The IPL newsletter: Volume 19, Issue 387


Uber Seeks Top Toronto Talent with $200 Million Investment

UofT News
The ride-sharing giant announced that it will invest more than $200 million in Toronto over the next five years to expand an existing research lab focused on self-driving cars – led by University of Toronto artificial intelligence whiz Raquel Urtasun – and set up its first-ever engineering facility in Canada. Drawn by the region’s expertise in fast-growing fields like machine learning, Uber’s Toronto expansion comes on the heels of similar investments in Canada’s largest city by other giants of the tech industry. Just this week, computer chip-maker Intel said it planned to set up an engineering lab north of the city that focuses on graphics processing units, or GPUs (increasingly used in machine learning applications), while Microsoft said it planned to open a new office in downtown Toronto and hire 500 employees by 2022, as well as an equivalent number of co-op students and interns.

Cities can Compete for $500 Million for Inclusive Growth

SSTI Weekly Digest
JPMorgan Chase announced the creation of AdvancingCities, a new $500 million, five-year initiative to drive inclusive growth and create greater economic opportunity in cities across the world. The firm will invest in cities where conditions exist to help those who have not benefited from economic growth. This includes demonstrated collaboration across the public and private sectors on solutions that create opportunity for people at risk of being left out of economic growth. Successful applications will be eligible for a three-year grant of up to $3 million. Cities interested in applying for the AdvancingCities Challenge should visit The RFP closes on Nov. 30, 2018 and winners will be announced in the spring of 2019.

DARPA Announces $2 Billion AI Initiative

SSTI Weekly Digest
The “AI Next” campaign, announced by DARPA last week, is geared toward moving AI defense applications into a “third wave” of advancement, capable of complex problem-solving. DARPA will be investing $2 billion into AI through a variety of programs, and a core element of this initiative will be “AI Exploration” projects designed to move from proposal to start in three months, and from start to feasibility assessments within 18 months. New funding opportunities will be announced through multiple projects and over multiple years — SSTI members will find these notices in the Funding Supplement.

Editor's Pick

Creating Creatives: The Value of Creativity in Business

McKinsey Quarterly
Creativity drives business innovation and growth/ But is it reserved for the lucky few? According to urban theorist Richard Florida, a rising “creative class” of workers is fashioning an economy in which the creative ethos is increasingly dominant. But does creativity produce business value? McKinsey finds a strong correlation between creativity and financial performance. The “creative economy” includes industries that monetize creative activity, governments that design policy to encourage creativity and economic growth, and creative job holders. This survey includes resources to better understand this economy and the techniques that leaders can use to boost creativity in their organizations.

Innovation Policy

Teaching for Tomorrow: Building the Necessary Skills for Today

Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity
In this report, the Institute examines whether Ontario’s education system is able to impart youth with 21st century skills. While talent development is one of Ontario’s key strengths, the Institute finds that youth do not have the skills required to thrive in future labour markets. The report proposes 12 recommendations spanning elementary, secondary and post-secondary education (including colleges, universities and apprenticeships).

What is Artificial Intelligence?

In the first installment of a series of two-page briefings on technologies that are likely to have a profound impact on the global economy and modern society, ITIF provides answers to fundamental questions that should serve as the starting point for informed policy debates about artificial intelligence. What is the technology and how does it work? What are its prospects for continued advancement? What are its applications and impact? And what are the policy implications?

Blockchain Innovation in Europe

The European Union Blockchain Observatory and Forum
The goal of the Observatory and Forum is to get a clear picture of blockchain’s current possibilities and future potential, to understand the questions it raises and to evaluate the EU’s best options to foster innovation within the space, allowing its citizens and industries to benefit from blockchain applications and ensuring the region plays a leading role in blockchain both today and in the future. This paper sets the scene for the Observatory and Forum’s work by examining the state of blockchain innovation in Europe today, looking at both Europe’s strengths and weaknesses vis-à-vis this technology, and making some recommendations about where Europe should set its priorities in the future.

Breaking into Tech

AJ Tibando and Andrew Do, Brookfield Institute
This report offers an in-depth look at the talent and skills sought after by tech companies, as well as the different routes that people take to gain entry into the tech sector in the Waterloo region. Robust demand for new talent is a great sign – it means that companies are growing and opportunities are being created. The search for talent can also be one of the most frustrating experiences facing growing tech companies. Finding the right workers with the right skills and matching them to the right job is a challenging process which lacks a clear set of guidelines and formula for success. Informed by interviews with leaders in Waterloo’s tech community, this report provides a set of key takeaways for employers and aspiring tech workers alike, on the process of finding and retaining top tech talent. Led by Communitech and powered by the Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (BII+E), this report offers insight into how tech companies recruit, assess and nurture workers to ensure the company has the talent they need to grow.

Cities, Clusters & Regions

Are Academic Science and Engineering Resources Becoming More Concentrated?

Jonathan Dworin, SSTI Weekly Digest
Colleges and universities that conduct research and development around science and engineering are central to technology-based economic development strategies and are at the core of America’s innovation hubs. The distribution of science and engineering R&D at colleges and universities (S&E R&D) – already distributed unevenly across the country— appears to have grown radically more so since the Great Recession. In fact, SSTI analysis using data from the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics reveals that approximately 60 percent of all new funds for S&E R&D at colleges and universities from 2008 to 2016 went to institutions in just three states: Maryland, California and New York. Earlier this summer, SSTI highlighted research from the University of Michigan that found the boost in federal R&D funds as a result of the 2009 stimulus package had a significant impact on local economic development. Unlike traditional ARRA spending, which targeted areas heavily impacted by the recession, the authors note that ARRA R&D spending mostly went to regions with elite research universities-. The result helped perpetuate an uneven distribution of federal R&D dollars.

Statistics & Indicators

Science and Engineering R&D at Colleges and Universities by State and Metro Area

SSTI Weekly Digest
Federal funding for S&E R&D grew by $7.2 billion from 2002 to 2016, reaching more than $31.6 billion. This represents a 29.4 percent increase during the period, or approximately 2.0 percent per year, according to an SSTI analysis of data from the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. Among states, California ($4.3 billion), New York ($2.4 billion), and Maryland ($2.3 billion) received the most in federal funds for S&E R&D in 2016, while Baltimore ($2.0 billion), New York City ($1.7 billion), and Boston ($1.3 billion) led among metropolitan areas.

Policy Digest

Four Strategies to Deliver on a Smart City Vision in 2018

Adie Tomer and Lara Fishbane, Brookings
Almost five years ago, amidst the initial hype of the technology-driven “smart city,” Brookings published a report urging cities to take a step back. While talking to the early digital pioneers within city government, these leaders expressed that technological development was happening faster than their agencies could keep up. In response, the report proposed judging “smartness” by whether places had developed a clear vision to guide their digital future, rather than by how many sensors and software systems they had installed. Since the report was published, public and private consensus has caught up. Public officials and technology developers now consistently start smart city conversations with a focus on place-based outcomes. At the national level, we can see this through calls to focus on people and redefine citizen engagement. In specific cities, like Kansas City and Boston, grand strategies and guiding principles undergird major projects. Yet even in the most digitally advanced places, there is still work to do. As we enter this next evolution of smart city development, what are the specific strategies needed to bring a smart city vision to reality?

Assuming there is a central strategy and a clear set of desired outcomes to advance the collective future of a metro area, these four steps can benefit just about every place:

  1. Promote deeper engagement with residents and businesses. Building a smarter city requires the trust and support of the people who live there. Although public trust in local governments remains high, the plummet in trust in the federal government over the past decade suggests that trust is never guaranteed. Active local engagement can ensure the public’s ideas and concerns are heard and addressed throughout any design and execution process. Engaging citizens not only has inherent value, but also helps garner trust and buy-in throughout the process. You can’t plan city and metropolitan futures in private office rooms; building a smart city requires engagement.
  2. Intentionally build strong, formal collaborations between public, private, and civic actors. If metro areas are collections of people, businesses, and institutions, we must recognize municipalities shouldn’t always run point. The city of Atlanta collaborates with the Metro Atlanta Chamber and its corporate partners, Georgia Tech, and other research and advocacy organizations to make good on commitments like SmartATL. Critically, Georgia Tech is pursuing statewide efforts to scale digitalization strategies, joining a small cohort of other states like Illinois that are exploring the same concepts. Metro areas must find ways to leverage local corporate, philanthropic, and nonprofit expertise to both inform long-term planning and establish sustainable efforts focused on digital tech.
  3. Modernize governments’ approach to data collection and use. Recent developments in technology have exponentially increased the private sector’s ability to collect, store, and analyze data, while the government lags further and further behind. Private companies like Google and AT&T better understand how people are using public infrastructure than the government itself, while computing models move to the cloud. However, the incentives for private-public data sharing may not align, procurement models are outdated, and public staffing capacities struggle to compete. This tide will only grow more intense as next-level technologies, including artificial intelligence, put new pressures on local governments. To better keep up, state and local governments will need to think creatively about how to more effectively build internal capacity.
  4. Establish new performance measures and goals based on collective outcomes. It is promising that some smart city actors now lead with long-term planning when designing local programs and investment strategies. But to deliver on what are often complex outcomes—promoting social inclusion, reducing environmental waste, and growing entrepreneurial ecosystems—the public sector and its partners need new sets of performance measures and data to reflect the challenges of today. Old measures like roadway congestion or metro-scale innovation are not enough. New measures should address questions such as: Why are people driving from a certain neighborhood at a certain time? Which neighborhoods struggle to build successful startup businesses, and which social communities are left out? Performance measurement must evolve with the times.

These steps are just one slice of what it will take to continue the modernization of cities and suburbs in the digital age. The actual practice of delivering on these calls to action are even harder, a major reason why efforts exploring new collaboration models and testing new performance measures are so essential. Fortunately, as seen in Atlanta and other places, change is underway.


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