Books

Book about innovation-based prosperity wins $50K Donner Prize for best book on public policy

Toronto scholar Dan Breznitz has won the 2021 Donner Prize for his book Innovation in Real Places. The $50,000 award recognizes the best public policy book by a Canadian.

Toronto scholar Dan Breznitz has won the 2021 Donner Prize for his book Innovation in Real Places

Innovation in Real Places is a book by Dan Breznitz. (University of Toronto, Oxford University Press)

University of Toronto political science professor Dan Breznitz has won the 2021 Donner Prize for his book  Innovation in Real Places.

The $50,000 award recognizes the best public policy book by a Canadian.

Innovation in Real Places explores how many cities have gambled — and lost — on pursuing Silicon Valley's economic model. It also looks at how other places have flourished without relying on the high-tech sector. Innovation in Real Places won the inaugural Balsillie Prize for Public Policy in 2021.

LISTEN | Dan Breznitz on IDEAS:

University of Toronto Professor Dan Breznitz says Canada has an innovation problem, and it’s time we did something about it. In 2021 Breznitz won the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s inaugural Balsillie Prize for Public Policy for his book, Innovation in Real Places. In this episode, Nahalah Ayed speaks with Breznitz and the three other finalists for the prize. *This episode originally aired on March 10, 2022.

"I basically argue in the book that there are multiple ways in which to reach innovation-based local prosperity," Breznitz told IDEAS host Nahlah Ayed in a 2021 interview, "most of them are not even talked about because we live in a myth about a world in which there's only one way in which to reach innovation-based prosperity."

Breznitz is the Munk Chair of Innovation Studies and co-director of the Innovation Policy Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto. He's also co-director and fellow with CIFAR, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research's program on Innovation, Equity and the Future of Prosperity.

There is little doubt that innovation is the key driver of economic progress, and Breznitz provides the most interesting and innovative take on the process of innovation in promoting community-wide development," the jury said in a statement.

"He goes well beyond the current fetish of focusing on the highest end of technology in an attempt to emulate the admired, but inequitable, features of Silicon Valley. He urges communities to focus on the stage of the production process that allows them to realize their own advantages and build an ecosystem that fosters surprising forms of specialized innovation."

WATCH | Dan Breznitz on CBC News

How COVID-19 exposed Canada's innovation weak spot

2 years ago
Duration 7:04
Dan Breznitz, co-director of the University of Toronto's Innovation Policy Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, warns that Canada cannot rely on its allies and that the national security risks from losing manufacturing should be a wake-up call.

The 2021 jury was comprised of Canadian economist David A. Dodge, professor and statistician Jean-Marie Dufour, corporate director Brenda Eaton, diplomat Louise Fréchette, Indigenous public sector executive Karen Restoule and professor emeritus Frederic Wien.   

The other four shortlisted titles will receive $7,500 each.

They were Values by Mark Carney, Stand On Guard by Stephanie Carvin, Indigenomics by Carol Anne Hilton and Neglected No More by André Picard.

The Donner Prize was founded in 1998.

Past winners include Joseph Heath for The Machinery of Government, Dennis McConaghy for Breakdown, Thomas J. Courchene for Indigenous Nationals, Canadian Citizens and Alex Marland for Brand Command.

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