The IPL newsletter: Volume 23, Issue 472

News from the IPL


Poster for event

Join us on Monday, October 17 from 4-6pm as the Innovation Policy Lab Speaker Series is joined by two colleagues from the University of Manchester who will discuss the current challenges in innovation in the UK and the EU.

Topics include:

Towards a place and challenge-based innovation policy – Professor Elvira Uyarra, The University of Manchester

Innovation policy debates increasingly recognise societal challenges as drivers for innovation policy. This has motivated a ‘normative turn’ that advocates greater challenge orientation in innovation policy and targeted policies to articulate societal needs in order to deliver better, not just more, innovations. In parallel, regional innovation policy agendas such as the EU smart specialisation focus on selectively building on unique place-specific characteristics and assets, but it is somewhat agnostic about the direction of innovation. While mission oriented and transformative innovation policy agendas have been criticised for their lack of attention to context and the ‘messy realities’ of policy implementation, smart specialisation has been seen as too incremental, narrowing down the options and approaches for less developed regions, and neglecting more transformative means of value capture. This talk will bring together these agendas, their key challenges and shortcomings, and the need for an integrated place-based innovation policy.

What’s the problem with UK science and innovation policy? – Professor Kieron Flanagan, The University of Manchester

The UK was an industrial and scientific pioneer. Yet for nearly as long, the country has fretted about falling behind industrial and technological competitors. For decades the UK’s not terribly impressive R&D/GDP ratio of around 1.7% has resisted all attempts to improve it. For historical reasons, UK government R&D spending is unusually biased towards the ‘basic’ end of the spectrum by international standards, and the geographical distribution of that spending is highly concentrated on a small number of institutions in a few places – the so-called ‘Golden Triangle’ of Oxford, Cambridge and London. Now the UK is once again aiming to transform its technological fortunes, with increases in public spending in the pipeline and a target of 2.4% of GDP to be spent on R&D by 2027. The hope is that this additional R&D effort will help ‘rebalance’ regional growth prospects and drive improvements in productivity. This talk will examine why the UK seems to be stuck, what progress has been made in unsticking it, and will draw out some broader questions about why we should fund scientific and technological research and what we should hope to gain from it.

Sideways: The City Google Couldn’t Buy

Tue, 25 October 2022, 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM EDT, Rotman School of Management + Livestream 105 St. George Street Toronto, ON M5S 3E6
Josh O’Kane discusses his new book “Sideways: The City Google Couldn’t Buy”. From the Globe and Mail tech reporter who revealed countless controversies while following the Sidewalk Labs fiasco in Toronto, an uncompromising investigation into the bigger story and what the Google sister company”s failure there reveals about Big Tech, data privacy and the monetization of everything. Speakers: Josh O’Kane, Reporter, The Globe and Mail; bestselling author; Shauna Brail, Associate Professor, Institute for Management & Innovation, University of Toronto.

Poster for event

Join us on November 3 from 4-6pm for Does Skill Make us Human? Migrant Workers in 21st-Century Qatar and Beyond

Skill—specifically the distinction between the “skilled” and “unskilled”—is generally defined as a measure of ability and training, but Does Skill Make Us Human? shows instead that skill distinctions are used to limit freedom, narrow political rights, and even deny access to imagination and desire. In the lead up to the 2022 World Cup, Qatar has drawn on cutting-edge material, design, and information technology to rebuild itself as a global elite destination for sports and culture. An examination of the Qatar’s booming construction industry and the experiences of migrant workers it relies on reveals that skill functions as a marker of social difference powerful enough to structure all aspects of social and economic life.

Through unique access to construction sites in Doha, in-depth research, and interviews, Iskander explores how migrants are recruited, trained, and used. Despite their acquisition of advanced technical skills, workers are commonly described as unskilled and disparaged as “unproductive,” “poor quality,” or simply “bodies.” She demonstrates that skill categories adjudicate personhood, creating hierarchies that shape working conditions, labor recruitment, migration policy, the design of urban spaces, and the reach of global industries. Increasingly, these skill politics structure the relationship between work, working conditions and climate change. Skill distinctions define industry responses to global warming, with employers recruiting migrants from climate-damaged places at lower wages and exposing these workers to Qatar’s extreme heat.

About the Speaker

Natasha N. Iskander, Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy, conducts research on the relationship between migration and economic development. She looks at the ways that immigration and the movement of people across borders can provide the basis for the creation of new knowledge and of new pathways for political change. She has published widely on these questions, looking specifically at immigration, skill, economic development, and worker rights.

Editor's Pick


UK’s surprising R&D stats pose tricky questions

Kieron Flanagan, Research Professional News
On 29 September, the Office for National Statistics delivered the biggest surprise to hit UK research and innovation policy in years. Announcing a change to how it estimates business expenditure on R&D, the ONS revised its measure sharply upward—by about £16 billion a year. This post summarizes the change and some of the implications for long-standing questions about the UK’s performance in research and innovation.

Cities & Regions


Industrial policy, productivity and place: London as a ‘role model’ and High Speed 2 (HS2)

Dan Coffey, Carole Thornley, & Philip R. Tomlinson, Regional Studies

Britain’s industrial strategy, preoccupied with labour productivity, projects London as a role model because of a high gross value added (GVA) to employment ratio, an approach since followed in the national ‘levelling-up’ agenda. This article demonstrates that this is misplaced: it misses the subtleties of how positive agglomeration effects act and ignores how negative effects can, for distributional reasons, cause real as well as GVA-measured productivity to rise in a misleading way. It considers the implications for both London and infrastructure projects designed to reduce productivity differentials by improving connectivity with other cities, such as the ambitious but flawed High Speed 2 (HS2).



Comparison of ONS business enterprise research and development statistics with HMRC research and development tax credit statistics

Office For National Statistics
Guidance to help users interpret two data sources of expenditure on research and development and understand the differences between them. The post outlines the impact of interim methodological improvements to how the ONS BERD statistics are compiled. The Office for National Statistics’ (ONS’) Business Enterprise Research and Development (BERD) statistics and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) research and development (R&D) statistics have different coverage and use different methods; these estimates of R&D would not be expected to fully align, however research suggests they should be closer than currently published.

Understanding artificial intelligence spending by the U.S. federal government

Gregory S. Dawson, Kevin C. Desouza, and James S. Denford, Brookings
This post summarizes statistics on artificial intelligence spending by the U.S. federal government. Out of the 15 NAICS code categories identified in contracts, the data show that over 95% of the AI-labelled expenditures are in NAICS 54, which is for professional, scientific, and technical services. This category had over $1 billion in expenditures with a total of 474 unique award pairs (agency-vendor) over the last five years. This is not surprising, as typically the federal government is one of the largest sources of external funding for research and development, which is the core service of NAICS 54. While there are 15 different funding agencies within NAICS 54, 53% of the contracts and 87% of contract value sit within the Department of Defense (DoD).

Innovation Policy


OECD Review of Innovation Policy: Germany

This post summarizes the recent OECD Review of Innovation Policy for Germany. The report notes that Germany needs to adopt a more agile, risk-tolerant and experimental approach to innovation policy if it is to continue to lead in its historical core industries such as automotive manufacturing, machinery, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, and be a champion of the industries of tomorrow. More innovative regulation and public procurement, and higher public support for medium and later stage venture capital and risk finance, could further help the emergence of breakthrough innovations, faster commercialization of impactful research, and ultimately create the demand-side signals necessary to help new markets to emerge for a resilient, competitive, net zero economy.

New National Science and Technology Council established

Cabinet Office, UK
A new National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) has been established with responsibility for driving an ambitious UK science and technology strategy. The NSTC will double down its efforts to create a UK science and technology system that will be a sustained engine for future economic growth, prosperity and security. The NSTC will be chaired by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster as deputy chair. It will deliver a plan to harness science and technology to support economic growth and the UK’s position on the geopolitical stage, sending a clear signal to the sector about the government’s priorities in this area.

Mid-Decade Challenges to National Competitiveness

Special Competitiveness Studies Project
SCSP grew from the Congressionally-mandated National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI). SCSP’s mission is to make recommendations to strengthen America’s long-term competitiveness for a future where artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies reshape its national security, economy, and society. This report sets an agenda for a strategy of technology-centered national competitiveness. The report is an initial why and what that outlines the logic for action and an agenda for the future. From October 2021 until August 2022, SCSP staff also conducted more than 400 engagements with leaders from the private sector, academia, civil society, and government. This post by the American Economics Association summarizes the report.

Policy Digest


Financing Growth and Turning Data into Business: Helping SMEs Scale Up

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that scale up have long raised policy interest for their extraordinary potential in terms of job creation, innovation, competitiveness and economic growth. Yet, little is known about which firms could effectively become scaler-ups, and what policies could effectively promote SME growth. This report is part of a series aiming to help policy makers unleash scaler-ups’ potential. Building on new evidence from microdata work, it rethinks the nature and scope of scale up policies, suggesting the need for a broader and more cross cutting approach. The report then explores two thematic areas that are relevant for SME scaling up, i.e. SME data governance and their access to ‘scale up’ finance. Based on an international mapping of 369 institutions and 1174 policy initiatives across OECD countries, the analysis shows that SME and entrepreneurship policy is not among the core mandates of many implementing institutions, calling for sound coordination across the board and further mainstreaming of SME growth considerations in both policy areas. Moreover, national policy mixes vary significantly across countries, reflecting different approaches to promoting SME growth and to SME targeting, but also revealing possible policy blind spots.

Policies for scaling up

In the policy mix for SME growth finance, generic measures are the exception: 72.6% of all measures (18.7 per country on average) across OECD countries are targeted, in most cases at SMEs (38.6%), but also at certain sectors, technologies or places (15.2%). Efforts to target high–potential firms (“winners”), and frequently decentralized arrangements for implementation, result in a multiplication of public support schemes and eligibility criteria, where (potential) scaler-ups may struggle in identifying the most appropriate solution for their needs. Complementary outreach efforts, e.g. through one–stop–shops, could help in particular, to navigate this potentially more fragmented policy space. Scale up finance policy is more often oriented towards disruptive innovation and equity capital, with lesser emphasis on investment in skills or intangible assets.

By contrast, the SME data governance area (12.8 on average per country) is an emerging policy field, where efforts tend to focus on shaping the data policy system, resulting in more high–level (and less numerous) measures, such as strategies and action plans. As a result, only 29% of data policy measures are SME–targeted, with some data elements often weaved into broader SME digitization initiatives. Likewise, 64% of data governance measures seek to create a data culture and build relevant skills within SMEs, with fewer initiatives for building an SME-friendly data infrastructure.

More evidence is needed to fully assess and inform effective scale up policy design, including on the efficiency of public intervention (e.g. through impact evaluation). Greater insights on actions taken by subnational governments could also provide an important complementary perspective, not least given their role in fostering local ecosystems. More evidence is also needed on other (firm–led) drivers of SME scale up.

A rethinking of scale up policy will ultimately require broader measures and notions of scaling up, going beyond traditional economic performance indicators. The current focus on firms that scale up through turnover or employment may not fully capture the social and/or environmental benefits generated by a larger set of firms. As governments prioritise sustainable growth, appropriate consideration needs to be given to the broader socio–economic gains that may be achieved if scale–ups can help tackle climate change and other societal challenges.

Links to recent IPL webinars


The Politics of Decarbonization

Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy

The transition to a post-carbon energy and economic paradigm is a stated priority for all the signatories to the Paris Accord, including Canada. Success in achieving this objective will depend on a complex mix of policy experimentation and coalition building in support of that objective, cutting across virtually every sector of the economy. This panel will explore some of the dimensions of that process and the prospects for success in achieving that objective.

Moderator: David A. Wolfe is Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto Mississauga and Co-Director of the Innovation Policy Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.


  • Brendan Haley is Policy Research Director at Efficiency Canada, a research and advocacy organization based at Carleton University. He has a PhD in Public Policy from Carleton University and was awarded a Banting postdoctoral fellowship where his work examined Canadian energy transitions from political economy and technological innovation perspectives.
  • Sara Hastings-Simon is macro energy system researcher and Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary where she directs the Masters of Science in Sustainable Energy Development.
  • Nathan Lemphers is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Waterloo and former Postdoctoral Fellow at the Smart Prosperity Institute where he researched the regional political economy of electric vehicles. Sponsored by the Innovation Policy Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy

National Governments & Innovation Policy: Where – and What – Is Utopia?

This is a recording of a January 10 panel focused on national governments and Innovation policy. Canada, the Nordics, Taiwan? In this webinar, panelists examined the diverse roles played by national governments in setting the stage for innovation, as well as the key elements that ought to be considered in formulation of innovation policy in Canada and elsewhere.


  • Susana Borras, Professor, Department of Organization, Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen Denmark
  • Dan Breznitz, University Professor and Munk Chair of Innovation Studies; Co-Director, Innovation Policy Lab, Munk School; Clifford Clark Visiting Economist, Department of Finance, Government of Canada
  • Darius Ornston, Associate Professor, Munk School
  • Joseph Wong, Vice-President, International, University of Toronto; Roz and Ralph Halbert Professor of Innovation, Munk School; Professor, Department of Political Science


  • Rana Foroohar, Global Business Columnist and Associate Editor, Financial Times, and Global Economic Analyst, CNN

From Science to Entrepreneurship

This is a recording of the Nov. 15th, 2021 webinar. There is a plethora of research on university commercialization and technology transfer. However, there is less of a discussion on the skillset and technical capabilities that allow a scientist to become an entrepreneur. In this webinar we will focus on these skills and programs that induce entrepreneurship. Moving from the scientist’s lab, to entrepreneurship courses, to forming a startup, to growing the firm within an incubator or accelerator.


  • Fabiano Armellini, Associate Professor Department of Mathematics and Industrial Engineering, École Polytechnique de Montréal
  • Shiri M. Breznitz, Director, Master of Global Affairs Program; Associate Professor, Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, University of Toronto
  • Elicia Maine, W.J. VanDusen Professor of Innovation & Entrepreneurship; Academic Director, Invention to Innovation (i2I); Special Advisor on Innovation to the VPRI, Simon Fraser University
  • Sophie Veilleux, Professor, Department of Management of the Faculty of Business Administration at Université Laval
  • Sarah Lubik (moderator), Director of Entrepreneurship; Co-Champion, Technology Entrepreneurship@SFU Lecturer, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University


16th Workshop on The Organisation, Economics and Policy of Scientific Research

13 – 14 April 2023
The Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition and TUM are organising the annual workshop “The Organisation, Economics and Policy of Scientific Research” at the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition in Munich. We aim to attract contributions from both junior and senior scholars on topics related to the organisation, economics and policy of scientific research. A minimum number of slots are reserved for junior researchers (PhD students or postdoc scholars who obtained their PhD in 2020 or later). Please submit previously unpublished papers or extended abstracts (min 3 pages) by 15 January 2023. We strive to notify authors by 27 February 2023.

Subscriptions & Comments

Please forward this newsletter to anyone you think will find it of value. We look forward to collaborating with you on this initiative. If you would like to comment on, or contribute to, the content, subscribe or unsubscribe, please contact us at .

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