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Innovation Systems Research Network

Life Science Innovation Systems:

Lessons from the ISRN

Meric S. Gertler

Uyen Quach

Tara Vinodrai

Program on Globalization and Regional Innovation Systems

Munk Centre for International Studies

University of Toronto


Joint ONRIS / MRI / MEDT Fall Workshop

Toronto, Ontario

November 4, 2005


Innovation Systems Research Network

Key Questions


What drives the emergence and formation of clusters?


What are the catalysts to cluster development?


What role is played by different levels of government, civic
associations, and lead / anchor firms?



How important is the local knowledge base to cluster dynamics?


Role of private and public actors in generating knowledge


Role of universities in producing knowledge vs. talent



Are there different paths leading to successful cluster
development (e.g. specialization vs. diversity)?


What are the advantages / disadvantages of these different paths?

Innovation Systems Research Network

Definitions


Biotechnology


OECD (2002): “The application of science and technology to
living organisms as well as parts, products and models
thereof, to alter living or non
-
living materials for the
production of knowledge, goods and services.”


Statistics Canada and Industry Canada use similar definition



Life Sciences


Broad definition that includes biotechnology, medical and
assistive technologies, pharmaceuticals, contract research,
bioinformatics, etc.



Innovation Systems Research Network

ISRN Case Study Overview

Vancouver

Saskatoon

Toronto

Ottawa

Montr
éal

Halifax

Core Biotech








-

Firms

48

14

55

10

80

10


-

Employment

1,701

369

2,661

736

3,238

558

Life Sciences


-

Firms

80
-
140

~40

~400

100
-
140

>270

~60


-

Employment

8,835

1,015

35,585

4,635

24,925

1,720

Specialization

Human
health
(diverse)

Agriculture

Human
health
‘megacentre’

(diverse)


Non
-
therapeutics;
ICT
-
related

Human
health
‘megacentre’
(pharma)

Human health
and marine

Characteristics

Rapidly
growing

Ag
-
biotech
centre

Scale &
diversity

Emergent

Drug
discovery/
pharma

Small
‘collection’ of
firms

Source: PriceWaterhouseCoopers 2003; BioNova 2004; OEOBC/OLSC 2004; Philips et al. 2004; Graytek 2005; Industry Canada 2005;
Spencer and Vinodrai 2005;

Innovation Systems Research Network

Industrial Composition

Vancouver

Saskatoon

Toronto

Ottawa

Montr
éal

Halifax

Pharmaceutical
and medicine mfg

X

X

Medical equipment
and supply mfg

X

X

X

Medical and
diagnostic
laboratories


X


X


X

Pharmaceutical,
etc. distribution /
wholesale


X


X


X


X


X

Nav., measuring,

medical & control

instruments mfg


X


X


X


X


X

Grantmaking and
giving services

X

X

X

X

X

Note: ‘X” indicates a location quotient >= 1 in specific industry

Innovation Systems Research Network

Key Questions


What drives the emergence and formation of clusters?


What are the catalysts to cluster development?


What role is played by different levels of government, civic
associations, and lead / anchor firms?



How important is the local knowledge base to cluster dynamics?


Role of private and public actors in generating knowledge


Role of universities in producing knowledge vs. talent



Are there different paths leading to successful cluster
development (e.g. specialization vs. diversity)?


What are the advantages / disadvantages of these different paths?


Innovation Systems Research Network

Different Catalysts and Enabling Factors



Role of
lead / anchor firm

sparked latent entrepreneurialism /
provided credibility and inspiration for the region


Vancouver: QLT Inc. (1981) working closely with UBC’s University
-
Industry Liason Office (UBC
-
UILO) and resulting in spin
-
offs


Montreal: BioChem Pharma (1986) and a broad base of large
pharmaceutical companies


Halifax: Biotech Working Group (1993); Ottawa: MDS
-
Nordion (1991);
Toronto: Allelix (pioneering Canadian biotech company)



Role of
federal government

through location of national
laboratories


Saskatoon: NRC Plant Biotechnology Institute (NRC
-
PBI)


Montreal: NRC Biotechnology Research Institute (NRC
-
BRI)


Innovation Systems Research Network

Different Catalysts and Enabling Factors



Role of

specific events

and
background conditions

that shape local /
regional context


Ottawa:

ICT bust in late 1990s raised profile of life sciences, attracting political
/ financial support, transfer of talent / entrepreneurs


Toronto:

origins of diverse life sciences cluster found in the breadth of its older
economic activities


Vancouver:

weak industrial infrastructure to support product development,
modest pool of local venture capital, and absence of a local pharmaceutical
base has influenced many firms to become ‘IP vendors’



Role of
industrial associations

and civic leadership

has been generally
limited but growing in importance


Ottawa

Life Science Council


Toronto:

TRRA becoming focal point



Role of
provincial government
through a variety of initiatives


Montreal

benefits from large public venture capital pool and tax incentive
structures




Innovation Systems Research Network

Key Questions


What drives the emergence and formation of clusters?


What are the catalysts to cluster development?


What role is played by different levels of government, civic
institutions, and lead / anchor firms?



How important is the local knowledge base to cluster dynamics?


Role of private and public actors in generating knowledge


Producing knowledge vs. talent: role of universities?



Are there different paths leading to successful cluster
development (e.g. specialization vs. diversity)?


What are the advantages / disadvantages of these different paths?


Innovation Systems Research Network

Local Knowledge Base


Role of
key public research institute

varies by
cluster


Vancouver: Firm creation assisted by UBC
-
UILO


Toronto: U of T and research
-
intensive hospitals produce
knowledge and talent; recent opening of MaRS


Montr
éal: NRC
-
BRI co
-
evolved with private sector


Saskatoon: R&D coordination led by NRC
-
PBI


Ottawa: Public research actors passive, though becoming
more active recently


Innovation Systems Research Network

Global Knowledge Flows


BUT need to acknowledge interdependent relationship between
local and global knowledge flows



Saskatoon case an extreme example of this:


Foreign proprietary sources of knowledge (know
-
what and why)



Local knowledge base develops tacit dimensions of know
-
how and
know
-
who to complement non
-
local knowledge flows



“…the generation and transmission of the non
-
codified knowledge
in the regional system is the key factor holding things together.
People develop skills and working relationships, which together
convert bits of information into operable knowledge” (Phillips et al.
2004)


Innovation Systems Research Network

Sources of Skilled Labour / Talent


Importance of local supply of skilled labour/talent


Key sources: local research institutes, universities, other firms


Circulation of talent prompted by downsizing; allows for cross
-
over
between sectors (e.g. pharmaceutical companies in Toronto, ICT bust in
Ottawa)



Consistent problems recruiting experienced managers



Halifax: Hire retired CEOs that settled in the area


Saskatoon: Recruit expatriates


Toronto: Multiple sources and responses (local and non
-
local)



Statistical evidence shows that innovative biotechnology firms devote
more resources, pursue diverse strategies, and tap into global
networks for recruiting staff

Innovation Systems Research Network

Key Questions


What drives the emergence and formation of clusters?


What are the catalysts / triggers to cluster development?


What role is played by different levels of government, civic
institutions, and lead / anchor firms?



How important is the local knowledge base to cluster dynamics?


Role of private and public actors in generating knowledge


Role of universities in producing knowledge vs. talent



Are there different paths leading to successful cluster
development (e.g. specialization vs. diversity)?


What are the advantages / disadvantages of these different
paths?


Innovation Systems Research Network

Paths to Cluster Development


Two general paths to cluster development: specialization vs.
diverse economic base



Specialized: Montreal, Vancouver, Saskatoon


High potential return


Risk / vulnerability:
Vancouver

very dependent on QLT Inc.
(generates 87% of cluster’s revenue);
Montreal’s

success tied to
the fortunes of a few companies (e.g. BioChem, now NeuroChem);
Saskatoon

vulnerable to backlash vs GMOs, Monsanto



Diverse: Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax


Resilience and larger employment potential; diverse mix of
occupations


Lower ‘coherence’, low local visibility / profile (e.g.
Toronto
)


Opportunities for convergence and combination of diverse
knowledge bases (e.g.
Ottawa
)


Challenge for developing critical mass (
Halifax
)

Innovation Systems Research Network

Lessons Learned




Cluster emergence / formation


Importance of path dependency and historical, region
-
specific
context in explaining cluster formation


Does not offer easily generalizable explanations for cluster formation;
no ‘one
-
size
-
fits
-
all’ model



Local and global flows of knowledge and talent


Cases confirm mutually beneficial, reinforcing nature of local and
non
-
local sources



Cluster development


Specialization route is often a high risk, high return proposition


Diversification allows for combination of knowledge bases but
challenges related to developing coherent profile, visibility, and
internal ‘self
-
organization’


Innovation Systems Research Network

Thank you


meric.gertler@utoronto.ca



Joint ONRIS / MRI / MEDT Fall Workshop

Toronto, Ontario

November 4, 2005