Shiri Breznitz
Innovation, Economy & prosperity, Munk School, Innovation Policy Lab

Innovation in her own words: Shiri Breznitz appointed Roz and Ralph Halbert Professor of Innovation

When the Munk School’s Director of Research Shiri Breznitz was working on her master’s degree in Boston, she recognized the pattern of biotech businesses in her neighbourhood, near MIT, with the prefix gen in their name. Through her thesis research, Breznitz identified that they relied upon their connections to universities in the area.

That was a watershed moment for Breznitz and became the foundation for the next stage of her academic journey. She perceived that universities play a pivotal role in the innovation economy, the creation of companies and, more broadly, in knowledge transfer. This is the space where she now focuses her research.

By training, Breznitz is an economic geographer. She specializes in innovation, technology commercialization and regional economic development. Her work lies at the intersection of theory and policy to fit the new realities of globalization. Breznitz’s findings and insights have gone far beyond her observations of Boston biotech and now inform policymaking at an international level.

In her own words, Breznitz defines innovation as “the creation of new products, processes and services,” underscoring that innovation is not solely about invention but, critically, the realization and application of novel ideas. “Sometimes it’s the new way of doing something that we’ve been doing for a long time, but in a different and more efficient way,” she says. She views the transformation of theoretical concepts into practical solutions as a key driver of economic growth, pushing industries to evolve and shaping societal progress.

Recently, Breznitz was appointed the Roz and Ralph Halbert Professor of Innovation, a position that honours the Halberts’ contributions to innovation, entrepreneurship and their vision of building academic bridges through discovery. For Breznitz, this role creates an opportunity to dig deep into what she noticed back in grad school: knowledge transfer from universities to the public domain remains vital and can influence economic development and the dynamics of innovation.

Breznitz’s appointment also signals her dedication to unraveling the intricate web of connections between academia and transformative progress. With her insights, Breznitz aims to support U of T’s entrepreneurship education and technology commercialization programs that allow students to learn from and work with other global innovation ecosystems — leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of innovation studies.

To Breznitz, the multidisciplinary research and hands-on policy work of the Munk School presents an opportunity for cross-disciplinary ideas, which will ultimately enhance the quality of policy and research output — at the Munk School, the University of Toronto and beyond.