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Infrastructure public–private partnerships as drivers of innovation? Lessons from Ontario, Canada

Michael Himmel and Matti Siemiatycki

Environment and Planning C, 2017, vol. 35, issue 5, 746-764

Abstract: Public–private partnerships have been widely identified as key drivers of innovation in large public infrastructure projects such as hospitals, courthouses, bridges, highways, and transit lines. Yet to date, there is little empirical evidence documenting how much or what types of innovation are realized through the public–private partnership procurement process. Based on an examination of public–private partnership project delivery in Ontario, Canada over the past decade, this study shows that the innovations realized through the public–private partnership process tend to be a series of design, construction method, and material selection choices primarily aimed at lowering project cost and risk. Conversely, more revolutionary innovations in terms of iconic architecture or substantial rethinking of the approach to public service delivery are not typically achieved through the public–private partnership process. The paper concludes by reflecting on the meaning of innovation in the infrastructure sector, and identifies the specific public–private partnership procurement processes that incentivize cost-saving ingenuities over more transformational innovations.

Keywords: Infrastructure planning; innovation; public-private partnerships (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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Handle: RePEc:sae:envirc:v:35:y:2017:i:5:p:746-764