There’s something about Toronto

This post is part two in a potentially ongoing series on interesting and innovative places.

Rohan blogged recently (here) about interesting stuff going on in Bristol, UK, but I can’t stop hearing about interesting people and organisations in Toronto, Canada. Some of the stuff that has appeared on my radar in the last few months from Toronto include:

I’m sure there is lots more that I’ve missed, but the fact that, without looking for them, these things keep cropping up appears to point to a creative and innovative place. Perhaps it’s because Toronto (as I have recently learned), has half of it’s inhabitants from outside Canada, and this diversity drives innovation as I’ve blogged about previously here. What else is it about Toronto, or any place, that makes it an innovative hub?

I just thought I’d capture that there does seem to be a buzz about the place which is hard to put your finger on, but you know it when you see it.


  1. I think that every place where several cultures or ethnic groups meet each other is a great enviroment for new solutions and innovations. It is because of specific demands and request of every group-the old solutions do not satisfy their needs and requirements enough, so something new must used.
    As a realtor in Toronto I know, that every special request makes me smarter by exploring new solutions and by learning more about the problem.
    I think it is simmilar not only in realtor’s world, but even in the global measure.

  2. Toronto does have a very progressive and innovative spirit. Along with the diversity, there is another, less tangible quality that I believe is unique about the city. Being Canadian, and hence part of a young, previously colonized country with a population largely drawn on an open immigration policy… and bordering the most influential nation on earth is a unique milieu. Being the largest city of that country amplifies this effect. Essentially what I’m getting at is that Toronto Is quite “post-modern” as a city- there is no large sense of identity, so identity becomes very fluid and individual. I think this social atmosphere is very liberating and supportive of new ideas and ways of being. When one is London or New York, there is an awareness that there is a way to “be” a “New Yorker” or a “Londoner”…. in Toronto, everything is a blank slate and it is large and diverse enough to have the cultural/intellectual infrastructure (granted, on a smaller scale) of “world cities”, minus the class/social/historical baggage that limits other places.
    Just a thought…

  3. Great to see MaRS in your list, Roland, thanks for the plug! On the diversity observation you made, one of the scientists we profiled recently talked about the “cultural ease” she found in Toronto.
    A pediatrician in Shanghai, she describes becoming a “professional fast-tracker” in her early years as an immigrant to Canada in the 90s — finishing a PhD in Neuroscience in less than three years, having a second child, publishing in Nature and, after a year’s postdoc, securing an independent scientist position at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
    Her husband works in IT, her kids play hockey in the winter and soccer in the summer. They love the city’s vibrant Chinatown. What better conditions for innovation: an MD/PhD with a global perspective and an active family life in a lively, accessible city. This is Richard Florida’s creative class theory in action…

  4. What is it that makes Toronto, or any place, an innovative hub? Since I’ve never been to Toronto, but am a native of Edmonton, an up and coming innovative hub, I would have to say that the success of any innovative hub rests in several factors. While diversity is definitely a factor, the area must also contain a spirit of innovation, access to resources and institutions of higher education, as well as bright minds and sufficient financial support and strong leadership.
    And in the state of the current economy, it will be innovation that leads us away from our current economic hardship. So a question I’m pondering is how do we as a people promote our innovative hubs across North America and ultimately the world?

  5. Thanks Sam – promotion is great, but it’s always best if others tell your stories. it’s not easy to create and that’s what seems to be happening out of Toronto (from my London, UK perspective at least).

  6. It’s always nice when others are out there promoting your town, but sometimes you have to do it yourself. There still are hidden economic gems out there. Edmonton is one of them. Sometimes innovators aren’t the best at self-promotion. How many examples are there of great products that have failed, partly because they weren’t promoted as well as their successors?

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