Thursday, January 27, 2011

2010 State Technology and Science Index

From the Milken Institute. The subtitle is: Enduring Lessons for the Intangible Economy. The background:
The 2010 State Technology and Science Index looks at 79 unique indicators that are categorized into five major components: Research and Development Inputs, Risk Capital and Entrepreneurial Infrastructure, Human Capital Investment, Technology and Science Work Force, and Technology Concentration and Dynamism. It is one of the most comprehensive examinations of state technology and science assets ever compiled.

The top 10 (with previous index rankings in 2008):
1. Massachusetts (1)
2. Maryland (2)
3. Colorado (3)
4. California (4)
5. Utah (8)
6. Washington (5)
7. New Hampshire (9)
8. Virginia (6)
9. Connecticut (7)
10. Delaware (14)
The report and executive summary can be found here.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Celebrating Entrepreneurship

If you think the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation is a national treasure that should be expanded and scaled up, then you might want to support The Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (@InnovationontheMall). The organizers:

... propose that a new Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation on the National Mall occupy the now vacant Arts & Industries Building. The Center would restore the building’s original mission: to showcase to the public and encourage excitement about understanding the concepts underlying innovation and the process of invention.

The original purpose of the Arts & Industries building, to showcase and celebrate American ingenuity, will be adapted fluidly for a new mission. Exhibits, educational programs, and convenings will catalyze and convey transformational new ideas creating value for society.

Check it out and spread the word!

Innovation and Competition

Here in DC it is restaurant week, which can be a fun time of year. Normally high priced restaurants offer a three course fixed price (pre fixe if you must) menu for the comparably affordable price of $20/35 for lunch/dinner. I've been looking for a few good vegetarian options since my wife has been a lifelong vegetarian. Flipping through OpenTable's listing I was struck by how little innovation there is in the food industry at the moment.

First, I should say that it is nice that so many restaurants do offer at least some semblance of a veggie option, however the clustering was kind of shocking. Virtually every restaurant, almost regardless of the type of cuisine, is offering a mushroom risotto for its main course. Nothing against this, but would you really want to eat at six different fancy restaurants in search of the perfect mushroom risotto?

This isn't limited solely to vegetarian food of course. Virtually every self-respecting haute cuisine restaurateur is offering a beet salad now. It hits all the trendy points: it's seasonal, local, and in most cases organic. Since chefs are a transient lot they tend to incorporate many of their competitors' best dishes into their new restaurants, with a few modest modifications to avoid allegations of outright theft. Think pork belly too, which is now on the wane but was a de facto requirement on restaurant menus just a bit ago.

What's interesting from an entrepreneurial standpoint is that this situation is only a temporary equilibrium. It won't be long before some enterprising restaurateur recognizes the lack of novelty in restaurant menus today and will come up with something new and great. Or new and terrible - the restaurant industry is nothing if not volatile. Even at a small, local scale, entrepreneurial vision drives change and improves and enlarges the options that we as consumers can choose from. Or to borrow a phrase (thecomingprosperity):
... sustained prosperity depends on novelty. It depends on invention in the face of change. It depends on creativity with limited resources.

More fundamentally--most fundamentally--sustained and sustainable prosperity depends on entrepreneurs.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Some Recent Articles on Innovation

David Warsh's latest article on Economic Principals asks whether a new round of technical innovation can tackle problems of climate change. He answers this by reviewing the contributions of previous innovation theorists like Nelson, Rosenberg, and Arrow. Worth a quick read.

Elsewhere, the Minnesota Fed's quarterly publication The Region has an interesting survey article on the relationship between trade and innovative capabilities:
“For the last decade or so, the idea that international trade might have extra benefits because it stimulates innovation by firms that export has been a strongly held view among economists,” observed Minneapolis Fed consultant Andy Atkeson in a recent interview. “But what we’re finding, in fact, is that these ‘extra benefits’ don’t really exist.”