The IPL newsletter: Volume 20, Issue 408

News from the IPL


Vancouver-area legal software company Clio raises $250-million in venture capital funding

Sean Silcoff, Globe and Mail
A Vancouver-area software firm that helps lawyers manage their practices over the internet has secured “the largest single venture-capital financing in Canadian history.” Themis Solutions Inc., which operates as Clio, announced it has raised a combined US$250-million from American growth equity firms TCV and JMI Equity.

Canadian, Quebec Government Pledge $15 Million to Create AI Centre in Montreal

Isabelle Kirkwood, Betakit
The federal government and the province of Quebec recently announced the creation of a Montreal-based international centre of expertise for the advancement of artificial intelligence, focused on the responsible and ethical development of AI technologies, as well as seeking to expand commercialization and adoption of AI in Canada. The initiative is part of the Global Partnership on AI (GPAI). The five year project will receive $10 million from the federal government and $5 million from the province of Quebec (via Montréal International).

Element AI closes financing, securing $200-million backed by the Caisse, Quebec and McKinsey

Sean Silcoff, Globe and Mail
Montreal-based artificial intelligence firm Element AI recently raised US$151.4-million, concluding “one of the largest venture-capital financing rounds by a Canadian technology company.” However, the deal comes at a pivotal moment for the company, as it was “driven by investors – notably pension giant Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec – intent on reversing Element’s disappointing performance to date, by bringing some much-needed discipline to its operations and shifting its strategic focus.”

Editor's Pick

Platforms and Industrial Change

Martin Kenney, John Zysman, Petri Rouvinen, & Tomi Seppälä, Industry and Innovation
This article introduces a special issue of Industry and Innovation entitled “Exploring Industrial Change in the Platform.”  It explores how digital platforms “have inserted themselves into value chains and labour markets and thereby transformed the supply chains and the locations where value is captured.” The article also explores the theme of how the ecosystems created by digital platforms often incorporate incumbents and the degree to which they provide opportunities for new entrants.  The article highlights the need for more research on appropriate policy and regulatory approaches to this new platform-dominated industrial structure.

Cities, Clusters & Regions

Preliminary Commentary on the Sidewalk Labs Master Innovation and Development Plan (MIDP)

Michael Geist, Waterfront Toronto’s Digital Strategy Advisory Panel (DSAP)
This report by a panel of 15 experts criticizes Sidewalk Labs’ June 2019 four-part plan as “unwieldy and repetitive,” “frustratingly abstract,” and “overly focused on the ‘what’ rather than the ‘how.’”  The panel summarized it’s overall preliminary observation as follows: “in many areas, the MIDP is not sufficiently specific about critical areas of its digital innovation proposals, and it does not provide a clear path for individuals, civic society, or small/startup businesses to participate from design, implementation, operations, and sustainability perspectives.”

UK Local Growth Dashboard 2019

Enterprise Research Centre (ERC)
The UK Local Growth Dashboard presents a set of growth metrics for start-ups and existing firms across a range of sub-national geographies in the UK with a specific focus on each of the 38 English Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) areas. It also  provides other contextual data for each LEP including the changing sectoral composition of local economies over time. The report builds on the LEP Growth Dashboard first launched by ERC in June 2014.

Innovation Policy

How are Digital Technologies Changing Innovation? Evidence from Agriculture, the Automotive Industry, and Retail

Caroline Paunov & Sandra Planes-Satorr, OECD Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation
This report explores the general and sector-specific impacts that digital technologies are exerting on the innovation process.  General trends across sectors include that the Internet of Things and data are becoming key inputs for innovation, innovation cycles are accelerating, services innovation is gaining importance and collaborative innovation matters more. Sector-specific differences present varying opportunities for innovation in products, processes and business models, as well as differences in the types of data needed for innovation and the conditions for digital technology adoption. The analysis calls for revisiting innovation policy mixes using a sectoral approach, especially regarding data access and digital technology adoption policies. The report also asserts that the current focus of innovation policies on boosting R&D to meet R&D intensity targets also requires scrutiny.

Statistics & Indicators

‘Limited’ Data Stalling Canadian Policy-making on Gig Economy, Documents Show

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press
A newly released government document obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act shows that federal officials at Employment and Social Development Canada are encountering data roadblocks in their efforts to ascertain the number of Canadians working in the gig economy.  This data gap was cited as a barrier to the effective provision of policy advice for addressing the gig economy. The document states that although results from a new Statistics Canada survey are expected to be available this fall, officials at ESDC were already recommending “alternative methods of data collection” to learn more about platform workers and their job quality.

Policy Digest

Trade and Innovation Policy Playbook – 2019 Federal Election 

Canadian Global Cities Council (CGCC)
The Canadian Global Cities Council (CGCC) was founded in 2015 as a coalition of CEOs of eight of Canada’s largest urban Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trades from across the country: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Brampton, Toronto, Montreal, and Halifax.  This report serves as the first in their series of 2019 federal election ‘policy playbooks series’ on Trade & Innovation, Infrastructure, Talent, and Energy Policy. Specifically, the CGCC “calls on the campaigning parties to commit to create a business climate that will help firms not only cope with the swift pace of change but also capture the opportunities of the innovation economy and come out ahead.”

The policy recommendations cluster under three themes: a focus on enabling legislation, helping businesses enter new markets and growing their operations in Canada.

Build Enabling Frameworks:
Overarching data governance frameworks need to be established in addition to other measures to help businesses better leverage their IP and data.  This includes the following policy initiatives:

  • Establish a National Data Strategy
  • Better leverage the data collected by Statistics Canada
  • Capture the value of Canadian IP

Diversifying Trade:
The report calls on the next federal government to “help Canadian businesses leverage that preferential access to more than 1.5 billion customers in 51 countries, as foreign companies appear to be making better use of Canada’s network of free trade agreements than our own firms.”  To achieve this, the report advocates for the following policy recommendations:

  • Support the ratification of signed trade agreements
  • Prioritize new emerging markets
  • Enable Canada-wide free trade
  • Support SMEs to diversify exports
  • Accelerate Airport Screening

Support Business Growth:
The report notes that “Canada has a scaleup problem, as we trail other mature economies in our ability to help SMEs grow into larger firms.”  To remedy this, the report puts forward the following policy recommendations:

  • Improve Procurement Opportunities for SMEs
  • Encourage sector collaboration
  • Modernize the tax system
  • Streamline regulation


RSA North America Conference – The Call of the New: Unpacking Innovation, its Spatiality, its Benefits and its Costs

Montreal, 25-27 September, 2019
This conference will provide the opportunity for urban and regional scholars to grapple with the complexities of innovation and change, qualifying the idea of innovation, questioning the institutions that organize and channel it, and exploring the actors, private, public and civil society, who instigate change and cope with its consequences. To what extent are innovative processes regionally embedded? Can radical innovation occur within the current institutional context? Who innovates? Who benefits? Is it possible, or useful, to think through the consequences of innovation? Is it always necessary or advisable to innovate? Can innovation lead to more inclusive forms of growth? How does innovation impact cities and regions – in terms of their governance, their economies, their infrastructure and their social cohesion? And, conversely, how do cities and regions, as politics, innovate, influence innovation, adapt to change, and channel its consequences? These are some of the questions that will be addressed in Montreal.

The 2019 Technology Transfer Society Annual Conference

Toronto, 26-28 September, 2019
The Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy and the Technology Transfer Society would like to invite you to submit a paper* to the 2019 Technology Transfer Conference. The main themes of the Conference will revolve around technology transfer and innovation policy, technology commercialization and entrepreneurship (with a focus on universities), and inclusive innovation. Submissions featuring longitudinal and historical studies, ideally using mixed-methods research are particularly encouraged. Submissions based on other methods are also welcome. 

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. Opportunities to watch parts of the proceedings streaming online.  Full details on the sessions are available at the Atlanta Conference site.

Regional Innovation Policies 2019: Technological Chance, Social Innovation, and Regional Transformation

Florence, Italy, 7-8 November, 2019
The Conference will focus on the paths of regional transformation that emerge as a response to technological and social change. Sustainability issues require regions to face change by trying to balance economic growth with social innovation. We will discuss the role that regional policies can play within such scenarios, by supporting the creation of new assets and resources, as well as favouring multi-level alignments of visions and interests.

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This newsletter is prepared by Travis Southin.
Project manager is David A. Wolfe.