Books

Toronto scholar Dan Breznitz wins inaugural $60K Balsillie Prize for best Canadian public policy book

Innovation in Real Places explores how many cities have gambled on pursuing Silicon Valley's economic model.

Innovation in Real Places explores how many cities have gambled on pursuing Silicon Valley's economic model

Innovation in Real Places by Dan Breznit has won the Balsillie Prize for Public Policy, a new award presented by Writers’ Trust Canada. (University of Toronto, Oxford University Press)

Innovation in Real Places by Dan Breznit has won the Balsillie Prize for Public Policy, a new award presented by Writers' Trust Canada.

The $60,000 Balsillie Prize for Public Policy, which was established in 2021, honours nonfiction that contributes to Canadian policy.

In Innovation in Real Places: Strategies for Prosperity in an Unforgiving World, Breznitz 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.

"His research demonstrates that by focusing on the invention side — creating the next new thing — Canadian policy and industry largely miss the major benefits of the innovation train," the jury said in a statement.

"Breznitz offers advice for leaders at all levels: you don't have to invent it; you do, however, have to bring it to market in a better way."

Breznitz is a professor and the co-director of the Innovation Policy Lab at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

His other books include Innovation and the State, Run of the Red Queen and The Third Globalization. Breznitz lives in Toronto.

The three finalists were On Borrowed Time by CBC Victoria reporter and producer Gregor Craigie, Neglected No More by Montreal journalist André Picard, and Indian in the Cabinet by Vancouver politician and author Jody Wilson-Raybould. 

Each remaining finalist will receive $3,000.

The prize is funded by businessman and philanthropist Jim Balsillie, as part of his $3 million donation to Writers' Trust to support Canadian literature. 

"My hope is the winner and shortlist will inspire discussions and debate at home and in policy communities that ultimately contribute to the development of smart public policy for our country," Balsillie said in a statement.

He also funded the $60,000 Atwood Gibson Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, recently renamed after Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson, two of the founders of Writers' Trust of Canada. 

The Writers' Trust of Canada is an organization that supports Canadian writers through literary awards, fellowships, financial grants, mentorships and more.

Pierre Berton, Margaret Laurence and David Young founded the organization alongside Atwood and Gibson in 1976. 

It also gives out seven prizes in recognition of the year's best in fiction, nonfiction and short story, as well as mid-career and lifetime achievement awards.

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