The IPL newsletter: Volume 19, Issue 386


James Bessen – Goliath’s Advantage: Why Big Firms are Getting Bigger and What That Means for Wages, Productivity, and Inequality

Munk School for Global Affairs and Public Policy Distinguished Lecture Series
Throughout the global economy, big companies are getting bigger. They’re more productive, more profitable, and they pay better. The people lucky enough to work at these companies are doing relatively well. Those who work for the competition aren’t. Policymakers have taken notice. Competition policy is seeing renewed interest and “monopoly” is suddenly on the tip of every columnist’s tongue. However, new research shows that big firms have gotten bigger not so much because of permissive antitrust enforcement, but because these firms have developed highly effective proprietary digital technologies. Indeed, firms–predominately large firms–are investing nearly as much in proprietary software as they invest in new physical capital. This trend has let large firms increasingly dominate their industries, slowed productivity growth, and contributed to unequal and stagnant wages.

California City to Issue Bonds Based on Blockchain

Government Technology
Later this year, Berkeley, CA plans on becoming the first municipality in the country to issue municipal bonds using the blockchain technology that underpins cryptocurrency. The project is the brainchild of Mayor Jesse Arreguín and Vice Mayor Ben Bartlett and is being billed as a way to make investing in municipal bonds more accessible than ever. That’s because, unlike the minimum $5,000 bond denomination common today, “cryptobonds” can be issued in denominations as low as $5 or $10. The bonds also have the potential to open up a whole new way for the city to raise money for housing. This is an acute issue since the Trump administration has slashed the budget for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, cut funding for Section 8 housing credits and targeted sanctuary cities such as Berkeley for federal funding cuts.

SBA Announces Funding for Regional Innovation Clusters

SSTI Weekly Digest
The U.S. Small Business Administration recently announced its intention to award up to seven contracts for entities to lead regional innovation cluster initiatives. While two of the awards are partially set-aside for qualified small business, the remaining five are being competed full and open, meaning any entity is eligible. Each contract will be for a base year and four option years, with a base-year price not-to-exceed $500,000.

Editor's Pick

The Roles, Impact that Accelerators Can Have on Regional Innovation Systems

Robert Ksiazkiewicz, SSTI Weekly Digest
Recently, SSTI looked at an academic research study on the impact that accelerator feedback has on firms. In this synthesis, the author examines two recent academic studies that looked at the impact accelerators have on regional innovation systems. In the first study from researchers at USC and Rice University, Fehder and Yael Hochberg found that the introduction of an accelerator into a metro area helped to stimulate startup capital. In another recent study, two City University of New York researchers and one from Michigan State University contend that there are three distinct types of accelerators that serve different roles in an innovation system. They include deal-flow makers, welfare stimulators, and ecosystem builders.

Innovation Policy

Accelerating Growth: Canadian Funding Policy for Innovation Intermediaries

Mark Robbins and Jeffrey Crelinsten, University of Toronto
There has been a sustained increase in the amount of innovation intermediaries in Canada and the capacity for supports in this space. As part of an ambitious innovation agenda, the government of Canada has sought to support these actors with targeted funding programs, such as the Canadian Incubator and Accelerator Program (CAIP), and has offered complementary supports for incubators and accelerators throughout the innovation “valley of death”. While more public sector support for innovation generally, and start-ups and scaleups more specifically, is both laudable and timely, the implementation of these supports has been subject to numerous hurdles, not all of which have been overcome. Quite simply, the design of the funding supports some market interventions unintentionally, while other valuable interventions intended to receive funding are passed over. The report makes several recommendations which all point towards a more targeted and intentional funding program that can help spur the retrenchment of the sector.

Cities, Clusters & Regions

The State of Play: Connected Mobility + U.S. Cities

This short primer, aimed at public officials and transport professionals, summarizes current trends, and identifies challenges and opportunities in the near- to mid-term. More than a guide to the latest buzzwords, this report looks at the kind of cities we want—safe, equitable, livable—and ask how technologies will help or hurt in achieving these goals.

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

Matthew Lesch, Institute for Municipal Finance and Governance
In 1998 the Province of Ontario consolidated Metropolitan Toronto and its six lower-tier municipalities into a single City of Toronto. It was a controversial decision. Supporters claimed amalgamation would produce a more cost-effective, transparent, and responsive local government, while opponents argued the elimination of the lower-tier municipalities would diminish the quality of democratic representation. This paper revisits the decision and looks at the lessons.

The Fast Lane – Demography, Regional Competitiveness, City Finances

David Lanham and Rachel Barker, Brookings
While the Amazon HQ2 race has expanded interest in what makes regions competitive and how cities should create jobs, true economic development nerds hold a special place in their hearts for Harvard Business School professor Michael E. Porter and his 1990s theory of clusters. Post-Porter, one of the hallowed truths of economic development has been that dense agglomerations of firms, suppliers, skilled workers, and the right infrastructure, intently focused on an industry or problem, produce a certain kind of magic. But what does this mean, in practice, for a generation of city leaders who have devoted their careers to developing clusters strategies?

Statistics & Indicators

OECD Economic Surveys: Canada

Well-being is high in Canada, and the economy has regained momentum, supported by a rebound in exports and strengthening business investment. Macroeconomic policies are gradually becoming less stimulatory, and budget policies are sustainable in the long term, although difficulties remain at the provincial level. House price appreciation has slowed and even reversed in some locations, partly in response to macro-prudential and tax measures, reducing wealth gains and the associated boost to private consumption, but prices and household debt remain high and affordability poor. The major risks to the economic outlook are greater trade restrictions, notably in the United States, and a housing market correction. Progress is being made in improving workforce inclusion, but challenges remain, notably in the areas of increasing female labour force participation, improving labour market information to reduce qualifications mismatches and supporting later retirement through more lifelong learning and flexibility in working hours. Canada has a well-run immigration system. Immigrants are generally well integrated, although their earnings are considerably lower than those of the comparable native-born. Selection of economic immigrants has been refined and integration programmes developed to close this gap, but these measures need to be taken further. Meeting Canada’s climate-change commitments will also be challenging.

Policy Digest

Reshaping Decentralised Development Cooperation: The Key Role of Cities and Regions for the 2030 Agenda

Over the last decades, and in line with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, cities and regions have played an important part in helping to implement global agendas at local level through their Decentralised Development Cooperation (DDC) activities. This report analyses the evolution of financial flows, emerging trends and innovative paradigms related to the development co-operation of local and regional governments, including but not limited to official development assistance extended by sub-national governments. It promotes a territorial approach to development co-operation and provides policy recommendations to maximise the effectiveness, benefits and outcomes of DDC at all levels, while acknowledging the diversity of approaches, definitions and concepts across OECD DAC countries active in DDC. This report analyses the striking and positive evolution of DDC over the period 2005-15 and suggests policy recommendations based on lessons learned.

Main findings

  • Cities and regions from OECD countries have increased their official development assistance (ODA) provided to their peers in partner countries.
  • Despite the global financial crisis, DDC volumes have increased by 12% from USD 1.7 billion in 2005 to USD 1.9 billion in 2015.
  • Germany, Canada, Spain and Austria are the countries where cities and regions provide the highest amounts of overseas development assistance.
  • Those countries receiving the most of such assistance are Malawi (3%) and Peru, Morocco, Senegal and Nepal (2%). If we include imputed student costs (aid to Chinese students studying abroad), China (11%) becomes the top recipient.
  • Development projects addressing climate change (USD 41 million in 2014-15) and gender (USD 163 million on average per year in the period 2014-15) are becoming priorities.
  • Cities and regions have different modalities for implementing DDC.
  • While some do not recognise it as a form of aid or consider that volumes are too small to track, others struggle to collect data from a growing number of actors.
  • There is no standard definition of DDC used across countries and only 7 out of 28 EU countries have an official definition.
  • Some cities and regions engage directly with their peers, while others resort to NGOs, universities or the private sector, or sometimes interact directly with national governments.
  • Overall, there has been a shift from the traditional donor-driven development cooperation based on rich/poor countries divides to more systematic reciprocity, partnership and mutual learning.
  • Going beyond its ODA component, DDC has evolved towards multi-stakeholder and partnership-driven approaches based on the co-operation of a network of territorial actors. It now focuses on peer-to-peer learning activities, knowledge sharing and exchange of experiences.

Some examples can illustrate the diversity of situations across countries:

  • In Flanders, Belgium, the government has three priorities – healthcare, agriculture and food security – and concentrates its efforts in two countries, namely Mozambique and Malawi.
  • In Tuscany, Italy, the design and implementation of DDC systematically relies on multi-stakeholder partnerships.
  • In France, cities and regions are allowed to spend up to 1% of their revenues to support better access to safe drinking water and sanitation in developing countries.
  • In the Basque Country, Spain, a key objective is to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.
  • A solid multi-level governance system is key to improve DDC effectiveness. Lack of coordinated actions and critical scale in the past resulted in fragmentation of DDC interventions and was a major obstacle to effectiveness and efficiency of development co-operation activities undertaken by subnational governments.
  • Less than half of donor countries (13 out of 30) currently report on their DDC in the Creditor Reporting System Database.


Use DDC to improve local and regional policies in partner and donor countries and ultimately contribute to SDGs.
Cities and regions are not just mere implementers of national policies or global commitments. Local policy makers can promote sustainable development and policy coherence at scale given their wide range of competencies. The 2030 Agenda provides an
ideal framework to mainstream sustainable development goals into local and regional policymaking, planning tools, investment strategies and decision-making.

Recognize the diversity of DDC concepts, characteristics, modalities and actors.
Promoting a more flexible and dynamic understanding of DDC terminology, practices and implications will allow for better implementation of DDC activities by small municipalities and cities as well as provincial and regional authorities. Local and regional government participation in international co-operation activities is largely influenced by the global agenda and the search for greater territorial attractiveness, strengthened linkages with migration policies, policy dialogue, knowledge sharing, practitioner experience, and greater return on influence.

Promote a territorial approach to DDC by fostering place-based and demand-driven initiatives for mutual benefits over time.
There is a need to go beyond the traditional rich/poor co-operation model, which creates asymmetric donor-recipient relations and results in limited reciprocity and learning. A territorial approach to DDC would increase the impact of DDC actions, improve the
coordination and reduce the fragmentation of projects. It would also mobilize the knowledge and expertise of a variety of territorial stakeholders to support their peers in partner countries in a more comprehensive way, increasing the return on non-tangible investments through exchanges of knowledge and good practice and peer-to-peer learning.

Encourage better co-ordination across levels of governments in promoter and partner countries for greater DDC effectiveness and impact.
National and sub-national governments, as well as global networks and national associations of local and regional governments, have an important role to play to facilitate the coordination and exchange of information, knowledge and experience across DDC players, but also to take stock of what, where, and how DDC works, does not work, and how it could be improved.

Set incentives to improve reporting on DDC financial flows, priorities, and practices and better communicate on outcomes and results.
A subset of this recommendation is to trigger ambitious efforts across national and local governments in reporting DDC financial flows (ODA extended by local and regional governments) through the DAC Creditor Reporting System. Improvements on this front will provide a more comprehensive picture of the shared responsibility taken on by promoters and partner countries in development co-operation.

Promote results-oriented monitoring and evaluation frameworks for informed decision-making and better transparency.
To date, the focus of DDC monitoring and evaluation has been mainly on project results. Going forward, these processes should include information on the impact of DDC activities on development goals and outcomes, as well as on sustainable development at
large and citizen well-being. They should also contribute to a learning process to inform decisions as well as define DDC priorities and activities.


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.

Call for Participation: International PhD Course on Economic Geography

Utrecht, The Netherlands, 11-14 September and 30 October-2 November, 2018
The course aims to provide an introduction to contemporary research perspectives and approaches in economic geography. The core questions of this discipline – related to the role of place and space in processes of economic development – have in recent years attracted interest not just from geographers but also from economists and other social scientists. This course will debate recent theoretical developments (with special attention to evolutionary and institutional economic geography), and will discuss recent advancements in methodology and empirical analysis in economic geography.

2018 European Week of Regions and Cities – Masterclass on EU Cohesion Policy for PhD Students and Early Career Researchers

Brussels, Belgium, 7-11 October, 2018
As part of the 16th European Week of Regions and Cities (EWRC), the biggest event worldwide on regional and urban development, the Master Class on EU Cohesion Policy will be held for PhD students and early-career researchers for the sixth time. Applications are being sought from PhD students and early career researchers (defined as being within five years of the date on their PhD certificate or equivalent) undertaking research related to European Cohesion Policy to attend the 2018 University Master Class. The Master Class is a unique format to connect aspiring researchers and will include presentations of papers by the participants as well as lectures and panel debates with policymakers, EU officials and senior academics to improve understanding of, and research, on EU Cohesion Policy. In particular, the Master Class will serve to

  • discuss recent research on European regional and urban development and EU Cohesion Policy;
  • enable PhD students and early career researchers to exchange views and network with policymakers, EU officials and senior academics;
  • raise awareness and understanding of the research potential in the field of EU Cohesion Policy.

 The Master Class is organised and led by the European Commission, DG for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO), the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) and the Regional Studies Association (RSA) in cooperation with the European Regional Science Association (ERSA) and the Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP).

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.

Regional Studies Association – Networking Workshop for Early and Mid-Career Women in Regional Studies and Regional Science

Brighton, UK, 24 October, 2018
As they complete their doctoral studies, all Early Career Scholars face decisions including whether or not to stay in academia. This post PhD period can also include challenges and uncertainties around roles, locations, contracts and funding. Mid-Career Scholars face new challenges in their academic career when starting a faculty position, e.g. a lectureship or an assistant professorship. In this period each scholar must find strategies to balance the different responsibilities in teaching, administration and research. Academics in this transition often make unconscious decisions about their style of leadership or teaching. An important element in dealing with these uncertainties and in taking conscious decisions is access to a strong network, the chance to plan and discuss career opportunities and the opportunity to discuss these issues with role models, mentors and coaches. For this reason, the Regional Studies Association supports the development of a network specifically designed for female early and mid-career researchers in the fields of regional studies and regional science. The aim is to provide a platform for network building and to offer conversations with established female researchers in an informal setting. 

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