Over the past several decades, the Canadian economy has experienced a major transformation in the ways that people work and companies generate value—one that we can no longer afford to ignore. Across all sectors, from manufacturing to technology to natural resources, a rising share of economic growth and prosperity is being driven by intangible investments and assets, such as data, digital services, brands, design, marketing and firm-specific training—and a declining share by tangible investments and assets, such as buildings, machinery, equipment and product inventories. We call this transformation the intangible shift.
Firms and countries that understand and adopt strategies to meet the new realities of an intangible economy can position themselves for robust growth. Canada’s future competitiveness, and the well-being of individuals and communities, depends critically on how well businesses and policymakers understand and manage the intangible shift. Yet, in many cases, Canadian economic policies have not paid sufficient attention to the rise of intangibles, and we lag peer economies in making and benefiting from intangible investments.
Urgent action is required across multiple policy domains—including financing, data governance, intellectual property, foreign direct investment, education and skills, and inclusion and distribution—to enable, capture and fairly distribute new forms of value creation in Canada. The Brookfield Institute plans to embark on a research initiative to help Canada understand the concrete policy options that are needed to enable, manage, and benefit from the intangible shift. Our research and communications activities will contribute to a robust, evidence-based understanding of intangibles and their unique properties; examine implications for productivity, growth, employment, and income and wealth distribution; and identify pressing policy needs and concrete, implementable policy options to ensure that Canadian governments and firms are prepared to compete effectively.