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


The Kingbridge Centre, King City, ON


– 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 ]


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



: 285-317

• ‘The New Economy of the inner city’,




: 89-108

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


Pacific: 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’,





: 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


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-


– 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.

• ‘


Marshallian’ 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)


(diverse knowledge, values, traditions), (2)


(work practices, synergies), (3)


(‘adroitness’, responsiveness), (4)

connectivity and linkages

potential offshore recruitment and out-sourcing)

(market knowledge,

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