Innovation in Kitchener-Waterloo

Along with my former adviser Harald Bathelt, I’ve looked at industrial innovation in Ontario’s Kitchener-Waterloo region. While this area is best known for being home to a wide array of high-tech firms and organizations, like Research in Motion and the University of Waterloo, it is also home to a dense cluster of industrial firms. While these firms are not necessarily seen as being innovative, they have constantly invested in both product and process innovations to stay competitive in an increasingly challenging market.

Papers and Presentations

  • H. Bathelt, A. Munro and B. Spigel. “Challenges of transformation: Innovation, re-bundling and traditional manufacturing in Canada’s Technology Triangle.Regional Studies 18(5):18-38.

This paper develops a perspective of regional re-bundling and the choice of innovation strategies in overcoming economic decline. It does this by focusing on the effects of the recent financial crisis in traditional manufacturing industries. We analyze the structure of innovation processes and their development over time and the effects of the global financial crisis on them. The consequences are viewed in the context of re-bundling existing and new knowledge bases along with other resources to help overcome the crisis. Our analysis focuses on Canada’s Technology Triangle – a region 100 km west of Toronto – that is widely known for its excellent universities, high-technology spin-off processes and successful restructuring toward a “post-industrial” economy. What is less well-known, however, is that this region has long been strongly influenced by metal fabricating/processing and other traditional manufacturing industries, particularly related to the automobile-supplier sector. The analysis presented in this paper is based on semi-structured interviews with 40 manufacturing firms in the CTT region. It investigates the degree to which these industries have been affected by the economic crisis; how they have adjusted their innovation processes; and whether they have developed regional strategies of re-bundling to overcome crises effects.

  • University spin-offs and regional policy in comparative perspective: The cases of Columbus (Ohio) and Toronto and Waterloo (Ontario). The International Journal for Knowledge-Based Development. 2(2)202-219

    Universities can be central to a region’s economic growth and development, especially if they support start-up, spin-off and modernisation processes related to the regional core sectors. While many governments and associations have developed programmes to encourage the establishment of university spin-offs, the policies they craft are hampered by two major problems. The first is a narrow understanding of spin-offs that focuses on firms directly based on university research. This approach misses firms that use university-related knowledge and resources, unsponsored through the university. Second, spin-off promotion policies often ignore the role of a larger regional entrepreneurial culture and supporting institutions. This paper argues that a broader view of spin-offs is required; a view that accounts for a larger array of ventures and that looks beyond the firm or university to the broader set of regional structures and relations. The empirical evidence presented draws from start-up and spin-off experiences at universities in the USA and Canada.