NEW TOOL: If Canada wants to build a thriving innovation economy, it needs to be more inclusive

Growing evidence suggests that inclusive economies generate more and better innovation, higher growth, and a more equitable distribution of related risks and benefits.
February 23, 2021
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As we plan our recovery post-COVID-19, the question of who participates in, and benefits from, economic stimulus policies and programs is essential. Boosting participation in the innovation ecosystem not only fosters a more equitable economy, it improves innovation performance itself by ensuring a diversity of skills, knowledge, and perspectives. To put it simply, inclusive innovation is not only good, it’s good for business.

And yet, Canada is neither as innovative nor as inclusive as it needs to be. The substantial economic and social benefits of the innovation ecosystem are often captured by a few, according to the Inclusive Innovation Monitor, a new interactive tool and accompanying report, jointly developed by the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E) at Ryerson University and the Innovation Policy Lab (IPL) at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy. The Inclusive Innovation Monitor is the first interactive tool to track and analyze over 30 inclusive innovation metrics and dimensions that will provide a more complete picture of the strength of Canada’s innovation economy relative to our international peers.

The metrics include educational attainment, innovation financing, entrepreneurship, technology adoption, wages, and wealth distribution, and they are examined through lenses including sex, race, Indigenous identity, disability, region, and class. The site is designed to help policymakers develop targeted policies and programs to stimulate growth and achieve better distributions of the benefits and risks of innovation.

“To achieve strong growth and social well-being, we need policies and strategies that will improve Canada’s lacklustre innovation performance. The Inclusive Innovation Monitor reveals that doing so requires us to focus not only on conventional measures of innovation ecosystem health, but also on the distribution of opportunities and benefits among all people in Canada,” said Dr. Daniel Munro, Senior Fellow at the Munk School and Research Fellow at the Brookfield Institute.

Among the key findings:

  • 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.
  • Canada is a world leader in entrepreneurial initiative, but our actual start-up, scale-up, and innovation activities are less impressive by international standards, and substantial inequities persist in entrepreneurial and employment opportunities.
  • Prior to the pandemic, Canada’s productivity was close to the OECD average, Canadians earned more than peers in the OECD, and poverty was declining, but we have struggled to improve productivity for decades, and there are persistent and stark inequities in income and wealth distribution.

”If we do not build inclusion and equity into our economic recovery plans, inequality will widen across nearly every measure, from access to education and training, poverty and precarious income, to higher rates of illness,” said Nisa Malli, Workstream Manager at the Brookfield Institute. “Better data on inclusion, innovation, and the intersection between them is more important than ever.” Visit the Inclusive Innovation Monitor interactive dashboard to explore the data, analysis, and customizable graphs, or download the accompanying report at URL to be provided.

For media interviews, contact Erin Warner, marketing and communications specialist at BII+E, or Lani Krantz, communications and media relations specialist at the Munk School,

The Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E) is an independent, nonpartisan policy institute, housed at Ryerson University. We transform bold ideas into real-world solutions designed to help Canada navigate the complex forces and astounding possibilities of the innovation economy. @brookfieldiie

The Innovation Policy Lab is a research hub within the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy. The lab’s mission is to study, teach, and apply novel methods and disciplines to the study of innovation and its impact on growth and society. @InnovationPoli1 @munkschool