Innovation, Equity & The Future of Prosperity
The benefits of innovation tend to be concentrated to a limited number of industries, regions, and groups. Innovation that exacerbates inequality can undermine public support for science and innovation and contribute to broader political alienation. The Innovation, Equity & the Future of Prosperity program brings together economists, political scientists, engineers, and historians to examine how the policies used to generate and diffuse innovation affect the distribution of opportunities and outcomes in society.
RESEARCH AND SOCIETAL IMPACT HIGHLIGHTS
Surveillance innovation and the distribution of resources and opportunities
Program Co-Director Dan Breznitz and Fellow Kenneth Lipartito (Florida International University) are collaborating on a Catalyst Fund project to explore the origins and development of surveillance capitalism — a relatively new concept linked to social media and internet companies that accumulate large quantities of data from their sites and use it to develop profitable products. Breznitz and Lipartito aim to show that what has been missing from the study of surveillance capitalism, and what is needed to address issues of distribution and equity, is an understanding that it is built upon existing technical, legal, and business infrastructures that provide models, norms, and routines to extract and monetize personal information.
Helping to build an innovation-based economy
In May 2021, Co-Director Dan Breznitz (University of Toronto) and Fellow Jane Gingrich (University of Oxford) briefed a joint meeting of the Government of Canada’s Deputy Ministers Committees on Economic Frameworks & Inclusive Growth and Social Development & Wellbeing. The CIFAR fellows and senior civil servants discussed the different levers and approaches policymakers can use to promote an innovation-based economy and the distributive consequences of different innovation policies for promoting more equitable social and economic outcomes.
Fast vs. slow innovation
A team led by Fellow Keun Lee (Seoul National University) is comparing fast innovators with slow innovators and exploring how to close the innovation gap. Lee is comparing three Asian cities — Taipei, Shenzhen, and Penang — to gain insights related to the localization of knowledge, shifts in innovation, and technological diversification. The persuasive powers of robots Fellow Goldie Nejat’s (University of Toronto) most recent work on socially assistive robots focuses on how human-robot interactions are interpreted by humans and under what conditions they contribute to addressing social hardship — especially social isolation in long-term care facilities. Nejat conducted a first-of-its-kind study comparing robots in authority and peer roles with respect to their persuasion abilities. The study showed that people find robots more persuasive when they are cast in peer roles and not as authority figures.
Manufacturing vaccines during a global pandemic
Fellows William Lazonick (The Academic-Industry Research Network) and Andrew Schrank (Brown University) partnered on a Catalyst Fund project to analyze the mass manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines. Their research shows that large pharmaceutical companies paid marginal attention to vaccines before the pandemic. They are investigating the capacity and control associated with the mass production of vaccines while asking to what extent governments, or international bodies such as COVAX, are willing and able to guide vaccination development and distribution.
Applications Now Open: CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars Program
Innovation is essential to economic growth, health, and social and cultural well-being. However, both the opportunities to participate in and the benefits that emerge from innovation are unevenly distributed. Despite their substantial impact on inclusion and equality, we have limited knowledge of how innovation policies and practices shape outcomes, the conditions under which they succeed or fail, and the complementary activities (in education, finance, transportation, and other areas) that societies can undertake to produce better outcomes. By developing new ways to investigate how innovation interacts with distribution—and how both interact technological possibilities, historical trajectories, skills and education, regulatory environments, and other social, economic and political dynamics—the Innovation, Equity & the Future of Prosperity program produces new insights on how innovation and distribution work. It bridges existing scientific subfields, such as innovation studies and research on distribution, that are siloed and see little cross-fertilization. To do so, it brings together a truly multidisciplinary network of scholars from the social sciences, engineering, law and the humanities.
Max Bell Foundation, Scotiabank
Fellows & Advisors
CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars
Briefing to Government of Canada’s Deputy Ministers Committees
Policy levers to promote an innovation-based economy, and their distributive consequencesJuly 05, 2021
Inclusive Innovation: COVID and After
How can government policies encourage innovation economies that are more inclusive?February 17, 2021
CIFAR is a registered charitable organization supported by the governments of Canada, Alberta and Quebec, as well as foundations, individuals, corporations and Canadian and international partner organizations.