Thursday, September 27, 2012

Is America Not Being The #1 Research Nation Bad?


I have a friend who is a subsistence farmer in Uganda.  As friends, we discuss family, business, and life in both our very different worlds.  As I was thinking about my life in the USA and his life in East Africa, I realized what the map above demonstrates.  

For over 500 years, Europe and the USA have developed most of the world's research knowledge and innovation.  In fact, what the data behind this graphic shows is seven nations account for 92% of world research and development.  When China, India, and other emerging nations were still living at subsistence level economies, their vast populations were contributing few ideas to the development of the world.  

As the wealth of emerging market nations increases in coming years, so will their contribution to innovation.  China and India, especially, are building an increasing number of institutions of higher learning.  With more universities, colleges, and tech schools comes more research, development, innovation, and entrepreneurship.  The number of idea creators per million is increasing.  

New knowledge, new ideas, and new innovation is creating a new world.  New innovations disrupt the old because idea consumers adopt them to make their life better, easier, or more productive.  We live in exciting times when more people are generating more ideas.  America does not have to fall behind!

The USA can now benefit from world research and development.  Why do Scandinavian countries have more researchers per million than an other nation on earth?  Maybe it is cold there with nothing else to do?  I think the answer is much deeper than that. 

Richard Florida's study "Creativity and Prosperity" concludes that where economic and social development occur, the more innovative and prosperous a nation becomes.  America will continue to be a leading innovator in the world as long as our social and economic progress continues. 

It is not so bad to have other nations like China and India beginning to add to aggregate world research and creativity.  We will get "lift" from the new knowledge economies.  America still has first mover advantage and can continue to lead if we get education and government policy right.  The American way still has the drive to innovate.  We need to simply get out of our own way. 

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