David Wolfe

David Wolfe
Professor and Co-Director
Innovation Policy Lab
Place of Birth: 
Ottawa, ON
First Year Employed at UTM/U of T: 
Department / Division: 
Political Science

Working as the secretary to one of the provincial cabinet committees was the best education I ever got. Policies are even 100 times more complicated to put into practice than I realized.

David Wolfe

Professor David Wolfe is a political economist renowned for his research and writing on digital technology and cities, much of the latter done in partnership with Meric Gertler, currently president of the University of Toronto. His work informs policymakers nationwide.

Wolfe was ahead of the curve in anticipating the impact of information and communications technology (ICT), and co-authored a skills and training report for the Ontario Premier’s Council in the 1980s.

In 1990, Wolfe was offered the opportunity to serve as executive coordinator for economic and labour policy in the Cabinet Office of the Government of Ontario, so he took a leave from U of T.

“It was a dream job for a political scientist,” Wolfe said. “Working as the secretary to one of the provincial cabinet committees was the best education I ever got. Policies are even 100 times more complicated to put into practice than I realized.”

He returned to the university in 1993 and resumed teaching, research and writing that was informed by his government experience. Today, he is the co-director of the Innovation Policy Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs.

Throughout his U of T career, he has taught undergraduate courses at U of T Mississauga.

“I’ve almost always taught a first- or second-year course,” Wolfe said. “It’s much harder to teach younger students well; you need to pitch things in a different way to get them involved and make the subject accessible, but when you connect with them the feeling of satisfaction is amazing.”

Drawing on his extensive research about both cities and technology, Wolfe is working to create a new master’s program under the umbrella of UTM’s Institute for Management & Innovation. The planned Master’s in Management of Urban Innovation has been four years in the making.

“We’re taking all of our research and translating it to a teaching program that focuses on how to promote innovative growth in an urban setting that draws on the local knowledge assets of institutions like UTM,” Wolfe said.

Given his focus on cities, Wolfe cites the close relationship between UTM and the City of Mississauga as something to be emulated.

“They’ve always had a real sense of engagement with the city and have been viewed by the city as a strategic asset,” he said. “That is a vital relationship to have at a world-class university.”


Selected Awards:

Attracted $13 million in research funding to U of T since late 1980s.

CIBC Scholar-in-Residence, Conference Board of Canada, 2008-09; authored 21st Century Cities: The Geography of Innovation

Royal Bank Chair in Public and Economic Policy, Faculty of Arts and Science, 2009-2014

Carolyn Tuohy Impact on Public Policy Award, 2008,  given to an excellent U of T academic and scholar who has had an impact on public policy and contributed to the university’s international reputation


Selected Publications:

Co-edited with Meric S. Gertler, Growing Urban Economies: Innovation, Creativity and Governance in Canadian City-Regions. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2016). A focused analysis of how developments at the local and regional level affect these three key determinants of future prosperity.

With Nicola Hepburn, “University Tech Transfer Policies and Best Practice in Canada,” in University Technology Transfer – The Globalization of Academic Innovation, Eds, Shiri Breznitz and Henry Etzkowitz, Routledge, London and New York, pp. 226-250, 2015.

Innovating in Urban Economies: Economic Transformation in Canadian City-Regions, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014). The essays in the book document how city-regions are taking control of their own futures through efforts to enhance their social qualities and political governance.