The Centre for Digital Entrepreneurship and Economic Performance

The DEEP Centre is an economic policy think-tank based in Waterloo, Ontario. Founded in 2012, the DEEP Centre’s work shapes how jurisdictions and private companies build fertile environments for launching, nurturing and scaling innovation and economic activity. We understand the changing drivers of success in the global economy and the critical interconnections between technology, entrepreneurship and long-run economic performance. Our goal is to help policymakers identify and implement powerful new policy levers to foster innovation, growth and employment in their jurisdictions, as well as to help private decision-makers enact strategic approaches to catalyzing innovation within their organizations.

An Era of Transformational Change

In the space of three decades, transformational changes in technology, demographics and the economy have revolutionized the way we work, reshaped countless industries, catalyzed growth in emerging economies, and forever changed the division of labour in the global economy. For mature industrial economies, the consequences for long-run employment and economic performance are profound. In the decades to come, North American and European firms will compete in a world in which they produce maybe only one of every four or five major inventions; in which their wages and health care costs are several times higher than those of emerging competitors; and in which both the largest technological workforces and markets are in other nations.

Maintaining growth and prosperity amidst such challenging conditions is far from guaranteed. At the DEEP Centre, we believe that tomorrow’s prosperity can only be secured through broad-based entrepreneurialism in society, supported by a combination of visionary economic leadership and sustained institutional innovation. Among other things, this means creative policy responses that help equip the growing ranks entrepreneurs with the skills and institutional supports required to prosper in a dynamic and hyper-competitive global environment.

Digital Entrepreneurship and Economic Performance

Key to success in this new economic environment are digital technologies and their role in making small-and-medium-sized businesses more potent contributors to economic growth and job creation. Tech-intensive SMEs not only grow and export twice as much as others; they also create twice the number of jobs. In fact, Internet-enabled businesses contribute more to global GDP growth and productivity than many assume, including some 21 percent of GDP growth in the world’s mature economies over the past five years. As we search for a way out of a prolonged economic crisis, business leaders and policymakers must recognize the degree to which technology adoption influences both firm performance and overall GDP growth, effects that will only grow as digital technologies continue to penetrate and reshape every economic activity and every sphere of society. This ongoing cycle of creative destruction can either destabilize societies or further advance and enrich them, depending on the robustness of a society’s institutions, the dynamism of its economy and the choices made by citizens and politicians.

The quest to ignite and sustain entrepreneurial businesses in economically challenging times raises many difficult questions—questions at the heart of the DEEP Centre’s mission:

  • Why do such a small proportion of business owners choose to follow a growth-oriented path to international success? What are the barriers to growth and success and how might these barriers be alleviated?
  • For the enterprises that do scale, what are the key attributes that lead to success?
  • How can policymakers and other actors encourage a greater proportion of SMEs to scale their businesses by leveraging modern technologies and the opportunities afforded by a more open global economy?
  • How should governments target scarce resources to maximize the impact of business support services and to what extent can mature industrial economies successfully “prime the innovation pump” to keep promising companies and high value jobs at home?

Enabling High-Performing Firms and Economies

Led by accomplished author and business consultant Anthony D. Williams (including bestsellers Wikinomics and MacroWikinomics), and researcher Dan Herman, the DEEP Centre equips policy-makers and practitioners with the answers to these essential questions. We lead path-breaking investigations into the critical interrelationships between technology, innovation and long-run economic performance; and, we advocate for the creative use of technology, education and economic policy to enable high-performing firms and economies. The DEEP Centre’s balance of public and private insight makes us a unique source of essential insights into the drivers of growth, innovation and job creation in the global economy.