Inclusive Innovation Monitor: Tracking growth, inclusion, and distribution for a more prosperous and just society

Using a wide array of data, we explore Canada’s inclusive innovation performance relative to international peers.
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Daniel Munro
Research Advisor
Joshua Zachariah
Alumni, Economist
February 23, 2021
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About This Report

Innovation is a core ingredient in the prosperity and well-being of a community. New or improved services, products, and processes—and the business and social benefits they generate––shape economic performance, as well as individual and community well-being. However, as many reports and scorecards have revealed, Canada’s innovation performance is lacklustre when compared to our OECD and G7 peers. At the same time, economists and policymakers are realizing that a focus on innovation and economic growth alone can create large disparities between various demographics and income levels. Innovation can generate substantial economic and social benefits—but often those benefits are captured by a select few rather than more equitably distributed among groups and regions. Due to data collection and reporting lags among key organizations, our data and analysis was developed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis. However, the current situation and the ensuing economic crisis have revealed the need to boost participation in the innovation economy and broaden the distribution of its benefits among groups and regions. This is needed to simultaneously foster a more inclusive and equitable economy and to improve innovation performance itself.

In order to address these disparities and improve Canada’s inclusive innovation performance, we need to understand our strengths and weaknesses. To that end, this report gathers a wide array of metrics and data that speak to our innovation performance, how opportunities to participate are distributed, and who reaps the benefits. Metrics include categories like education, financing, entrepreneurship, technology adoption, wages, wealth distribution, and dimensions like sex, race, Indigenous identity, and disability. These broad categories are then broken down further into more granular details, such as the number of researchers in a country, the amount spent on research and development, indicators of women entrepreneurship, and intergenerational income mobility rates. 

Read this report to help you:
  • Understand what inclusive innovation means.
  • Explore a wide range of innovation and inclusion data—from R&D spending, technology adoption and patenting to the distribution of educational attainment, labour force participation, income, wealth and poverty by gender, racial identity, disability, and region. 
  • Learn about Canada’s strengths in inclusive innovation, and where we fall short.
  • Identify where we need more and better data to fully understand Canada’s inclusive innovation performance. 

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Explore the Interactive Tool

Examine the data and metrics in our Inclusive Innovation Monitor through our interactive web application. Users can explore Canada’s performance on innovation, inclusivity, equity, and their intersection through a series of data cards with customizable graphs and commentary. The website is a living, growing repository for the data and analysis of this new and important policy project in Canada. We will expand and enhance this tool as new data becomes available.

Interactive Tool

Key findings from the report

  • The Inclusive Innovation Monitor tracks the performance of more than 30 indicators of innovation, equity, and inclusion to highlight the relationships among these variables and to help inform policies aimed at building a more resilient, innovative, and inclusive economy in Canada.
    • Metrics include categories like education, financing, entrepreneurship, technology adoption, wages, wealth distribution, and dimensions like sex, race, Indigenous identity, and disability.
  • A growing body of research suggests that inclusive economies generate more and better innovation, higher growth, and a more equitable distribution of the benefits of innovation. The Inclusive Innovation Monitor will help researchers and policymakers further explore this hypothesis by providing a clearer understanding of the state of innovation opportunities, activities, and outcomes—and how they are distributed among people and communities in Canada and globally.
  • A pre-COVID baseline of inclusive innovation metrics reveals that Canada lags international peers on many innovation opportunities, activities, and outcomes, while the ability to participate in and benefit from innovation are not equitably distributed across regions, income groups, racialized groups, gender, and (dis)ability.
    • Canada has high levels of educational attainment, excellent idea generation, and, until recently, an improving ecosystem of innovation financing—but there are deep and persistent inequities in the distribution of these opportunities.
    • Canada’s tech sector is growing and innovating, but firms in the economy more broadly are slow to adopt productivity-improving technologies, spend proportionally less on R&D than most OECD peers, and fail to adequately empower and reward women, racialized minorities, and Indigenous people.
    • Entrepreneurial initiative in Canada is world-leading, but actual start-up, scale-up, and innovation activities are less than stellar by international standards, and there are substantial inequities in entrepreneurial and employment opportunities.
    • Prior to the pandemic, Canada’s productivity was similar to the OECD average, Canadians earned more than peers in the OECD, and poverty was declining, but we have struggled to improve productivity, and there are persistent and stark inequities in income and wealth distribution.
  • If Canada wants a strong, innovation-led post-COVID recovery, we will need policies and strategies that provide better resources and opportunities for people and firms, and more equitable access to the benefits of innovation and economic growth.


We sort the data into three pillars that focus attention on key elements of both innovation and inclusion/distribution: Opportunity, Activity, and Outcomes.  

  • The Opportunity pillar includes indicators that illuminate the extent to which the Canadian innovation ecosystem has the resources and inputs to support innovation, and the distribution of these resources and inputs among people and regions. Indicators include the proportion of people with post-secondary education, the availability of financial resources for research and innovation, and levels of basic and advanced skills and knowledge for innovation. 
  • The Activity pillar provides a picture of the innovation-related activities pursued by firms, including business R&D, technology adoption, and product, process and service development. It also shows who participates in the economy generally, and in innovation specifically using labour market statistics.
  • Finally the Outcome pillar reveals the extent to which the economy and society benefit from innovative activity, and the distribution of those benefits among people and communities. We look at broad economic outcome measures such as wages and GDP, as well as how these outputs are distributed using indicators like income inequality, poverty and mobility. 

For most indicators, we compare Canada’s performance to OECD countries, with a focus on G7 countries given their similar levels of social and economic development. However, where we think it is important to track a certain indicator in the Canadian context, we include it even if there is insufficient data for international comparison. 

Partners and Sponsors

This is a joint project between the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E) and the Innovation Policy Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy. We are grateful to our advisors and to the students of the Inclusive Innovation Scorecards course at the Munk School for helping to shape this project.

A special Thank-You to our student collaborators for their contributions to this project (in last name alphabetical order):

Lorena Camargo, Alana Fawcett, Zissis Hadjis, Mavis Han, Abu Kamat, Heejae Yang, Liang Zhou


Armine Yalnizyan
IIE Work Stream Fellow
John Knubley
Consultant and former Deputy Minister, Government of Canada

A Deep Dive into Nova Scotia

About the Nova Scotia Inclusive Innovation Monitor

Nova Scotia is clearly a desirable place to live, and during the pandemic, the Atlantic province saw a surge in immigrants and intra-provincial moves, sending the population to an all-time high in July 2020. But in order to keep this growth going, Nova Scotia needs a strong economic strategy that focuses on innovation and inclusion. This strategy needs to consider key questions, such as: Who is currently participating in, benefitting from, and making decisions about Nova Scotia’s innovation economy? The Nova Scotia Inclusive Innovation Monitor draws on data from BII+E’s national project to paint a picture of inclusive innovation in the province, identifying shortfalls, successes and opportunities. This report aims to inform the work of Nova Scotia’s public, private, and nonprofit sector leaders as they seek to build a prosperous future for all Nova Scotians.

About our Funder

ONSIDE (Organization for Nova Scotia Innovation-Driven Entrepreneurship) is a not-for-profit organization that amplifies the power of inclusive innovation-driven entrepreneurship and disruptive ideas. We mobilize collaboration to turn ideas into impact for a more prosperous and entrepreneurial future in Nova Scotia.

Deep Dive

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Feb 23, 2021

Growing evidence suggests that inclusive economies generate more and better innovation, higher growth, and a more equitable distribution of related risks and benefits.
NEW TOOL: If Canada wants to build a thriving innovation economy, it needs to be more inclusive
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