Why is the Toronto Region Canada’s Innovation Leader?

By: Fatema Fatakdawala

In a recent speech  to the Toronto Board of Trade (TBOT), Professor David Naylor, President of the University of Toronto discussed why the Toronto Region is Canada’s innovation leader. The short answer to this question was a phenomenon known as  multiplicative convergence.  He explained using three examples.

1) Toronto’s Food and Beverage sector is the largest in Canada, with the second largest food production and processing centre in North America behind Los Angeles. Following the theme of convergence, he pointed out that the food and beverage industry depends for its success upon strength in a host of other sectors, and in turn generates growth in them as well. It relies on and contributes to strengths in nutritional science, biotechnology, manufacturing, materials, packaging, design, storage and logistics – all areas in which Toronto is Canada’s leader.

Professor David Naylor, President of the University of Toronto

2) Almost a third of Canada’s design workforce – more than 28,000 designers – hails from Toronto. Together they comprise the third largest design sector. Again, the success of the sector is a testament to convergence. The design sector depends on strengths in information and communications technology (ICT), marketing and advertising, product development, the creative and cultural industries, active product development, and sophisticated talent.

3) Toronto is Canada’s high-tech hub. Aerospace, pharma, advanced materials, ICT – it’s all here. But digital media is particularly strong. Why? Well, 30% of Canada’s ICT firms – and 40% of the Top 250 ICT companies – are headquartered in the Toronto metropolitan region. Once again, multiplicative convergence! Mix in the region’s strength as Canada’s leading creative and cultural hub, and you can see why we are widely ranked 3rd in digital media for North America.

This is great news for startups…because convergence is the lifeblood of innovation and entrepreneurship. Expertise in physics, computer science and electrical engineering together drive quantum computing. Optics, advanced manufacturing, chemistry, and nanotechnology drive solar and clean tech ventures. The conjunction of finance and ICT yields e-commerce initiatives. Genetics, bioengineering, and the health sciences come together in personalized medicine.

There are dozens of examples of this type of convergent creativity in the Toronto metropolitan region. It’s all here if we would only take the time to notice and celebrate it. In fact, “It’s all here” might be an apt if cheeky slogan for the region. Put simply, we are good at everything because we are good at everything. It all comes together.

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Click here to access the full speech to TBOT

Fatema joins the RIC team as the Communications Officer responsible for marketing, social media, event and web management. She is a graduate student pursuing her final year in the Master of Biotechnology program at the University of Toronto Mississauga.

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