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A digital toolkit for Ec Dev 2.0 | Number 33 | Circ 6,325

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Continuous innovation as a key driver of economic growth

The Centre for American Progress recently released a series of reports on United States Science, Innovation and Economic Competitiveness. These reports address the federal government’s programs and services to promote innovation and competitiveness; data and metrics that are used to identify key drivers of innovation; the need for technical skills; methods to bridge the innovation gap between university research and the marketplace; and the economic impact of highly-skilled immigrants in terms of job and sales growth. The Competitiveness and Innovative Capacity of the United States, recently released by the U.S. Department of Commerce, similarly supports the premise that innovation is the key driver for growth. The report states that the three key pillars to innovation and future competitiveness are federal support for basic research, education and infrastructure.

Although these reports are U.S. based, the fundamental premise is true for Canadian communities. The Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity’s research team, for example, recently examined the connection between innovation and the small and medium-sized business sector in the Small Business, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation working paper. This paper provides direction for economic policy makers to promote innovation and productivity across all sectors, customize programs for high-growth entrepreneurial businesses, and explore changes to the tax system to help growth-oriented businesses regardless of employee size. For economic developers seeking to foster growth it is important to ensure that innovative or entrepreneurial businesses in our communities can access the programs, partners, highly-skilled workers, and technological infrastructure needed to promote innovation.

Building win-win relationships between natural resource industries and communities

Local communities are increasingly demanding sustainable development opportunities as outcomes of extractive industry investments. The top 10 trends mining companies face in 2012, emphasizes the importance of increased local engagement and participation. To achieve this, best practices recommend first listening to the expectations of the community. Usually they have a vision that comes from the community's past experiences, its history and its collective capabilities. Second, listen to community concerns. If the community members believe their concerns are being taken into account it is quite possible to start envisioned partnerships and value-chains within industry clusters and community. Third, it is important to build on mutual interests.

When it comes to financing infrastructure projects in a sustainable way a theoretical reference designed for different stakeholders and extractive resources industries exists. These requirements have been refined while keeping in mind the needs of different industries and regulators and, more specifically, companies involved in extractive resources. These political frameworks are not enough to guarantee success, but it is possible to see that excellent examples from communities are emerging.  In a capital intensive industry, like mining, local economic development creates sustainable environments for long-term relations between companies and communities, maximizes transfer of skills, creates local jobs, optimizes company investment, and guarantees efficiency in the value-chain, and reduces social risk.

ICT, global collaboration and cities of the future

Approximately 6 billion people are expected to live in cities around the world by 2050. With this growth will come tremendous challenges, but the density of knowledge, resources, and people in cities position them to be sources of solutions to these problems. As part of the Networked Society initiative, for example, Ericsson recently produced a short film titled Thinking Cities, which illustrates how information and communications technology (ICT) is driving the move to make cities more sustainable. The film outlines initiatives like the public engagement efforts of the City of Boston through Citizens Connect, and the sustainable planning and design features of the Stockholm Royal Seaport district in Sweden. With some communities implementing best practices like these, the question becomes: how can we tackle these problems without having the hundreds of thousands of cities across the globe trying to reinvent the wheel? Living Labs Global (LLG) has taken an innovative step in support global collaboration. The LLG Awards 2012 forum allows cities from across the globe to submit issues for consideration with an open call for proposals to solve their problems. Current entries range from wireless control of urban systems in San Francisco, to mass and smart housing solutions in Lagos, Nigeria. A networking summit has been scheduled for Rio de Janeiro in May to highlight the best solutions submitted. Though globally-focused solution, the model has potential applications at the local, regional, and national level, especially given the trend towards sharing and applying urban systems data in Canadian cities, as highlighted in TINAN 23.

Technology influence on the workplace in 2012

As technology becomes increasingly advanced and pervasive, there have been many predictions about how it will change the way we work (take a look at this 1969 BBC video, this article from GigaOm or this 1987 video from Apple for examples). You have only to look around to see just how entrenched mobile technology is in our daily activities, from the classroom to the workplace, where autonomics (like Apple's Siri) are expected to change the future of office work. In fact, Dr. John Sullivan, a well-known thought leader in human resources, states that the mobile platform will be the dominant communications and interaction platform by early-adopting best-practice organizations in 2012. But more companies, like Proctor and Gamble, are discovering that an über-connected workplace is not just about implementing a new set of tools — it is also about embracing a cultural shift to create an open environment where employees are encouraged to share, innovate and collaborate virtually to boost employee morale and productivity. In the face of these shifts in the workplace, the challenge facing those involved in workforce development is to develop initiatives that empower and enable job seekers to use these tools and to embrace the new workplace. Examples such as that found in Michigan, are having a positive impact. Microsoft's Elevate America program is providing the workforce with access to the training and skills necessary for jobs in the burgeoning information technology field. For those in a position of influence, whether a teacher in the classroom or a councillor working with a displaced worker, now is the time to encourage and connect labour force participants to the technology that will shape how we work in the future. To find out more about other trends impacting workforce development in 2012, take a look at TINAN 32.

Employment Development Index January 2012

Our Employment Development Index is a visual representation of changes in regional employment figures over time.

For a Statistics Canada map of the economic regions highlighted in the Employment Development Index, click here.

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