Close-up of a microphone with audience members in the background

David Wolfe Discusses Canada's Innovation Challenges at Research Excellence Lecture

Tanya Rohrmoser
David Wolfe answers questions at the Research Excellence Lecture
Professor Wolfe takes questions from the audience at the Research Excellence Lecture.

This year's Annual Research Excellence Lecture took place in late November, with attendees gathering to celebrate the outstanding research and scholarly activity of David Wolfe — esteemed professor in UTM's Department of Political Science and recipient of the 2023 Desmond Morton Research Excellence Award.

Having studied Canada's economic development policies and programs for more than three decades, Wolfe has spent the majority of his career here at UTM. He is the founder and inaugural director of the Master of Urban Innovation, offered by the Institute for Management & Innovation (IMI), and he founded and co-directs the Innovation Policy Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy. 

"I do a lot of research on local and regional economic development of what we call 'innovation systems' or 'industrial clusters,'" explains Wolfe, whose impressive body of work includes 10 books and 50+ scholarly articles. "I'm particularly interested in the governance dimension of these — how extra-governmental bodies support and contribute to public policies designed to promote local and regional economic development."

Students and colleagues from across the University and beyond gathered in MN's sunny Collaborative Digital Research Space to celebrate Wolfe's career and to listen to his lecture on the return of industrial policy, Canada's failed innovation strategy and place-based development policy. 

Opening remarks were delivered by Kent Moore, UTM's Vice-Principal, Research. Moore welcomed guests to the event, speaking on the importance of the award and reflecting on the contributions of Desmond Morton, the scholar for whom it was named.

"Morton was the principal of what was then Erindale College, and was instrumental in helping it evolve into what is now the University of Toronto Mississauga," notes Moore. "He was a well-recognized historian who wrote many books on the history of Canada. After he left, he went to McGill University, where he founded the Institute for the Study of Canada."

Moore next invited Professor Ed Schatz to the podium to introduce his colleague. A fellow professor and the Associate Chair, Research in the Department of Political Science, Schatz spoke of Wolfe's numerous accomplishments with warmth and admiration before turning the microphone over to the guest of honour. 

In his thought-provoking lecture, Wolfe defined the four types of industrial policy, pointed to significant pieces of U.S. legislation since the Second World War — including the key elements of President Biden's policy package — explained why other countries are outpacing Canada in research and development investment, and asked why Canadian innovation policy-makers have failed to learn the lessons of the past. In his concluding slide, he outlined three ways to move forward. 

Wolfe emphasized that governments need to coordinate innovation policy across all levels of jurisdiction and support the innovation capabilities of dynamic industrial clusters in diverse locations and economic sectors across the country.

  • City-regions need to develop the organizational & institutional supports for collective action;
  • Initiatives need to be tailored to the circumstances of individual city-regions; and
  • Policy from upper levels of government must support local and regional development.

Following his talk, Wolfe took questions from the audience and then all enjoyed a reception, where guests mingled, took photos, and chatted with the researcher on his work. Social media was quick to light up with messages praising Wolfe's lecture and congratulating him on the award.

"The Desmond Morton Award is very significant for me," Wolfe shares when we spoke during the event. "I have been teaching at UTM for almost my entire professional career. This is the culmination of a long and fruitful association I've had with this campus and with the University of Toronto. 

"To be granted an award like this by my peers, and nominated by my colleagues in Political Science, was extremely meaningful."


» Read Professor Wolfe's recent interview with UTM News.

Do you know of an outstanding researcher at UTM? Consider nominating one of your colleagues! The next call for nominations will focus on faculty members working in the Humanities, and will take place in spring of 2024. Learn more about the Desmond Morton Research Excellence Award.