DEEP Research

DEEP’s research mission is simple: thought leadership and rigorous research in the pursuit of public policy innovation and economic prosperity. Our unique combination of expertise on technological, economic and demographic issues is designed to provoke vigorous debate and provide a sturdy evidence-base for sound policymaking—from assessments of the effectiveness of contemporary economic policy to probing analyses of the key technological and labour market shifts that will define the 21st century.

The international research network housed at the DEEP Centre consists of an in-house team of analysts, a council of distinguished academics, and a broader community of entrepreneurs and technology thought leaders that keep our work grounded in the practical realities of today’s economic landscape. Our priorities for 2013-14 include:

  1. Mapping the changing drivers of economic success in the global economy
  2. Evaluating the impact of digital technologies on entrepreneurialism, innovation, and competitiveness across industries, and
  3. Identifying powerful new policy levers that governments can use to foster innovation, economic development and employment in their jurisdictions.

DEEP’s methodology combines in-depth analysis of case studies, econometric data and existing literature, along with interviews with thought leaders and practitioners around the world. Showcased in a series of public reports, case studies, conferences and workshops, the resulting analysis of competitive strategies across the globe provides policymakers with unique insights into how to build a competitive edge in fostering innovation and growth in their jurisdictions. Some of our topics for 2013-14 include:

Technology and the Future of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

  • Digital entrepreneurialism: How technology is revolutionizing SMEs. Whether searching for capital to fund an expansion or sourcing low-cost manufacturing options, virtually every aspect of starting and running a company has changed beyond recognition in recent years. The good news is that evidence shows that tech-intensive SMEs create more jobs, grow faster, and have more international connections and a far superior track record on innovation. In fact, greater adoption of technology by SMEs not only benefits individual companies but also the economy at large through increased productivity improvements and economic growth. But while young, tech-savvy firms typically have an easier time understanding and adopting available technologies, established businesses often forgo the potential benefits, including the opportunity to increase cross-border sales, enable new business models, boost employee productivity and dramatically reduce overhead costs. Given these benefits, what are the most significant barriers to technology adoption? How can policymakers and trade associations promote the advantages of technology and build the skill sets required to deploy it effectively?
  • 3D printing and the future of manufacturing. Until recently, only large companies had the manufacturing muscle to bring physical goods to the mass market. But as the machinery of factory production become available to individuals, anyone with a good idea and some ingenuity can design and sell goods globally without a physical plant or even inventory. 3D printing, in particular, looks set to offer significant new opportunities for mass customization and could revolutionize how we manufacture everything from housing to fashion to medical implants and prosthetics. What new growth industries and business models will a nascent era of 3D printing generate? How can policymakers promote innovation and experimentation with 3D printing capabilities in their jurisdictions? Will the ability to effortlessly copy and modify physical designs raise significant intellectual property issues? Will 3D printing further accelerate the loss of manufacturing jobs or can this novel technology be exploited to stimulate domestic employment growth?

The Role of Economic Policy in Promoting Entrepreneurship and Growth

  • Removing barriers to growth and internationalization. It is a well-known fact that the economic landscape in mature economies is predominantly populated by companies with fewer than 100 employees. Small, entrepreneurial firms are often celebrated for being more agile and more adept at manoeuvring the whims of rapidly changing market. And yet, the plethora of small companies holds certain challenges and masks the fact that many enterprises that would like to grow, face serious hurdles: from the burden of regulation to a lack of digital readiness and management acumen among business owners to an insufficient supply of digital skills in the labour market. But which specific barriers rank highest amongst the issues preventing firms with aspirations to internationalize from realizing their ambitions? How can policymakers provide adequate remedies and support measures to target the high-priority barriers that entrepreneurs have identified?
  • Enabling entrepreneurship and innovation. Policymakers are broadly aware of the critical role that a small percentage of high-growth SMEs play in job creation and growth in modern economies. And most now recognize that even a small increase in the proportion of SMEs that morph into high-growth firms could catalyze significant economic prosperity in an era where large firms are shedding jobs and governments are battling deficits. But how should policy-makers focus their efforts to boost innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation and where is the evidence to support the relative effectiveness of various policy options? Are incubators, accelerator centres and start-up initiatives the answer? Or are policy-makers overly focused on start-ups and thereby ignoring the vast majority of companies that already exist, most of which are struggling to realize the potential of the digital age? What measures should policymakers and business associations take to better promote key growth factors such as export opportunities? And how should the provision of R&D tax credits and other economic incentives be designed to best facilitate domestic growth?
  • Pathways for financing innovation. In the global race for high-value, high-wage jobs, translating innovative ideas into sustainable businesses requires fast access to capital and investment. The rather dismal rates of return garnered by traditional venture capital outfits, however, has made the search for novel models of public and private financing increasingly urgent. Innovative crowdfunding organizations such as Kickstarter IndieGoGo, Y Combinator, TechStars and Seedrs are proving that community-powered venture capital models can help filter the global wealth of investment opportunities and channel more intellectual horsepower into making each business investment successful. And across multiple jurisdictions, unique public models of investment are attempting to do the same. Early results point to a potentially rich avenue for capitalizing early-stage business ideas into future growth but significant legal and operational challenges remain.  How should policy makers and business leaders position themselves to facilitate the success of this sector?
  • Trade and intellectual property in an era of global competition. While openness and collaboration are increasingly viewed as the building blocks for successful commercial operations, governments are increasingly attempting to corral ideas and intellectual property for domestic gains. Yet can ideas and knowledge be constrained for national gain? And how does trade policy and innovation interact as the race for Schumpeterian creative destruction becomes more intense as more countries join the fray?

The Labour Market and Employment in an Entrepreneurial Century

  • When technology, demographics and economics combine: a perfect storm for employment. An unprecedented explosion in the global labour force, combined with rapid advances in technology automation and artificial intelligence, are threatening to displace a growing segment of the professional middle class in Europe and North America. While workers with world-class educations and exceptional creative talents have largely benefitted, how will these changes in technology and the labour market play out for the millions of people who perform routine production, administrative and service tasks? What are the most effective means for encouraging the rapid advance of new skills and abilities throughout the population? What else should governments in mature economies do to ensure that a large proportion of the unemployed or under-employed population has a pathway to succeed in to the new economy?
  • The project economy and the changing nature of employment. Driven by technology, globalization and the rise in freelancing, more and more economic tasks these days are being executed by temporary teams of workers that come together for a time to produce a single outcome then go their separate ways, much the way Hollywood produces films. And yet, an economy that increasingly revolves around free agency and transient teams renders obsolete most of our basic assumptions about the nature of work and employment. At the same time, it raises considerable challenges for workers and policymakers. With constant change and renewal in one’s career path, where and how will individuals find sources of stability, encouragement, learning and personal growth? Will consultancy become the dominant contractual model for work in the future? Should public tax dollar be used to fund or nurture enterprises that may have a lifespan of only a few years? And, at a moment when dynamism and mobility are more important than ever to economic prosperity, how can social security and employment insurance programs be reformed to promote entrepreneurial activity?