You are a municipal economic development officer and it’s your job to turn your city into the next technology boomtown. You have two meetings on this imaginary morning. One is with a paper millionaire in a hoodiewho wants you to gift him some land for the startup campus he wants to build. There is hype around this kid. His company could be the next Uber. The other meeting is with the woman who owns your daughter’s favourite artisanal coffee shop. She wants help getting a liquor licence so she can pull espresso shots in the morning and pour local craft beer at night. But here’s the thing: you only have time to prepare for one of those meetings. Who will benefit from your full attention—the barista or the billionaire wannabe?
No-brainer, right? Every government on the planet wants to get into the business of raising “unicorns”—the term dreamed up years back to describe startups worth more than $1 billion. Canada’s hyperactive economic development minister, Navdeep Bains, is working on an “innovation agenda” that is meant to seed future world-beaters. The G20 leaders did little of substance at their latest summit, but they did release a “Blueprint on Innovative Growth” and a “New Industrial Revolution Action Plan.” Your assessment of these documents will depend on how cynical you are, but it is clear that the world’s major economies are at least giving the subject some serious thought.
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