Innovation Creativity and Urban Regions – Address at the Utrecht Town Hall

April 11, 2016

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Dr. Meric Gertler
President, University of Toronto

Download the full text and slides as a PDF…

Thank you very much for that kind introduction.

I am delighted to be here in this beautiful city. I have tremendous fondness for Utrecht and the Netherlands, and the warm hospitality I have received here over the years. I am honoured to join a panel of distinguished scholars and academic leaders today and it is a pleasure to join in this discussion.

For my remarks, I would like to build on some of what my esteemed colleagues have said and offer five policy considerations for successful cities. I recognize, of course, that success takes many different forms and has many different ingredients. Each region will have its own unique characteristics – perhaps this is something my colleagues and I might address in the question and answer session.

Nevertheless, the five policy considerations I will propose are, in my view, essential to building and growing innovative, successful city clusters. They are based on my ~15 years of research with David Wolfe and colleagues at the University of Toronto.

Let me begin with some context

Many of you will be familiar with the work of Thomas Friedman of The New York Times, who published a bestseller a few years ago, which argued that “The World is Flat”. He used that image to convey the declining relevance of geography and international borders, thanks to the Internet and the increasing reach of global corporations.

In response to this view, our University of Toronto colleague Richard Florida argued in a widely cited essay in The Atlantic that the global economy is not ‘flat’ but ‘spiky’. Florida persuasively described an emerging geography in which the importance of major urban regions is growing, not waning.

While there is undoubtedly at least a kernel of truth to each view, contemporary research largely supports Florida’s view. Urban regions are increasingly identified – by both academics and policymakers – as vital contributors to local and national prosperity.