The IPL newsletter: Volume 19, Issue 392


National League of Cities Announces $100 Million in Partnerships to Support Entrepreneurship, STEM Education, and Innovation in Communities Across America

Recently, the National League of Cities (NLC) announced $100 million in local partnerships to expand America’s innovation economy. These investments come at a critical time when there is a growing need for resources to create startups and train the next generation of science and engineering talent in communities across America. Currently, 80 percent of venture capital goes to just five metropolitan areas, and computer science is not offered in 75 percent of American high schools. Cities must lead on the nation’s most pressing issues in the absence of federal leadership. Over the past year, NLC, with support from Schmidt Futures, has worked with city leaders, universities, the business community and the social sector to design innovative partnerships that harness the power of science, technology and entrepreneurship to build stronger, more equitable local economies. As a result, over 50 cities, ranging from rural townships and college towns, to major metros, as well as over 200 local partners, are announcing new and specific partnerships that will be supporting young businesses, leveraging technology and ensuring STEM education and workforce training for all.

University of Sheffield’s Project, Innovating Next Generation Services through Collaborative Design, Awarded Funding to Help Service Firms Adapt to New Technologies

University of Sheffield
A team of researchers, led by Professor Tim Vorley from the University of Sheffield’s Management School, is one of three successful bids to the Industrial Strategy Challenges Fund (ISCF) Next Generation Services call. The research, commissioned by the UK government, will focus on helping people adopt new technologies. Professor Vorley will lead a team of colleagues from the University of Sheffield; Lancaster University; Manchester Business School; The University of the Arts, London; as well as non-academic partners the Managing Partners’ Forum and Normann Partners. The project, Innovating Next Generation Services through Collaborative Design, will focus on firms that are cautious or uncertain over how to implement technological change. Rather than focusing solely on new technologies, the research will involve exploratory prototyping of solutions designed in collaboration with firms to enable a rapid generation and assessment of potential future applications of artificial intelligence across businesses. This is critical if adoption within sector firms is to be broadened.

Editor's Pick

A National Urban Policy for Canada? The Implicit Federal Agenda

Neil Bradford, IRPP
Canadian cities are recognized for their quality of life, but this has been achieved without an explicit national urban policy — in part because municipalities are under provincial jurisdiction. Yet since the 2015 election, the federal government has launched several programs that play out in Canada’s biggest cities. The largest, the Trudeau government’s 12-year Investing in Canada infrastructure plan, has a budget of $180 billion. Canada is, in effect, conducting national urban policy by other means. This significant, if implicit, urban agenda could be strengthened by expanding the mandate of the regional development agencies to include city-regions, and by establishing a Canadian cities innovation fund and a national urban policy observatory.

Innovation Policy

Which Nations Really Lead in Industrial Robot Adoption?

Robert D. Atkinson, ITIF
Robots are key tools for boosting productivity and living standards. To date, most robot adoption has occurred in manufacturing, where there are robots designed to perform a wide variety of manual tasks more efficiently and consistently than humans. But with continued innovation, robot use is spreading to many other sectors, too, from agriculture to logistics to hospitality. As this trend continues—making robots increasingly important to productivity and competitiveness economy-wide—robot adoption will be a vital economic indicator for policymakers to monitor as a sign of growth and progress. The question is how best to measure it? The most commonly used method is to calculate the number of industrial robots as a share of manufacturing workers. But it is important to consider that there is a stronger economic case for adopting robots in higher-wage economies than there is in lower-wage economies. So, the more germane question is: Where do nations stand in robot adoption when we take wage levels into account? This report examines robot adoption—controlling for wages—in 27 nations. It finds that Southeast Asian nations significantly outperform the rest of the world, and Europe and the United States lag significantly behind. If these gaps persist or continue to widen, it will bode ill for the future economy-wide productivity and competitiveness of Europe and America, and both regions need to identify and adopt policies to dramatically increase their rates of robot adoption.

Techies, Trade, and Skills-Biased Productivity

James Harrigan, Ariell Reshef, and Farid Toubal, NBER
This report studies the impact of firm level choices of ICT, R&D, exporting and importing on the evolution of productivity and its bias towards skilled occupations. The authors use a novel measure of the propensity of a firm to engage in technology investment and adoption: its employment of workers with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills and experience who we call “techies”. They develop a methodology for estimating firm level productivity that allows them to measure both Hicks-neutral and skill-augmenting technology differences, and apply this to administrative data on French firms in the entire private sector from 2009 to 2013. The report finds that techies and importing of intermediate inputs raise skill-biased productivity, while imports also raise Hicks-neutral productivity. It also finds that higher firm-level skill biased productivity raises low-skill employment even as it raises the ratio of skilled to unskilled workers. This is because of the cost-reducing effect of higher productivity. The techie and trade effects are large, and can account for much of the aggregate increase in skilled employment from 2009 to 2013.

Physical Technologies Pt 2

Impact Centre
In November 2017, the Impact Centre issued a report on the challenges that companies in the physical technologies face in obtaining government support for commercialization. This was followed by a forum held in February 2018 with over 100 entrepreneurs, academics, government officials, advisors, investors and other interested parties. Participants offered a range of creative solutions to these and other challenges. What emerged from these discussions is summarized in the remainder of the report. One potential path to overcome some of the barriers holding back entrepreneurs and innovators is the creation of small local clusters focused on individual physical technologies.

Cities, Clusters & Regions

Milan and Turin: Competitiveness of Italy’s Great Northern Cities

Urban Land Institute
The challenge of developing and maintaining a competitive edge is of importance for cities around the world. In Italy, this issue is framed by distinct pressures and challenges posed by the country’s history and strategic role in Europe. In some sectors, such as the creative and innovation sectors, businesses and talent have become increasingly mobile and attracted to cities that offer both liveability and innovation. At the same time, investors are focusing exclusively on cities. In this context, competition amongst cities for investment and talent is significant. Based on ULI’s longstanding research focused on cities, this report develops a framework to assess the competitiveness of cities, addressing a variety of factors ranging from the governance framework and regulatory issues to softer issues, such as liveability and social integration. This report reviews the key competitive strengths and weaknesses of Milan and Turin and makes a series of concrete recommendations. These will be useful to all those in the public and private sectors who wish to take action to enhance the competitiveness of these two cities.

Statistics and Indicators

The GaWC City Classification 2018

The GaWC city classification for 2018 is based upon the magnitude of a city’s business service connections to 707 other major cities. In total this includes over 177 million measures of connections between pairs of cities. GaWC city link classes are derived from the largest 1741 of these pairs of cities e.g. the link between London and New York, often referred to as NYLON, has the largest magnitude of inter-city connections and is denoted alpha ++. This exercise emphasizes the fact that GaWC analyses are based upon myriad relations between cities unlike other classifications largely based upon attributes  of each city considered separately.

Policy Digest

The Innovation System of the Public Service of Canada

Governments today are confronted with a complex array of interconnected problems, increased citizen expectations, and fiscal constraints. Technological, geopolitical, economic, social, and environmental changes mean that the operating context for the public
sector is one of increasing flux rather than stability. Governments cannot assume that existing policies and programs remain the most suitable options for today, let alone that they will suffice for tomorrow. Governments therefore require a systemic approach to public sector innovation to develop and deliver novel solutions that meet the existing and emergent needs of citizens.

What does a systemic approach to public sector innovation at the level of national government look like? This report looks at the experience and context of the Public Service of Canada, where significant emphasis has been placed on innovation. The Canadian civil service has been on an ongoing journey of discovery and learning about public sector innovation, and this report outlines some of the notable points from the past 30 years. It reveals that, despite ongoing effort, more is needed if the Canadian Public Service is to achieve its own stated ambitions. The report provides some suggestions as to how this gap might be overcome, as well as proposing a new public sector innovation system model to assist other countries. There are no easy answers, however, and there is a need for ongoing stewardship of the innovation system. The most appropriate actions will depend on the level of ambition and intent for the innovation system. Accordingly, three different scenarios (continuing as is; additional effort and investment; a radical shift to truly emphasize and embed innovation at the heart of the state) are explored to consider different possibilities. These scenarios highlight the different trade-offs that may be encountered as the system develops over time.

Key Findings

  • The Government of Canada starts with a strong base, having a long demonstrated history of innovation. The civil service also has a longstanding awareness and appreciation of the need for innovation.
  • However, there has been an ongoing recognition that the Public Service of Canada needs to continue to adapt and be responsive. Respective Clerks (the Heads of the Public Service) have repeatedly identified the need to go further.
  • Much of the ‘low-hanging’ fruit (i.e. activities to support public sector innovation such as awards, efforts to remove hurdles, introduction of new tools) has already been picked, but this is unlikely to lead to long term sustainability.
  • The innovation system is still relatively fragmented, in that most actors are experiencing the same system in different ways. New approaches are needed.
  • This need for new approaches is linked to the significant change occurring in the public sector operating environment. When everything else is changing, existing measures and interventions cannot be relied on to be the most appropriate.
  • In such a context, innovation needs to shift from something that is often a sporadic and ad hoc activity to something that can be drawn on consistently and reliably.
  • The current lived experience of innovation within the Public Service of Canada reveals a range of insights about the nature and dynamics of public sector innovation systems. This includes the need to pay attention to four particular areas: Clarity – is there a clear signal being sent to system actors about innovation and how it fits with other priorities? Parity – does innovation have equal standing with other considerations when it comes to proposed courses of action? Suitability – are the capabilities, systems and infrastructure appropriate and sufficient for the available options? Normality – is innovation seen as integral, rather than as an occasionally accepted deviation from the norm?
  • Where the system elements are not sufficiently developed, then innovation activity will be relegated to the organisational or individual level. When this occurs, it will leave innovation practice vulnerable to chance or circumstance, and is thus unlikely to be a sustainable or reliable activity.

Key Messages

  • Public sector innovation is fundamentally difficult and much is still being learnt about how to support and embed it as a practice within governments.
  • The Canadian Public Service has made some significant steps, including the introduction of a structural driver for innovation in the form of the Experimentation Directive, towards a more systemic approach to public sector innovation. However, it is likely that without continuous efforts and direction the innovation system will not be able to consistently and reliably contribute to the delivery of the best outcomes for citizens.
  • An innovation system is made up of many parts and contributed to by many actors. While the Impact and Innovation Unit within the Privy Council Office plays a central role, the effectiveness of the innovation system – i.e. its ability to consistently and reliably develop and deliver innovative solutions that contribute to achieving the goals and priorities of the government – will depend on collective effort, involving action from different actors at the individual, organisational, and system levels.
  • While a range of options are put forward, the aim of this review, and the guidance included within it, is to help provide a reflection of the system so that all actors can see themselves within it. This can provide a contribution to the ongoing discussion and deliberation about what the collective aim for innovation is within the Public Service of Canada, and how everyone can play a part, and be supported in that. This will help the Government of Canada to achieve the best outcomes that it can for Canadian citizens.


CFP: WICK#6 PhD Workshop: Economics of Innovation, Complexity and Knowledge

Turin, Italy, 9-10 January, 2019
The main topics the workshop will cover are Economics of Knowledge and Innovation, with a special focus on Firm and Regional Innovation Strategies, Economics of Science, Green Innovation, Smart cities, and Energy policy. Sessions will be methodologically heterogeneous. Econometric contributions, as well as Complex Network Analysis and computational methods, such as Agent-Based Models, are very welcome. The event will feature keynote contributions from Prof. Massimo Riccaboni (IMT Lucca and KU Leuven), Dr. Giovanni Marin (University of Urbino) and Dr. Ernest Miguelez (CNRS and GREThA, University of Bordeaux).


Bordeaux, France, 20-21 May, 2019
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 2016 or later). Up to 18 papers will be selected from open submissions on the basis of peer review. Contributions are invited on (but not limited to) one or more of the following topics:

  • The evaluation of science policy
  • Organising research activities in universities, PROs and private R&D labs
  • Spillovers from scientific research
  • Role of gender and family in scientific research
  • Science research networks and collaboration
  • Scientific careers and mobility

Deadline for the submission of papers or extended abstracts (min 3 pages) is January 31st 2019. Submissions should be previously unpublished works. All submissions are reviewed with respect to novelty, academic quality and relevance.

Atlanta Conference on Science and Innovation Policy

Atlanta, GA, 14-17 October, 2019
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.

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