New NCO policy brief strives to strengthen cross-border economies

If provinces and states along the Canada-U.S. border agree to pool resources together, they could set up a cross-border fund for Canada-U.S. collaborative start-ups, says new research by Brock University’s Niagara Community Observatory (NCO).

Academic researchers wishing to create joint research projects could also access this fund, says Cross-Border Innovation Corridor Dialogue: A conversation on how to support, strengthen and sustain cross-border economic innovation ecosystems.

These are two of several recommendations put forth in the NCO’s latest policy brief, which looks at ways to increase regional economic growth between the two countries.

The brief notes that the U.S. has a “larger and more innovative” market with a greater labour force as compared to Canada, whose market is younger, faster-growing and more technically trained.

“Canada and the U.S. are stronger together not despite their differences, but because of them,” says the policy brief written by Kathryn Friedman, Research Associate Professor of Law and Planning at the University at Buffalo, NCO Director Charles Conteh and NCO Research Coordinator Carol Philips.

“Achieving economic growth and prosperity depends on the ability of multiple and interconnected actors — governments, entrepreneurs, the private sector, universities and the non-profit sector — to work together effectively in an environment we envision as being an innovation ecosystem,” says Friedman, who is the policy brief’s lead author.

The policy brief summarizes discussions that took place at the Cross-Border Innovation Corridor Dialogue event earlier this year in the Niagara Region, where representatives from the public, private, non-government and academic sectors examined ways to build innovation ecosystems in three cross-border areas: Vancouver, Seattle and Portland (known as the Cascadia Innovation Corridor); the Detroit-Windsor corridor; and the Buffalo-Niagara-Hamilton-Toronto corridor.

“One of the major themes was that cross-border economic integration is not the wonder work of a just few so-called champions,” says Conteh. “It is based on strong connections among post-secondary institutions, entrepreneurs, public sector officials and others to build trust, share ideas and formulate concrete goals.”

A number of recommendations on what can be done to support, strengthen and sustain cross-border economic innovation ecosystems outlined in the brief include:

  • Ensuring that a wide range of stakeholders (i.e. research institutions, entrepreneurs, public sector officials, business organizations, bridge authorities) from both countries participate strongly and come to agreement in cross-border planning
  • Aligning regulatory policies of the Canadian and American federal governments so that cross-border innovative ecosystems can develop, with high potential in the artificial intelligence, life sciences and advanced manufacturing sectors
  • Aligning educational standards and professional credentials to support access to talent
  • Setting up an office of staff whose role is to support and strengthen the cross-border innovation ecosystem

The Cascadia Innovation Corridor saw six per cent of all Canada-U.S. truck and rail trade flow across the border in 2017. The key export to the U.S. was wood and wood products, while the key export to Canada was machinery and electrical equipment.

The Detroit-Windsor corridor has the heaviest traffic of the three, with 31 per cent of all U.S.-Canada truck and rail trade flowing across this border. The key export flowing both ways are automobiles.

Sixteen per cent of U.S.-Canada truck and rail trade crosses the Buffalo-Niagara Corridor, whose key export to the U.S. was automobiles and main export to Canada was machinery and electrical equipment.

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