My research on regional innovation has a northern and Aboriginal focus. There is widespread agreement that scientific and technological innovation will be crucial to 21st century success, both in terms of improving the quality of life and the challenging task of creating economic and employment opportunities in a troubled and rapidly changing time.
My starting premise is northern, remote and Aboriginal communities have not benefited substantially from contemporary innovation. While there have been improvements in communications (satellite televisions, radio and Internet connectivity), there have been serious limitations in the improvement of regional services. At the same time, new technologies, particularly through e-commerce, have eroded the viability of small town businesses and thereby harmed local economies. Technological change, at the same time, has been a significant job-killer in most sectors (save for the service sector). Remote communities have experienced huge changes in employment in forestry, mining and other fields, largely because of the switch to more technologically advanced industrial processes and machinery.
Twenty years ago, at the dawn of the Internet age, people in smaller communities celebrated the “live anywhere, work globally” possibilities of the Internet economy. This technological promise did not come to pass, however, as the growth of e-commuting has been much smaller than anticipated. Indeed, fairly small numbers of professionals have relocated to rural and remote areas to capitalize on the technological possibilities.
In the first phases of my research, I am comparing technological advances in the Circumpolar world, seeking to identify examples of successful community-based strategies. I will also be working with agencies and businesses, focusing on northern Saskatchewan and the territorial North, to identify strategies that will enable remote and rural communities to capitalize on the possibilities of scientific and technological change. My work, furthermore, has global dimensions, as these challenges are being faced by rural, remote and Indigenous communities in many parts of the world. I have started doing research on Japan, where regional decay is pronounced and is being given serious attention by governments, and in Scandinavia, where some of the most successful S&T based strategies have been implemented.
As this work unfolds, I will focus increasingly on the interface between scientists, entrepreneurs and communities, hoping to identify mechanisms for promoting meaningful innovation in northern and remote communities. In my view, the medium-term viability of many villages and towns rests in the ability of governments, businesses and communities to seize the possibilities presented by scientific and technological innovation and to thereby provide better services and economic opportunities at the local level.
“East Asia in the Digital Age: National Innovation Strategies of China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.” New Dynamics in East Asian Politics, Zhiqun Zhu,ed. (New York: Continuum, 2012). With Carin Holroyd.
“Seeding the Lead: A new model for innovation, commercialization, and technology transfer within the Arts.” The International Forum on the Creative Economy (March 17-18, 2008). With Jill Thomasson Goodwin and David Goodwin.
Evaluating Telehealth `Solutions:’ A Review and Synthesis of the Telehealth Evaluation (submitted to Office of Health and the Information Highway, 2000). With Gerald McCarthy and Richard Scott.