector. These arguments for cutting the Lab’s innovation budget often ignore the role the Labs play in matters of national security (particularly with relation to nuclear weapons). Further, the energy innovation mission of the Labs is intended to leverage the national security expertise and technology the Labs possess to create technology that can be delivered to the private sector. To determine if the private sector could produce equal or greater economic value, this study aims to measure the outputs of the National Labs by examining patents and patent licensing rates relative to global trends. Further, this paper addresses the argument that cutting funding to the Labs would lead to increased innovation research outside the Labs in the private sector and concludes that better opportunities to maximize value lie in reforming the bureaucratic and political approach to overseeing innovation research.

How to Reform Worker-Training and Adjustment Policies for an Era of Technological Change

Robert D. Atkinson, ITIF
There has been growing speculation that a coming wave of innovation—indeed, a tsunami—powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, will disrupt labor markets, generate mass unemployment, and shift the few jobs that remain into the insecure “gig economy.” The truth is these technologies will provide a desperately needed boost to productivity and wages, but that does not mean no one will be hurt. There are always winners and losers in major economic transitions. But rather than slow down change to protect a modest number of workers at the expense of the vast majority, policymakers should focus on doing significantly more to help those who are dislocated transition easily into new jobs and new occupations. Improving policies to help workers navigate what is likely to be a more turbulent labor market is not something that should be done just out of fairness, although it is certainly fair to help workers who are either hurt by change or at risk of being hurt. But absent better labor market transition policies, there is a real risk that public and elite sentiment will turn staunchly against technological change, seeing it as fundamentally destructive and unfair. If this happens, it will undermine support for policies that are necessary to speed automation, and it could even build support for policies that “throw a wrench” into the innovation machine. Better transition policies will have the opposite effect—they will boost GDP and help employers facing worker shortages.

Everywhere, Everyday, Innovating: Women Entrepreneurs and Innovation

Clare Beckton, Janice McDonald, and Maude Marquis-Bissonnette, The Beacon Agency and Carleton University
Women entrepreneurs are innovating everywhere, every day across Canada. Current policies and discourse that equate innovation solely with advances in technology exclude much of women entrepreneurs’ innovations. The result is a lack of recognition of the significant contribution that women entrepreneurs make to Canada’s innovation and a lack of access to funding to increase their innovation capacity and implementation. This needs to change as women-led businesses today represent 50% of all new businesses. Among all small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), 47% are entirely or partly owned by women. Businesses owned by women entrepreneurs make significant contributions to the Canadian economy. This study sets out to better understand how and where women entrepreneurs are innovating in Canada.

Clusters & Regions

CitiesX: The Past, Present, and Future of Urban Life

Edward Glaeser, edX/Harvard University
For the first time in human history, more than fifty percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas. Cities allow for the exchange of ideas, and generate remarkable innovations in business, art, and ideas. Cities are also home to millions living in poverty. Urban living can provide a pathway to a better life, but that’s not always the case for many people around the world. CitiesX – a free online course on the edX platform – will give you a far-ranging look at the past, present and future of cities, with the aim of teaching you how to better understand, appreciate and improve urban areas. The course will explore key concepts of urban development by examining cities around the world, including London, Rio de Janeiro, New York City, Shanghai, Mumbai, Kigali, and many more.

Statistics & Indicators

2018 Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index

Richard Threlfall, KPMG
Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are poised to revolutionize not only transportation but the way people live and work throughout the world. But are countries ready for an AV-driven future? The 2018 Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index (AVRI) provides an in-depth view of what it takes for countries to meet the challenges of self-driving vehicles, evaluating the preparedness of a cross-section of 20 countries globally. The AVRI is the first study of its kind, examining where countries are today in terms of progress and capacity for adapting AV technology. The Index evaluates each country according to four pillars that are integral to a country’s capacity to adopt and integrate autonomous vehicles. These include: policy & legislation; technology & innovation, infrastructure and consumer acceptance. The pillars are comprised of a number of variables that reflect the wide range of factors that impact a country’s AV readiness, from the availability of electric vehicle charging stations, to AV technology R&D, to the population’s acceptance of the technology, to the regulatory environment.

Policy Digest

Assessing Your Innovation District: A How-To Guide

Jason Hachadorian and Jennifer S. Vey, Brookings
Over the past two decades, a confluence of changing market demands and demographic preferences have led to a revaluation of urban places—and a corresponding shift in the geography of innovation. This trend has resulted in a clustering of firms, intermediaries, and workers—often near universities, medical centers, or other anchors—in dense innovation districts. Local economic development leaders are now exploring ways to support this evolution as a means of fostering job creation, economic opportunity, and revitalization in their communities. This report provides guidance for how public, private, and institutional leaders stakeholders can undertake the first key step in that process: assessing their innovation ecosystem. Such an “audit” provides critical intelligence on an area’s strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities, which can inform a unified vision, a clear set of goals, and customized strategies for reaching them.

The guide is centered around five big questions local “auditors” need to explore:

  1. Where are your region’s highest concentrations of innovation assets? Companies today need to be able to interact with researchers, inventors, and entrepreneurs, as well as with other firms, to define new products and identify new markets. Density and proximity are paramount in facilitating this type of interaction. Local leaders therefore need to look across their urban landscape to determine what area or areas have a critical mass of well-connected innovation assets from which a district can grow and develop.
  2. Is the district leveraging and aligning its distinctive advantages to grow and strengthen firms’ innovation capacity? Successful innovation districts have the collective ability to translate ideas into new products and services that improve the quality of life in their city and region, and, potentially, have a positive impact on people and places across the globe. This can take many forms and originate from several types of institutions—from research hospitals to engineering schools to technology startups, among others. To assess a district’s innovation capacity, local leaders need to understand their innovation ecosystem’s inputs (e.g. research strengths), outputs (e.g. start up activity), and levels of connectivity among actors and assets.
  3. Does the district have an inclusive, diverse, and opportunity-rich environment? A healthy innovation district comprises a diversity of people and provides economic opportunity for workers with a range of skills and education levels. And many emerging districts are within or adjacent to areas of economic distress, offering the opportunity to meaningfully engage nearby residents in district growth. But this won’t happen by accident: Leaders must assess existing measures of diversity and inclusion and develop intentional strategies to ensure that all residents have a chance to benefit from, and are an integral part of, district development.
  4. Does the district have physical and social assets that attract a diversity of firms and people, increase interactions, and accelerate innovation outcomes? Dense, walkable, and highly connected areas help nurture the increasingly collaborative and open culture of innovation. These places include the kinds of spaces, in both the public and private realms, that bring a diversity of firms, institutions, and workers together in both formal and informal ways; that grow and strengthen social networks; and that offer the kind of vibrant environments where people want to spend time. In short, stakeholders should recognize (and thus evaluate) quality of place—connectivity, proximity, and the presence of dynamic, inclusive spaces—as central to a district’s economic proposition.
  5. Does the district have the leadership necessary to succeed? Regardless of their economic, physical, or human capital strengths, burgeoning innovation districts will not reach their full potential without capable leadership. District leaders can play a variety of roles in fostering a new culture of collaboration and collective impact, whether by serving as champions of a district vision, conveners that mobilize stakeholders to engage, or catalysts of action. While leadership structures will vary, districts can’t succeed unless leaders of key organizations—anchor research institutions, nonprofits, intermediaries, and/or private firms—make a shared, sustained commitment to drive change.

While the starting points for different districts will vary, knowing the right questions—and tailoring them to the local context and capacities—will help district leaders conduct an analysis most appropriate for their individual needs. Indeed, no two places will use this guide the same way, and we expect that the process itself will evolve over time to consider new measures, and be undertaken in novel and innovative ways by new groups of stakeholders working within districts and across them. As they do, communities will hopefully learn from each other in a virtuous feedback loop that gets sharper and more effective at every turn.


Legacies of the Megacity: Toronto’s Amalgamation 20 Years Later

Toronto, 27 March, 2018
In 1998, Metropolitan Toronto and its six lower tier municipalities were amalgamated to form the City of Toronto. The decision to amalgamate was controversial then, and continues to be contentious to some today. Two decades later, what can we say about the megacity merger? Did it achieve its goals? Are Torontonians better served by one large government than the previous two-tier model? Looking forward, what lies ahead for regional governance in the GTHA? On March 27, join Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance for a panel bringing together two prominent voices involved in Toronto’s amalgamation and subsequent reorganization, and two next generation academics to discuss the opportunities for the Greater Toronto region in the decades to come.

The 12th Workshop on the Organization, Economics, and Policy of Scientific Research

Bath, UK, 27-28 April, 2018
As in previous years 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. We aim to attract contributions from both junior and senior scholars; a minimum number of slots are reserved for junior researchers (PhD students or postdoc scholars who obtained their PhD in 2015 or later).

5G and Broadband Connectivity for All

Durban, South Africa, 31 May – 1 June, 2018
WWRF and CSIR are partnering to organize the wireless world research forum meeting WWRF40 in Durban, South Africa. The theme for the research Forum meeting is: 5G and Broadband Connectivity for All. The Organizers therefore invite academics, researchers and industrial representatives to share information and present results on Future Wireless Communication Systems, Networks and Services and to discuss critical business and regulatory aspects, advanced technology findings that will impact the deployment of 5G and enabling broadband connectivity for All. Technical papers describing recent research results and disruptive innovations in technologies, regulatory positions and business models are solicited. Contributions focusing on the WWRF 40th meeting theme 5G and Broadband Connectivity for All, particularly within the areas of WWRF’s existing Vertical Industry Platforms (VIPs) and Working Groups (WG) are welcome.

Triple Helix XVI Manchester

Manchester, UK, 5-8 September, 2018
Across the world, states and city regions are facing huge societal, economic, environmental, and political challenges whose solutions require concerted new efforts and innovative partnerships. The 2018 International Triple Helix Conference brings together academia, government, business, and community to share effective practices and to advance the frontiers of knowledge about collaboration for economic progress, social development and sustainability, and the role of cities and regions as enabling spaces for these interactions.

A World of Flows – Labour Mobility, Capital, and Knowledge in an Age of Global Reversal and Revival

Lugano, Switzerland, 3-6 June, 2018
The 2018 RSA Annual Conference aims to address processes of global reversal and regional revival, in a world dominated by flows of capital, labor, and knowledge. Further it seeks to understand the political, economic and social factors that initiate change and how these changes are finding new expressions as the world’s political and economic system continues to struggle with low rates of global economic growth, the rise of China as an economic super power, the on-going impacts of recession and austerity, and increasing levels of inequality. To study and debate these and many other questions, we warmly invite the regional studies/science and connected communities to join us.

TCI 2018 – Unexpected Connections: Collaborating to Compete – Clusters in Action

Toronto, 16-18 October, 2018
Cluster success is often the result of collaboration, more than just the agglomeration of anchor firms, R&D labs, incubators and accelerators, and disrupting organizations. Regions with clusters that actively collaborate within and between one another are more competitive. As firms continue to face new challenges from technological, economic, and political shifts, clusters remain a driving catalyst that can create sustainable levels of innovation and economic growth. Firms, at the heart of active clusters, with the support of those within the cluster ecosystem, can weather the changing dynamics of the global marketplace. TCI 2018 explores the collaboration that is happening within clusters and the opportunities to work together towards shared prosperity.

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