Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Keep on Bailing, or Invest in Innovation?

Thermo Fisher chairman Jim Manzi and James Henry have an article in The Nation titled 'Invest in Innovation.' Well worth a read.

"For more than a century America has led the world in innovation," they write. "This has been true not only in science and technology but also in business management practices, the design of new approaches to service delivery, political institutions and civil rights. ...But if the United Stakes stakes its future on resource-based competition--the kind of low-innovation, 'big houses/big debts/big cars' model favored by automakers, Wall Street and the oil industry...[our long-term] competitive advantage shifts to countries with the largest supply of cheap resources, the lowest taxes and the cheapest, most oppressed workers--not a formula for vibrant democracies either at home or abroad."

One recommendation is to create more innovation hubs like Boston and Silicon Valley. Henry and Manzi write:

    Take a lesson from successful public-private collaborations in technology hubs like Silicon Valley, Boston and Austin. In all these cases, private venture capital and entrepreneurs played crucial roles--and so did federal dollars. For decades the federal government generously subsidized basic research in fields like engineering, biology, physics, chemistry and computer science at premier universities like MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon and the University of Texas.

    ...The question is whether we can replicate innovative new Bostons and Silicon Valleys in other geographies, focused on energy, healthcare, the environment, education and transportation.

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