Thursday, December 18, 2008

American Innovation and Competitiveness

Now and then the Economist has a truly thought provoking piece. In late November they ran this article that touches on many of the themes of this blog. It starts bleakly:
Even before the financial crunch began, many businessmen were worried that America was losing its lead in innovation to India and China. They were particularly upset that Asian rivals had been investing with more gusto in teaching young people mathematics and science, and in advanced scientific research. America’s National Academy of Engineering even issued a report last year, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm”, arguing that America’s “economic and strategic security” was in question because of lack of investment.

The cries are growing louder. The Council on Competitiveness, an influential group of American company bosses, university presidents and labour leaders, issued a terse report on the matter on November 11th and demanded that Barack Obama “take bold action to recapture America’s competitiveness” in his first 100 days in office.
The Economist then turns to Amar Bhide:
So does the relative decline of America as a technology powerhouse really amount to a threat to its prosperity? Nonsense, insists Amar Bhidé of Columbia Business School. In “The Venturesome Economy”, a provocative new book, he explains why he thinks this gloomy thesis misunderstands innovation in several fundamental ways.
There is much more and I will return to these topics in my next few posts. I've been meaning to talk about the Gathering Storm report for a while now.

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