The IPL newsletter: Volume 23, Issue 473

News from the IPL


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.


Dan Breznitz awarded Donner Prize

IPL Co-director and University of Toronto University Professor Dan Breznitz has been awarded the Donner Prize for the best public policy book by a Canadian for his latest book, Innovation in Real Places: Strategies for Prosperity in an Unforgiving World, published by Oxford University Press.

Dan Breznitz awarded Balsillie Prize for Public Policy

IPL Co-director and University of Toronto University Professor Dan Breznitz has been awarded the Balsille Prize for Public Policy by the Writers’ Trust of Canada for his latest book, Innovation in Real Places: Strategies for Prosperity in an Unforgiving World, published by Oxford University Press.

David Wolfe nominated to the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Council of Canadian Academies

IPL Co-director David Wolfe was recently nominated to serve on the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Council of Canadian Academies. The role of the Scientific Advisory Committee is to advise the CCA’s Board on assessment topics, expert panel composition, and peer review.



The large firm dilemma: anchor embeddedness and high-technology competition

Darius Ornston & Lorena Camargo, Socio-Economic Review
Do large firms support or suppress regional entrepreneurship? Comparing Ottawa and Waterloo, two entrepreneurial ecosystems dominated by large, flagship firms, Nortel and Research in Motion (RIM), we demonstrate how an anchor firm’s relationship to the entrepreneurial community shapes entrepreneurial activity. In Ottawa, an engaged anchor delivered the public goods to overcome the negative externalities associated with large firm growth. In the long run, however, this vibrant, startup scene proved surprisingly vulnerable to Nortel’s decline. In Waterloo, in contrast, new firm formation plummeted under a detached anchor. RIM’s isolation, however, enabled Waterloo to construct the independent, entrepreneurial infrastructure it needed to capitalize on its collapse. Illuminating the mechanisms behind ‘entrepreneurial recycling’, or the reallocation of labor from declining anchor firms, we argue that regions confront a strategic dilemma in how they engage large firms.

Impacts and implications for the post-COVID city: the case of Toronto

Shauna Brail, Mark Kleinman, Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society
Since the onset of COVID-19, scholars have questioned whether the pandemic will alter the fundamentals propelling the growth of global cities. Using a case study of Toronto, the paper examines and analyses changes impacting the city because of the pandemic, with a focus on work, mobility and housing. In assessing pandemic-related disruption, it outlines the experiences of the early phases of recovery and expectations of continued uncertainty. Moving through and beyond COVID-19, Toronto appears unlikely to move up the rankings of global cities. The city’s status as a second-tier global city is an enduring competitive advantage, likely to persist post-COVID.

Who Does What Series: The Municipal Role in Economic Development

Shauna Brail, Charles Conteh, & Leann Hackman-Carty, Institute on Municipal Finance & Governance
Ensuring a growing and vibrant economy is a priority for all orders of government, including municipalities. Changes in the economy, including the rise of globalization and the emergence of new disruptive technologies, have altered government approaches to economic development policy. Alongside tax incentives intended to encourage business to relocate to their community, municipalities also favour cluster strategies to strengthen the competitiveness of cities and city-regions through collaboration across governments, the private sector, universities, and civil society organizations. The three papers in this report – written by academics and practitioners – examine the role of municipalities in economic development through the perspectives of large cities, small and mid-sized cities, and with respect to innovation policy in particular. They identify where municipalities currently face constraints, how other orders of government can support municipalities, and where intergovernmental cooperation is needed. See also the associated podcast by IPL Senior Associate Shauna Brail.

The contribution of students to regional economies: Reframing the regional innovation systems approach

Shiri M. Breznitz, Helen Lawton Smith, & Sharmistha Bagchi-Sen, Regional Studies
This intro to a recent Regional Studies special issue is co-authored by IPL affiliated faculty member Shiri M. Breznitz. The role of universities in regional development has grown significantly over the past two decades. One strand of analysis has been that of the university in regional innovation systems (RIS). However, the contribution of university students has largely been neglected. This special issue contributes to the RIS literature by unpacking the RIS concept through exploring this specific aspect of university engagement in regional economies. The nine papers collectively offer an understanding of the effects of student activity upon the knowledge, skill and entrepreneurial bases of regions. The papers provide evidence and analysis from Asia, Australia, Europe and North America.

Editor's Pick

Lift All Boats: The Opportunity in Digitizing Canada’s Traditional Industries

The Innovation Economy Council
The IEC is a coalition of tech-sector leaders dedicated to shaping Canada’s industrial innovation policy. In recent years, Canada’s economy has been configured around two increasingly disparate parts. One segment encompasses highly productive and tech-driven sectors, including advanced manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, biotech, food processing, aerospace, logistics, fintech and engineering services. The other segment encompasses Canada’s most traditional industries — sectors that trace their roots to the country’s origins, such as mining, forestry, agriculture, heavy industry and energy. This report explores the state of digitalization in Canada’s largest traditional sectors and share case studies on emerging technology solutions in these verticals.

Cities & Regions

Commonwealth of innovation: A policy agenda for revitalizing Pennsylvania’s economic dynamism

Mark Muro, Robert Maxim, and Yang You, Brookings
Few states possess as many of the assets needed for innovation-driven growth as Pennsylvania. Powerhouse research universities are working on the most critical issues of the day in the life sciences, artificial intelligence, robotics, transportation, and energy. And yet, for all that, Pennsylvania has not been able to convert its assets into abundant, high-quality economic growth or broad-based employment across an array of high-tech, high-pay advanced industries. This report reviews the state’s major innovation trends and challenges, and suggests a set of state-level policy recommendations with an eye toward helping the new governor energize the state’s innovation sector.


How talent can help unlock the innovation potential of Canadian SMEs

Jeffrey Carey, Mitacs
A key component in Canada’s long-lived innovation performance difficulties is the limited capacity of the country's nearly 1.15 million SMEs to innovate. This study examines what barriers are limiting the innovation performance of Canadian SMEs and how they are using talent from work-integrated-learning (WIL) programs to address those challenges. The research involves examining project applications submitted to Mitacs's Business Strategy Internship (BSI) program. This reveals that talent access is a key issue inhibiting SME innovation performance throughout Canada’s innovation ecosystem, and that skilled talent acquired through innovation-related WIL programs can help drive SME innovation, encourage product and market diversification strategies, technological upgrading, and the development of more sustainable growth trajectories. This page also contains other recent studies as part of Mitacs’ ‘Innovation Insights’ series.

2020 BERD data shows an increase of over $45 billion in domestic R&D spending

Conor Gowder, SSTI
New Business Enterprise Research and Development Survey (BERD) data reveals that domestic research and development (R&D) spending, although slowing, is still on an uptrend. From 2018 to 2019, business R&D spending increased by 11.8% (from approximately $441 billion to $492 billion), with new data showing a further increase of 9.1% from 2019 to 2020 ($492 billion to $538 billion).

Evolutionary Economics, Routines, and Dynamic Capabilities

David Teece, UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP) Working Paper Series
This article is from a forthcoming chapter in The Handbook of Evolutionary Economics (Routledge), edited by Richard Nelson, Kurt Dopfer, Jason Potts and Andreas Pyka. Evolutionary economics has been a key influence on strategic management and especially on the dynamic capabilities framework, where it is a foundational pillar. However, the emphasis by evolutionists is on fleshing out a theory of routines while downplaying the bold entrepreneurial moves that drive the business enterprise — and the economic system — forward. The dynamic capabilities framework, by embracing the role of entrepreneurial managers, including the development of a change-oriented organisational culture, the achievement of asset alignment and the placing of bold (but smart) bets, provides the basis for a more realistic model of firms as they compete in fast-changing and uncertain business environments.

Innovation Policy

ITB Policy Annual Report: Economic and Innovation Impact Analysis

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
This report summarizes recent activity of the Government of Canada’s Industrial Technology Benefits Program. The ITB policy contractually requires companies awarded defence procurement contracts to undertake market-driven business activity in Canada equal to the value of the contracts they have won. Specifically, the ITB policy supports employment and economic growth across the country, drives innovation and exports, scales up small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), and advances gender equality, diversity, and inclusion. The 89 currently active ITB projects result in more than $44B of ITB economic obligations. The report summarizes economic impacts, the profile of ITB beneficiaries, the regional impacts of the program, among other aspects.

CIFAR appoints 8 new artificial intelligence (AI) chairs as Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy Enters Phase 2

Meagan Simpson, Betakit
Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) is responsible for implementing phase two of the $443 million federal AI strategy. Originally announced in Budget 2017, phase two funding for the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy was announced in Budget 2021. Seven of the Canada CIFAR AI Chairs are affiliated with the Vector Institute with one appointed to Amii. The chairs are meant to support Canadian understanding and research in the strategy’s priority areas, which include health, energy, the environment, fundamental science, and the responsible use of AI.

Intellectual Property Ontario is Open for Business

Ontario Government
The Ontario government is supporting the province’s innovators in developing, managing and commercializing their intellectual property (IP) with the launch of services at Intellectual Property Ontario (IPON). The new agency, announced in March 2022, will help researchers, entrepreneurs and businesses maximize the value of their IP and strengthen their capacity to grow and compete in the global economy. IPON is now open for business and will offer services to an initial cohort of clients in the medical technologies, artificial intelligence, and automotive technologies sectors this fall, broadening its services to additional clients in the coming months. This program follows from a 2020 report by the Export Panel on Intellectual Property, with contributions by IPL affiliated faculty member Shiri Breznitz.

Record funding uplift for UK battery research and development

UK Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy
This post summarizes recent investments in the UK’s battery R&D manufacturing capacity. Notably, £211 million of government funding was recently confirmed for battery research through the Faraday Battery Challenge. The post notes that the battery industry could support 100,000 jobs by 2040 and is central to growth of key industries – such as electric vehicles and renewables.

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

Canada’s Quantum Internet: Prospects and Perils

This is a recording of the April 20, 2021 webinar that together experts to discuss the political, economic, and scientific implications of quantum communications, for Canada and the world .Speakers: Francesco Bova, Associate Professor, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto; Anne Broadbent, Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Ottawa; Jon Lindsay, Assistant Professor, Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy and Department of Political Science, University of Toronto; Christoph Simon, Professor and Associate Head, Research, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Calgary; & Dan Patterson (moderator), Technology Reporter, CBS News

Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship in Canada

This is a recording of the March 23rd 2021 webinar focused on the importance of IP protection for entrepreneurship, the intellectual property environment in Canada, and existing support for firms. Panelists discussed issues relating to their firm’s ability to secure IP especially as it relates to IP education and the role of government in supporting IP protection. Speakers: Seray Çiçek,  Ryan Hubbard, Graeme Moffat, Moderator: Shiri Breznitz


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