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Urban Regions and Universities

Dr. Meric Gertler
President, University of Toronto

Address to the Canadian Embassy in Beijing

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December 1, 2015

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Good afternoon. Thank you for that kind introduction. I am grateful to Ambassador Saint-Jacques for the opportunity to address this distinguished gathering.

It is lovely to see such a wonderful turnout. I have been to Beijing on several occasions in the past and I am always deeply impressed by the warmth and generosity of our hosts. Thank you again.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am honoured and delighted to be speaking to you today. One of the reasons I was so excited to take on the Presidency of the University of Toronto is that I have focused much of my academic career on studying the economies of urban regions and the roles that major institutions such as research universities play in their development.

Now, two years into my term, I believe it is increasingly clear that this relationship between cities and universities is critical to our collective prosperity. In fact, my argument today will be a simple one:

Global cities in partnership with global universities are building the foundations of our collective future prosperity.

While there is growing recognition – both in China and in Canada – that urban regions are fundamental sources prosperity, I believe that their importance remains underappreciated.

I am going to argue this afternoon that this is going to change.

In China as well as in Canada, many traditional sources of prosperity are being challenged by both cyclical and longer-term change. To position our countries for success in the future, we will have to focus our collective efforts on identifying our most promising assets – both sectorally and geographically – and then leveraging them fully.

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