11 November 2009

Global cities, productivity, and innovation

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development launched their Territorial Review of Toronto at the Toronto Forum For Global Cities, held over the past two days. Among the many findings is the widely reported loss of productivity that traffic jams cause the city, in which home to "a fifth of national GDP, and 45% of Ontario’s GDP [and] 40% of the nation’s business headquarters."

The conference offered many good insights on the role of cities in the world economy, set against the backdrop of increasing urbanization and the estimate that, by 2050, 70% of the world's population will be living in cities. Thus the theme of the conference was how to improve the cities in which we live and work "in the post-bailout era" that will see governments of all levels struggling with increasing large debt loads.

Bill Hutchison of Waterfront Toronto was among the many presenters. Hutchison presented the vision for the revitalization of the Toronto Waterfront, where GBC is building our new campus. Called the “The Intelligent Community Open Architecture” (see image), the idea is that space and place are the foundations around which coalesce the social, economic and cultural development of the innovation economy.

Other panels that stand out include on on "Smarter Economic Development," which featured Ontario Minister of Economic Development and Trade and New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham. While the focus was on varying levels of government, there was also good discussion on the role of post-secondary education and the development of a highly skilled and talented workforce. As noted in earlier posts, colleges are key to Canadian educational attainment figures ,and our graduates - 70% of the work force - are key innovation instigators.

Robert Reich, Former U.S. Secretary of Labor, gave a keynote talk on Competing in an Innovation-Intensive Economy, in which he spoke about the role of innovation in the economy of the future. Reich spoke of the need to avoid decisions that could compromise our long term ability to invest in citizens, education and health. Early childhood education was singled out as a key investment/enabler, echoing Martin and Florida's Creativity report. Governments must invest in research, human capital and infrastructure, Reich intoned, warning that "the biggest enemy of innovation is past success." That is, we must not be complacent as we orient ourselves toward public private partnerships in support of the innovation economy.

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