26 March 2012

On clusters and place: the geography of innovation

The Toronto Board of Trade released its Scorecard on Prosperity, emphasizing regional innovation and clusters. The Globe and Mail has a good summary of its findings, including useful infographics that show Toronto's regional innovation strengths. As I've indicated earlier, place matters to productivity, and it is good to see that the TBOT report reinforces food manufacturing as one of Toronto's main economic engines. The GBC Food Innovation Research Studio (FIRSt) is a hub for industry innovation in the food product development space, capitalizing on the vast economic potential of the food industries in the Greater Toronto Area. (As I've indicated before: There are 25000 SMEs within 80KM of GBC FIRSt working in the food product development area. The sector contributes over $84B annually to the Ontario economy (half of this in the Toronto area), employs 30% more people than the auto industry, employs 1 in 13 people in Canada, and is 9% of Canadian GDP (to put that into perspective, oil, gas and mining combined are 4.5% of GDP).)

The report outlines the need for Toronto to focus on industries that will drive further economic growth. Of some of the obstacles noted, the report includes the regional "inability to commercialize cutting-edge research; and issues around access to capital to support the creation and growth of innovative firms" - issues well noted by many others. The report further states that "Toronto needs a strategy to take advantage of the growth opportunities in certain clusters while trying to improve the performance of those clusters that are important to the region’s economic fabric but have been lagging," points that will be taken up at a regional summit being held this Thursday. I am looking forward to the event.

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