27 August 2008

Richard Florida speaks at GBC's annual Presidential Breakfast

President Anne Sado's Annual Breakfast to kick off the new academic year this year featured noted academic Richard Florida from UofT's Rotman School of Management. Florida's speech about the fabric of Toronto as composed of all educational institutions resonated with President Sado's message about the future GBC is charting with our new campus and educational pathways with Trent University. "Creativity is the font of our economic growth . . . and the basic resource or raw material for growth" Florida told the crowd. This message is central to Florida's thesis of the new creative economy as being the basis for the post-industrial (and perhaps even post-information) age.

The need to move "from a creative economy to a creative society" that includes leveraging the assets and strengths of new immigrants is well aligned with GBC's applied research mandate, and in particular our new program for internationally trained individuals in Research Commercialization and Innovation. The location of our new campus on the Toronto waterfront reinforces Toronto as a place of/for innovation; leveraging all aspects of the GTA as a virtual research cluster made up of complementary ad hoc teams is perhaps one way to conceptualize how we can collectively leverage both geographic location (proximity) with technology (the Internet) to create a seamless virtual research cluster from the disparate strands that comprise industrial and academic research institutions.

Florida spoke to the need to move from "Research, Teaching and Service" to "Discovery, Learning and Engagement." This is about "unlocking creativity" and how GBC is more nimble and connected to the local/regional economy (a particular strength of our educational and applied research capabilities). This last point resonates with an article from Saturday's Globe and Mail on Michael Heller's notion of the "gridlock economy." Heller's point is that we need open innovation - less control on patents and copyrights for example - in order to ensure that there is a free flowing of ideas and tweaking of existing ideas to make new and improved products and services. This open source learning or open access approach leads to improved productivity and more diffuse - perhaps regional - innovation (the "rising tide" approach to development). Regional development in this context acknowledges the explicit histories that are part of all innovations.

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