Keynote Dan Breznitz reimagines innovation at Rising Economy Week

Dan Breznitz
Dan Breznitz is a keynote speaker at Rising Economy Week 2021. Photo supplied.

Dan Breznitz plans to be standing in Victoria in November, during South Island Prosperity Partnership‘s Rising Economy Week 2021, when he delivers a keynote speech about the myth of innovation. 

Breznitz is the Munk Chair of Innovation Studies at the University of Toronto as well as the co-director of the Innovation Policy Lab. 

He was reached at a cottage in Northern Ontario, where ironically internet service did not match city levels. An opportunity for infrastructure innovation?

“People think innovation is the creation of new gadgets,” he says. “We become obsessed with techno-fetishism, one aspect of innovation.” But everything from bicycles to high-end shoes can be innovation targets.

That’s because innovation follows invention, which is a new idea. Innovation becomes the process that improves a product or service, making it more reliable and affordable. An example is early telephones, which were big wooden boxes. Today’s smartphones are super computers, Breznitz says. 

Referencing the knowledge from his latest book “Innovation in Real Places: Strategies for Prosperity in an Unforgiving World”, Breznitz will reveal how Victoria can engineer economic growth, via innovation, in a pandemic-slammed world.

One thing Victoria should avoid is the dream of combining high-tech ideas and venture capital to become Silicon Valley North. “Today in Silicon Valley, 85% to 95% of residents don’t get anything out of it,” Breznitz says. Instead, a sliver of high-level engineers and geeks reap the benefits in a new world where global production and dominant high-tech clusters fragment the wealth. Silicon Valley discoveries have created jobs in Taiwan, Korea and China and instead of spreading the lucre, there are a handful of billionaires.

The quest for prosperity, says Breznitz, involves examining a community’s strengths. “A question for Victoria. It needs to think about capabilities. Look at the four stages of production,” he says of his innovative theory.

The first stage is novel production, when an original idea is turned into a new product or service, one which may require improvements or fine-tuning.

The second stage is design, prototype development and product engineering that make the product a working reality.

Stage three is where companies improve existing products and services, making them better and desired by more users. 

The final stage is assembly and production, where the actual product is produced.

Breznitz wants his Victoria audience to reimagine innovation, beyond creation of a shiny new toy. “To realize that, specialization in each one of the stages is very different.”

SIPP CEO Emilie de Rosenroll says Rising Economy Week attendees can expect practical takeaways for our own region in his presentation. “Innovation in Real Places is required reading for how places can reimagine what it means to be truly innovative in the 21st century,” she says. “This book moves beyond the myth that every region can or should emulate Silicon Valley’s economic development model. Instead, it smartly focuses on how places can create more inclusive and distributed prosperity.”

This year’s Rising Economy Week builds on the success of the first, which took place last November, developed in response to the impact of the pandemic. The theme is Momentum and it’s billed by the organizers as “a future-defining conference that brings global and local thought leaders together to explore how we create our economy by design, not default.”

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