The IPL newsletter: Volume 20, Issue 417

News from the IPL


  • See this issue’s Editor’s Pick for Daniel Munro‘s recently co-authored report called ‘The Intangible Shift: Changing Gears to Compete in the New Economy'
  • See this issue’s Policy Digest for research from Shiri M. Breznitz as a member of Ontario’s Expert Panel on Intellectual Property


Shauna Brail, PhD is Director and Associate Professor, Urban Studies Program as well as Associate Director, Partnerships & Outreach, School of Cities at the University of Toronto. Brail is a Senior Associate at the Innovation Policy Lab in the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy and a faculty affiliate at the University of Toronto Transportation Research Institute.

Interview performed by Travis Southin and Zissis Hadjis on December 4, 2019.

In a sentence or two, describe your area of research. Why is it important and interesting to you? Why did you decide to pursue it?
My background is in urban planning and economic geography, and a lot of my research over the years has focused on cities and urban economic development. I have an interest in understanding emerging industries in particular, as well as the types of industries and firms that locate in cities, why they locate there, and the subsequent impacts they have. Although my recent work connects to mobility and transportation, the underlying motivation is really about understanding how to ensure that cities remain thriving, vibrant, dynamic, and inclusive places to be.

Are there any updates from your work or current projects that you can share?
In the spring of 2019, Prof. Betsy Donald (Queen’s University) and I received a SSHRC Insight Grant. This grant allows us to continue and expand our work on ride hailing, and we are especially focused on studying the impacts of ride hailing on Canadian cities. Through this grant, we are collaborating with researchers from across Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec. As part of this work, we’re looking at the 30 largest municipalities in Canada, and building a database of ride hailing policies and regulations across the country. We are tracking the chronology, phases and priorities of municipal (and in some cases, provincial) regulations that govern ride hailing. There’s a lot we can learn about responses to disruption and innovation by studying municipal regulations. For instance, we’re finding that some municipalities use regulations to address a range of priorities, while others leverage regulatory powers in an effort to maintain the status quo. Our research also demonstrates that there is evidence to suggest governments are learning to develop more nimble regulations as a response to the rapid pace of change.

What impact do you hope your research can have?
As an academic, it’s critical to engage in scholarly discussions and debates that inform and advance our understanding of technological change and urban innovation.  For me, it’s also important to do work that has policy application. I continue to consult with – and provided advice to – municipal and provincial governments. I also enjoy sharing my research findings with public audiences.

What are the biggest opportunities and challenges facing your area of research?
This is less of a typical opportunity or challenge, but when I first decided to study ride hailing, I had no idea it would be so controversial. I’ve somehow grown to appreciate the controversy of the subject and see an opportunity to learn more about how diverse perspectives can lead to truly engaging debate.

What do you think the innovation landscape will look like in 5 or 10 years?
In 10 years, I don’t think ride hailing will be considered a separate industry or sector. Rather, we’re more likely to see a blurring together of mobility, with ride hailing integrated as a component of a range of mobility services. This shift is already evident, for instance, automotive manufacturers are experimenting by offering mobility services like ride hailing, and ride hailing firms are expanding into other forms of personal mobility such as bikes and scooters, as well as creating apps that connect to public transit networks. What this says about innovation more generally is that change that seems rapid and disruptive can be relatively quickly integrated and managed. It also demonstrates the resilience of people and places.

What was the best book (or article) you’ve read recently? Why?
I recently read “The Geography of Innovation: Local Hotspots and Global Innovation Networks” by Crescenzi et al.  What drew me to the paper is its focus on the global economic geography of innovation and analysis about how and why that geography is evolving.

What advice would you give a new graduate student studying innovation?
My advice for grad students studying innovation is to find a question or an issue that you’re really passionate about and pursue it. Don’t worry about it being cool, popular, or trendy – you have to own it and be inspired by it.

2019-2020 IPL Speaker Series

What does open science entail?

Diana Hicks, Professor, the School of Public Policy, Georgia Institute of Technology
February 20, 2020, 2:00-4:00pm
Room 208N, 1 Devonshire Place, Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy

Towards an Integrated Place-based Innovation Policy

Elvira Uyarra, Reader, Manchester Institute of Innovation Research, Manchester Business School, University of Manchester
April 16, 2020, 2:00-4:00pm
Room 108N, 1 Devonshire Place, Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy

What Next For UK Science and Innovation Policy?

Kieron Flanagan, Senior Lecturer, Manchester Institute of Innovation Research, Manchester Business School, University of Manchester
May 7, 2020, 2:00-4:00pm
Room 108N, 1 Devonshire Place, Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy

Editor's Pick

The Intangible Shift: Changing Gears to Compete in the New Economy

Daniel Munro & Creig Lamb, Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship
This report is co-authored by Daniel Munro, Director of Policy Projects for the Innovation Policy Lab. The report provides an introduction to intangibles, such as data, digital services, brands, design, marketing, and firm-specific training. The report discusses the significance of intangibles as increasingly driving economic growth, as well as the issues they raise for policymakers, business leaders, and other stakeholders. It also launches the Intangible Shift research series, which will examine key challenges and opportunities associated with the shift towards an intangible economy. The project aims to provide decision makers across Canada’s public and private sectors with clarity on how the rules of the economy are changing and to identify key policy and business strategy changes that can help position Canada for success.

Cities, Clusters & Regions

The Geography of Unconventional Innovation

Enrico Berkes & Ruben Gaetani
Using a newly assembled dataset of U.S. patents, the paper shows that overall innovation activity is less concentrated in high-density urban areas than commonly believed, but inventions based on atypical combinations of knowledge are indeed more prevalent in high-density cities. To interpret this relation, the authors propose that informal interactions in densely populated areas help knowledge flows between distant fields, but are less relevant for flows between close fields. The authors build a model of innovation in a spatial economy that endogenously generates the pattern observed in the data: specialized clusters emerge in low-density areas, whereas high-density cities diversify and produce unconventional ideas.

Next Generation Urban Planning: Enabling Sustainable Development at the Local Level Through Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs)

Anthony F. Pipa and Max Bouchet, The Brookings Institution
This report discusses how leadership on sustainable development is exhibited in the widening adoption of an innovation called the Voluntary Local Review (VLR). A VLR is a process in which local governments confirm their commitment to the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and voluntarily assess their progress toward specific targets in the 2030 agenda. Pioneered in 2018 by New York City, this review takes its inspiration from Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs), the process through which countries report on their sustainable development progress at the U.N. as part of the official follow-up and review process. The report notes that “increasingly, city leaders see their priorities for local progress linked to solving global challenges” as “global trends of rapid urbanization exacerbate the local urgency for sustainable development.” 

Innovation Policy

President Trump’s FY 2021 Budget Commits to Double Investments in Key Industries of the Future

US Office of Science and Technology Policy
This release summarizes the recently announced investments in science and technology contained in President Trump’s FY 2021 budget. The budget ‘prioritizes the Industries of the Future, and commits to double R&D spending in nondefense artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum information science (QIS) by 2022.’  The release stresses that ‘President Trump is the first President in American history to include AI and QIS as Administration R&D priorities.’

Canada is Open for AI Business – Some Fear Too Open

Éanna Kelly, Science|Business
This article summarizes tensions associated with the rapid growth of Canada’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) sector. The report notes that ‘the country is in the midst of an AI boom, with Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Huawei and other global heavyweights spending millions or even hundreds of millions of dollars on research hubs in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta.’ This article summarizes how these investments have sparked a debate as to whether Canada is ‘too open’ for business: ‘while many see this as a sign of success, others are worried about researchers and intellectual property being swallowed wholesale.’

Statistics & Indicators

The Narwhal List 2020

Charles Plant, Narwhal Project
This report highlights Canada’s fastest-growing tech companies. The list divides the amount a firm has raised by the number of years for which it’s existed. The report is produced in partnership with MaRS Discovery District, Communitech, and Invest Ottawa. Forty-two Canadian tech firms are on track for a  $1-billion valuation. The fastest-growing technology firms raised over $2.1 billion combined in 2019, compared to $600 million in 2018.

State of Software Engineers: 2020

This report is a collection of insights on labour market trends driving digital transformation in the field of software engineering. The report provides insights on the most popular jobs in software engineering, most popular coding languages, and growth rates in employment and pay for various labour markets (including Toronto).  Hired notes that it “is in a unique position to share these insights” because of their “unprecedented visibility into the hiring process.”

Useful Stats: 10-year Changes in Real GDP by County and Industry, 2009-2018

Colin Edwards, SSTI
Building on SSTI’s recent analysis of US county-level GDP by industry, this edition moves beyond a single year and examines the changes in real — adjusted for inflation — county GDP and the changes in industry-specific contributions to county GDP for the 10-year period from 2009 to 2018. The data is presented in an interactive map.  The total 10-year growth rate for counties averaged approximately 21 percent. All 10 of the counties that experienced the greatest percentage increases in total GDP between 2009 and 2018 are in Texas. The increases for these top 10 counties ranged from 709 percent to more than 3000 percent. The growth in most of these counties was driven by dramatic increases in the mining industry and related activities such as transportation and utilities.

Policy Digest

Report: Intellectual Property in Ontario’s Innovation Ecosystem

Expert Panel on Intellectual Property, Report to the Government of Ontario

This report from the Expert Panel on Intellectual Property responds to the Government of Ontario’s request to “develop an action plan for the development of a provincial intellectual property framework that fully exploits the potential benefits of Ontario’s investments in research and development and maximizes the role that Ontario’s innovation intermediaries can play in supporting this framework.” Created in Spring 2019, the Expert Panel is part of the Government of Ontario’s efforts to “review, update and implement policy objectives that advance the prosperity of Ontario in the contemporary economy.”

The Expert Panel was chaired by Jim Balsillie, former co-CEO of Research in Motion (now BlackBerry). Innovation Policy Lab Affiliated Faculty Shiri M. Breznitz was one of the four other members of the expert panel, including Myra Tawfik, Dan Herman, and Natalie Raffoul. In preparing the report, the panel researched best practices from relevant jurisdictions around the world and conducted 14 in-person consultations, with participation from over 110 individuals and more than 80 organizations.

The report stressed the central role played by IP and data in the digital economy, noting that intangible assets now comprise over 91% of the S&P500.  The report’s introduction stressed that “IP and data are now the world’s most valuable business and national security assets.” Success in this intangibles economy differs from traditional supply chains in that “the economy of IP and data features intangible value chains where companies compete on staking positions based on their IP and data assets and use those assets to expand their ‘freedom-to-operate’ while limiting competitors.”

Within this context, Ontario’s GDP per capita has been steadily declining, while Canadian patenting activity has fallen behind peer countries. Jim Balsillie framed the overall importance of the province’s role in ensuring full exploitation of publicly-funded IP, noting that “IP is, by definition, a government-granted exclusive ownership right to an idea, and continued leadership from the Government of Ontario is critical to the success of these recommendations.”


The panel synthesized the following issues from the consultation process:

Accountability: Less than half of the Regional Innovation Centres and support intermediaries who participated in the questionnaire portion of the engagement had an explicit mandate related to generating intellectual property. The panel concluded that “more must be done to ensure that all participants in Ontario’s innovation system prioritize the development of IP capacity, programming and related activities and expertise if they are to yield economic outcomes for the province.”

IP Expertise & Education: The panel heard that many organizations in Ontario’s innovation ecosystem lacked IP expertise and capacity, often times leaving them “with little choice but to either discourage active IP generation or direct entrepreneurs to use external legal counsel.” All stakeholder groups called for improved education with respect to IP literacy, through the development of “curriculum and modules that can be easily accessed regardless of location, funding or internal capacity.” This support was recommended for technology transfer office staff, employees in support intermediaries, students, entrepreneurs, directors and advisors.

Funding and resources: The panel heard that low levels of commercialization of publicly funded knowledge is often due to a lack of direct funding and resources for IP commercialization and protection. The panel summarized the issue by noting that “increasing the availability of funding and resources to de-risk the further development of early stage innovations through proof-of-concept/prototype development would allow institutions enhanced leverage in their negotiation with industry partners.”


The Panel noted that “in thinking about, discussing and debating the themes identified above, we were guided by this question: how can Ontarians benefit from IP generated by government funded research?” The panel made the following recommendations as part of a ‘Made-in-Ontario’ approach:

Capacity-building: IP literacy & Centralized provincial resources:

“A) That a standardized web-based IP education curriculum be developed to achieve the essential learning outcomes. This IP education program should be mandatory for any individual or entity who receives public funds in support of entrepreneurial activities. It should be offered for free or at a nominal cost, available on demand and easily accessible throughout the province.”

“B) To address the issue of access to necessary expertise across the ecosystem, the Government of Ontario should create a centralized provincial resource to provide consistent, sophisticated legal and IP expertise & education. The province should convene a group of experts to develop and implement this recommendation, as well as establish the necessary metrics for monitoring outcomes.”


“The Government of Ontario should appoint a Special Advisor to assist in the development and implementation of a standardized governance framework for all innovation and entrepreneurship support organizations receiving public funds that have the potential to generate IP for the benefit of Ontario’s economy. This framework should provide clear direction on: organizational mandate and transparency, conflict of interest policy, board membership skills matrices, and metrics for management performance.”


“All commercialization entities (such as Tech Transfer Offices) within research organizations that receive public funds should have a clearly defined mandate regarding their roles and responsibilities in generating IP for the benefit of Ontario’s economy. The mandate should be accompanied by a plan that accounts for issues of institutional alignment and capacity to fulfill this mandate. The Ministry of Colleges and Universities should create a mechanism for commercialization entities to identify their comprehensive IP policies where they exist, their intention to create them where they do not, and to articulate perceived gaps inhibiting commercialization outcomes.”


The Organisation, Economics and Policy of Scientific Research

Munich, Germany, 23–24 April, 2020
The Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition, the Technical University of Munich and BRICK-Collegio Carlo Alberto are organising the annual workshop “The Organisation, Economics and Policy of Scientific Research” at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. Submissions are accepted until 15 January 2020, with particular focus on: Evaluation of science policy; Role of gender and family in scientific research; Organising research activities in universities, PROs and private R&D labs, Spillovers from scientific research, Collaboration and research networks, Scientific careers and mobility, and the Role of ethics, trust and replicability in science.

Policies, Processes and Practices for Performance of Innovation Ecosystems (P4IE)


Ottawa, Ontario, 12-13 May 2020
The Partnership For the Organization of Innovation and New Technologies is organizing the first ever ‘‘Policies, Processes and Practices for Performance of Innovation Ecosystems” (P4IE) international conference on 12-13 May 2020 in Ottawa. Organized around eight highly relevant tracks, the conference offers participants the opportunity to discuss the impact of various technologies, practices, processes and policies, on innovation ecosystems, and the best means by which to design collaborative environments. The goal of the conference is to explore ways to strengthen Canada’s innovation through innovation ecosystems.

Rethinking Clusters: Place-Based Initiatives for Inclusive, Innovative and Reflective Societies – 3rd International Workshop on Cluster Research


Valencia, Spain, 14-15 May, 2020
The Polytechnic University of Valencia and the University of Valencia, in collaboration with the University of Padova and the University of Firenze, organize the 3rd International Workshop on Cluster Research. As in the past editions, the event aims to to bring together some of the world’s leading scholars working on clusters, networks, ecosystems, platforms and regions. The conference gathers scholars from economic geography, innovation studies, regional science, as well as those working on economics and management, sociology or network theory.

DRUID20 Silver Anniversary Conference
Copenhagen, Denmark, 15-17 June, 2020

DRUID celebrates 25 years as one of the world’s premier academic conferences on innovation and the dynamics of structural, institutional and geographic change. DRUID is proud to invite senior and junior scholars to participate and contribute with a paper to the DRUID20 SILVER ANNIVERSARY CONFERENCE, hosted by Copenhagen Business School. Presenting distinguished plenary speakers, a range of parallel paper sessions, and an attractive social program that celebrates DRUID’s 25 years, the conference aims at mapping theoretical, empirical and methodological advances, contributing novel insights, and help identifying scholarly positions, divisions, and common grounds in current scientific controversies within the field.

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