Social Dynamics of Innovation Systems in the 21st Century


Social Dynamics of Innovation Systems in the 21


Century City

A Vancouver Perspective

Trevor Barnes and Tom Hutton

University of British Columbia

Presentation to ISRN – MCRI II

The Kingbridge Centre, King City, ON

4 – 5 May 2006

Outline of Presentation


Perspectives on recent research and its relevance to the ISRN

MCRI II Project

[ Tom Hutton ]


Some preliminary thoughts on the Vancouver Case Study

[ Trevor Barnes ]

A. Overview of Recent Research

• Central motif of research : explore intersections of ‘process’ and

‘place’ in the emergence of new industry sites, clusters, and labour among advanced and transitional cities

• Thematic emphasis: interrogation of “causality and consequence” in industrial restructuring episodes of the last 20 years – including

(1) the postindustrial city, (2) the ‘New Economy’ of the city, and (3) the ‘creative city’

• Enduring significance of ‘place’: a specific city is “incontestably a repository of distinctive cultures” (Scott 1997: 324)

• Spatial reference: continuing role of the central / inner city as salient terrain of experimentation, innovation, restructuring, and dislocation

Research context: discourses and narratives

• ‘Foundational’ theory and concepts

• New production regimes and narratives of “ industrial urbanism ”

(Soja 2002)

• Industrial restructuring and the “ spatial divisions of labour” in the city and region (Massey 1984)

• Proliferation of new industry sites and clusters as contemporary expression of the “internal specialization of production in the metropolis” (Scott 1988)

Discourses and narratives : II

• Elements of an emergent conceptual architecture

• Centrality of art, aesthetics and amenity in the cultural economy of the city (Ley 2003)

• “Extraordinary social nature of advanced economies” (Thrift and

Olds 1996)

• Acknowledgement of policy factors in ‘induced’ processes of creative / knowledge-based sites and clusters (Evans 2004)

• Destabilising role of property markets and the relayering of capital: positive and negative externalities (Pratt 2006)

Trajectory of Research Outputs

• ‘Reconstructed production landscapes in the postmodern city’,

Urban Geography [2000] 21 : 285-317

• ‘The New Economy of the inner city’, Cities [2004] 21 : 89-108

• ‘Service industries, globalization, and urban restructuring within the

AsiaPacific: new development trajectories and planning responses’

[2004] Progress in Planning 61 : 1-74

• ‘Post-industrialism, post-modernism and the reproduction of

Vancouver’s central area: retheorising the 21 st century city’, Urban

Studies [2004] 41 : 1953-1982

• (w/ Peter Daniels and K. C. Ho) Service Industries and Asia-Pacific

Cities: new development trajectories. London: Routledge 2005

• ‘Spatiality, built form, and creative industry development in the inner city’, Environment and Planning A [forthcoming]

Current Agenda – Links to MCRI II

• Urban Studies special theme issue (w/ Trevor Barnes) on

‘Trajectories of the New Economy: an international investigation of inner city regeneration and dislocation’

• Monograph in preparation: The New Economy of the Inner City

(Routledge ‘research in economic geography’ series) [evolution of the ‘new industrial district’, draws from field work in London,

Singapore, San Francisco, Florence and Vancouver]

• Papers on ‘cultural production in the transnational city’, ‘evolving production models and typologies of the central city’

• Supervision of student thesis work: Naomi Pope (Vancouver and

Seattle), Yvonne Hii (Liberty Village, Toronto), Sheng Zhong

(Suzhou Creek in Shanghai), Jason Blackman (Montreal)

• New MCRI II project with Trevor Barnes in the Vancouver case study

– see part B of this presentation . . . .

The Vancouver Case Study

Defining features of Vancouver’s 21


century economic development

1. Vancouver as ‘post-corporate’ economy

• Erosion of head office function – legacy of global processes, corporate mergers, acquisitions, e.g., decline and fall of MacMillan

Bloedel (RIP)

2. Vancouver as post-staples city

• The end of staples Fordism, and the beginning of post-staples, post-

Fordism – eg., no wood products operation remains within

Vancouver City.

3. Vancouver as ‘transnational urbanism’

• International immigration as major influence on labour market development, entrepreneurship, and industry formation. E.g., > 37% foreign born, > 16% immigrant population 1991-2001

Evolution of Vancouver’s Space-Economy

• City of Vancouver = one-quarter of metro population (but larger share of employment, especially in specialised occupations)

• Within City, emergence of new industry clusters in the old inner city and former wholesaling/manufacturing areas: Yaletown,

Victory Square, Gastown, False Creek Flats

• Major industrial clusters: Port, VYR, inner city, UBC and SFU,

Discovery Parks, Regional Town Centres (RTCs)

• Suburbanisation of high-tech activities (Ballard Power Systems, and Electronic Arts, Burnaby; McDonald Dettwiler, Richmond)

Prospective research themes for the

Vancouver case study

1. Emergence of new economic clusters.

• ‘

NeoMarshallian’ specialised production ensembles and new divisions of labour in Yaletown, CBD fringe, Victory Square,

Gastown, False Creek Flats

• Episodic and volatile

• Bound up with amenity, new consumption spaces, refurbishment and redevelopment, high density residential spaces

2. The ‘Social Density’ of Vancouver’s metropolitan core

• Massive residential densification within downtown Vancouver over the last 15 years – Concord Pacific (False Creek); Marathon Realty

(Coal Harbour)

• New downtown economy based on residential development, consumption and amenity?

• Vancouver City imposed a 2 year moratorium on conversion of office to residential space in order to study if such a downtown economy is sustainable

3. Innovation and cultural production in the transnational city

• Emergence of Vancouver as exemplary ‘transnational city, economy, and society’ (Hiebert et al). High rates of International immigration, vibrant multiculturalism, diverse talent and knowledge-based economy, animated ‘creative class’

• Vancouver as a post-colonial site of inter-cultural production, fusion and transmission of knowledge, information, and values.

• Transnationalism and innovation in the SME economy: (1) inputs

(diverse knowledge, values, traditions), (2) processes (work practices, synergies), (3) entrepreneurship (‘adroitness’, responsiveness), (4) connectivity and linkages (market knowledge, potential offshore recruitment and out-sourcing)

4. Institutions and social dynamics of innovation in the City

The ‘Institutional turn’: ‘thickness’ and the relational geographies of production in the knowledge-based economy

• Civic and municipal governments including Planning Departments

• Role of educational institutions in facilitating knowledge production and exchange in the City [e.g. SFU, UBC, ECIADM, Great Northern

Way Campus, BCIT, etc.]

• Institutional basis of social interaction, exchange and innovation in

Vancouver’s metropolitan core (downtown and inner city amenity and consumption spaces)

5. Governance and Civil Society in the

Innovative Economy

• Strong forces of generation and development in Vancouver producing new firm formation (externalities and spill-overs)

• Set against expanding and booming residential housing market of gentrification and redevelopment

• Civil society of David Ley’s “new middle class” and concomitant urban landscape

• But also sometimes severe dislocation – firms, labour, and particularly existing residents (Downtown Eastside)

• Multi-level and multi-form governance structure to cope with dislocation.

Potential case studies

• Film and tv production

• Electronic games and videos

• Design and architecture

• Biotech

• Education institutions catering to off-shore students