Looking Ahead to 2019: BII+E’s best and brightest reveal what they’re most excited for next year

Looking Ahead to 2019: BII+E’s best and brightest reveal what they’re most excited for next year

As a new year fast approaches, our experts and researchers at the Brookfield Institute share what excites them most when it comes to Canada’s innovation economy in 2019
Illustration of person on ladder in the clouds looking through giant telescope.
Erin Warner
BII+E Alumni
December 21, 2018
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was an exciting year for Canada’s innovation ecosystem, cementing the country’s place as a leader in Artificial Intelligence, launching the innovation superclusters nationwide and drawing the attention of global tech giants like Uber, Microsoft and Amazon. This past year Canadian tech companies received record high levels of tech investment totalling $1.28 billion of venture capital funding, with top made-in-Canada companies like Element AI, Wealthsimple, Ritual and Coinsquare drawing increased attention from around the world.

As a new year fast approaches, we asked our experts and researchers at the Brookfield Institute to share their hopes and expectations for 2019, the things that excite them most when it comes to the possibilities within Canada’s innovation ecosystem.

Below is a snapshot of what we heard:



Headshot of Andrew Do.

Andrew Do, Policy Advisor

We’ve got lots to look forward to. I expect to see more “Future of Artificial Intelligence and [insert issue X]  headlines everywhere. Right now, the theme that captivates the attention of self-professed policy wonks is the “Future of Artificial Intelligence and Ethics.” I guess they have moved on from the sharing economy or scale-ups to newer exciting things. Canada recently hosted the G7 Multistakeholder Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Montreal. There are also Ted Talks on artificial intelligence and ethics, which is always a sign that something is at the peak of its hype cycle. This means that issues like bias in data and privacy are getting scrutinized, which presents an opportunity to really have a serious conversation about the ethics of using data to inform public policy. For example, should credit scores (which is not what people typically think about when they refer to AI) be used to make immigration decisions like the Department of Homeland Security is proposing to do in the US? I am hopeful that all the excitement around AI and ethics can be an entry-point for critically revisiting how we use data to make public policy.

Headshot of Sarah Doyle.

Sarah Doyle, Director of Policy + Research

Interest in “the future of work” has snowballed over the last two years. The dominant question has been how to train people so they can participate in a shifting labour market. But the focus is widening, and the question many will be grappling with in 2019 is what kind of economy we are asking people to participate in. As digital platforms facilitate the unbundling of jobs into tasks that can be completed on demand, the average worker captures less of the wealth resulting from economic growth, and pay and participation – including in the tech sector – follow patterns of inequity across demographic lines, concern about the quality of jobs, and about equity as well as inclusion, is growing. I look forward to working with the awesome team at the Brookfield Institute, and with current and new networks of partners, to contribute to imagining alternate futures for our economy, and for the policy frameworks that help to shape it.

Headshot of Coralie D'Souza.

Coralie D’Souza, Director of Communications, Events + Community Relations

While Canada continues to make great strides in supporting its innovation economy, we know that innovation and tech have the potential to boost our economy and improve our quality of life. I’m most excited about the work we’ll be conducting in our Innovative + Inclusive Economy Workstream, which examines the distribution of risks and benefits in Canada’s innovation economy and explores how to improve equity and broaden participation.

At the Brookfield Institute, we’re constantly looking to new and creative ways to bring policy and communications closer together, bringing policy to life and making it more accessible. This year, we’ll hear from experts wholike usare exploring not only an innovative economy, but also an inclusive one.

Headshot of Heather Russek.Headshot of Jessica Thorton.

Heather Russek, Director + Jessica Thornton, Senior Projects Designer

Canadians are becoming obsessed with thinking about the future, and we couldn’t be happier about it. As conversations about the future of AI policy, future of trust, future of work and future of cities continue, we want to consider how strategic foresight can facilitate a deeper dive into innovation policy topics. Strategic foresight provides a range of approaches to help us push beyond our current assumptions and to explore a range of other possible futures. In doing so, we can better understand our preferred future, and the steps needed to move us in that direction. Our hope for 2019 is that we can move beyond talking about things that might change to actually exploring what the range of possibilities could look like. In doing so, Canadians can gain a better understanding of the future we want, and what it might take to get us there.

Headshot of Mark Hazelden.

Mark Hazelden, Senior Director

I hope that 2019 continues to trend away from extreme views regarding the potential impacts of technology-driven change, where humanity is either doomed to be disrupted out of meaningful employmentand maybe even existenceor where we’re poised to be so awash in abundance that all of today’s crises are averted. We should temper our fears and our expectations and be smart about anticipating potential scenarios while taking the time to understand history.

Another perhaps more pedestrian hope for 2019 is that communities across Canada become more bullish when it comes to demanding more from foreign direct investment. If a deal isn’t a net win, then why pursue it? A very cursory understanding of Montreal’s efforts appear to reveal a city that makes it clear to prospective new entrants that investments must add to, rather than deplete, both the tangible and intangible qualities that make the city a fantastic place work live and work. The GTA’s bid for Amazon’s HQ2, which didn’t propose selling us out via insane financial incentives, was another good signal. Let’s ‘get to yes,’ but only on terms where Canada wins.

Headshot of Meghan Hellstern.

Meghan Hellstern, Senior Project Officer

2019 will be the year we start seeing artificial intelligence becoming increasingly omnipresent in daily lifeneither as the dystopian robot overlord, nor the Jetsons-era dream of humanistic robots that take care of our entire daily livesbut in more quotidian ways. Recently I ran into Pepper, a humanoid service robot created by SoftBank Robotics, at the Montreal airport and I was struck by how both mundane and exotic it was. Many people passed by without noticing Pepper; others would interact hesitantly; children appeared to be the most eager to play with Pepper. Many of today’s applications of these new technologies are largely invisible, whether through its influence in Canada’s immigration system, hiring systems or elsewhere. In 2019, expect to see more AI become more visible, in ways both awkward and awe-inspiring, not to mention world-changing.

 Photo of customer service robot.

Headshot of Annalise Huynh.

Annalise Huynh, Policy Analyst + Designer

2019 is the year that digital literacy will land on Canada like a cat—on all fours. In recent years, provincial and municipal governments as well as private and public organizations have been hustling to build digital skills-focused curricula and improve access to tech (think initiatives like CodeBC or organizations like Brilliant Labs in Atlantic Canada). When Jupiter enters Sagittarius, the time may be ripe for Canada to roll out a national strategy to support digital literacy from sea to sea. 2019 is the year for focusing on relationships, but folks should be wary of entering new partnerships when mercury is in retrograde.

Headshot of Creig Lamb.

Creig Lamb, Senior Policy Analyst

2019 is poised to be an exciting year when it comes to understanding the future of work. Researchers in the space have spent the last several years diagnosing issues, and rightfully so, but there are still major gaps in our understanding of how to effectively respond. I am hopeful that as new funding and resources become available in 2019, researchers across the country will be empowered to push the boundaries of our knowledge so we can better prepare Canadian companies and workers for the future.

Headshot of Sean Mullin.

Sean Mullin, Executive Director

I think 2019 will be the year where recent technological advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning will begin to permeate beyond early adopters and into a much broader set of industries and sectors. We’ve already seen this technology outsize its impact in areas like media, finance, and sales and marketing, but we have only started to see its potential in new areas like healthcare, education, public safety, service delivery, and transportation.

The potential to use these algorithms to solve critical societal challenges is enormous.  However, any new powerful technology also comes with the potential for misuse. We must also spend considerable effort in 2019 understanding the potential drawbacks of this technology and how they can be mitigated.

Marrying these twin concepts—unlocking the many applications of AI, while ensuring it is being used in a socially responsible way—will be critical to the successful adoption of artificial intelligence in a way that could fundamentally change society for the better.

Headshot of Yasmin Rajabi.

Yasmin Rajabi, Projects Officer

Public sector organizations are increasingly adopting design and innovation methods to respond to some of the most pressing policy challenges we are grappling with. I look forward to exploring and experimenting with emerging methods that centre the needs of end-users in policy development and unlock the potential of civic innovators.

Headshot of Diana Rivera.

Diana Rivera, Economist

2019 will force us to make some tough choices, like figuring out what we are talking about when we mention soft, transferable, or even digital skills. Jobs will continue to change in a way that requires all of us to become more adaptable and digitally comfortable. I’ll probably have learned another coding language, better project management skills, and how to tweet by this time next year (hopefully)! We know things are changing quickly, but we need to start identifyingin a more tangible waywhat employers are asking for, what type of skills we need, and what kind of training that entails.

Headshot of Viet Vu.

Viet Vu, Economist

2019 will likely mostly be the same as 2018, with the addition of 1 more year. That said, lots of fun conversations have taken place around how work is changing. 2019 may be the first time where serious policy considerations are made for how social safety is tied to work done, as opposed to jobs held. On the brighter side, I will still most likely be employed at the Brookfield Institute in 2019. In other words, someone with a full-time employment will be talking about gig work, which may or may not bode well…



We are endlessly motivated by the potential of the innovation economy. We believe Canada can build prosperity that will be more widely shared than ever before. In 2019, we will continue to collaborate with our partners to generate rigorous research, propose unconventional approaches and pilot ideas to explore how Canada’s innovation ecosystem can include more people of different ages, incomes and backgrounds. From everyone at the Brookfield Institute, we wish you a happy, healthy and productive year ahead!

For media enquiries, please contact Nina Rafeek Dow, Marketing + Communications Specialist at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship.