America’s changing role in global innovation

Over at strategy + business, Laura W. Geller interviews Council of Foreign Relations fellow Adam Segal about the changing nature of global innovation.  Segal argues that recent writing about how China and India are overtaking the US in economic innovation has got it all wrong.

He believes that those two countries are creating the intellectual capital for innovation, but lag far behind on the “soft side” of innovation:  the cultural and institutional values that enable new ideas to emerge and take root in an economy.  So how should the US respond to the rise of China and India as centers of intellectual capital?

The traditional model for how the U.S. works in science and technology was like the old energy grid: the U.S. thought of the ideas and then sent them out to the rest of the world, in the same way you generate energy and you send it out. Instead, the U.S. should start to think of itself as a smart grid. . . Increasingly, inventions and ideas will be happening in the places where the U.S. used to just send ideas. And the U.S. has to be able to figure out what those ideas are and how it can apply them to markets and develop them.

In other words, Segal believes that even if China and India can “out-engineer” us, they won’t be able to turn those ideas into new products or business models as fast and effectively as the US can.  We’ll be able to use the ideas they come up with to our own advantage.

Interesting stuff.  You can read the full article here.

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