National Innovation: An Oxymoron?
Thursday 27th January 2011 - 12:30pm - 2:00pm
Thursday 27 January, 12.30 - 14.00
Despite widespread perceptions of the decline of the West, Europe, Japan and the US hold leadership positions in major innovation rankings.
How are national innovation systems created and maintained?
The following dimensions will be addressed:
- The role of science and technology development
- The impact of education reform
- Key elements of policy design
- Many countries around the world have innovation strategies and policies, but this is a frontier issue without clear metrics or models.
- Governments can develop policies to spark and orchestrate innovation.
- Key factors include public policy, financing and education.
- A government can engender creativity and innovation simply by maintaining a free and open society.
- Cultural traits appear to play a key role.
As evidenced by references in US President Barack Obama’s recent State of the Union Address and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s opening remarks at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, innovation seems to be on the tip of the tongue of national leaders these days.
Many countries have innovation strategies and policies, but national innovation is a frontier issue with no clear way to measure it; neither are there models or maps of how to make it happen. The ingredients that go into the mix range from individual creativity to world systems theories.
History shows that national innovation usually begins with a strong economic base. That engenders investment in education and scientific investigation, which then leads to technological advances and innovation. Germany until the 1930s and the United States, with its military research since the mid-20th century, provide examples. What’s more, a government can engender creativity and innovation simply by maintaining a free and open society.
Governments can develop policies to spark and orchestrate innovation. Countries that seem to be in the lead today are focusing on big ideas, such as Finland with its health and wellness initiative. Some countries rely on the traditional laboratories full of scientists in white coats. Others might encourage individual creativity. In the end, successful initiatives will fit together the pieces of public policy, financing, education and entrepreneurship to complete a jigsaw puzzle that creates a coherent picture within the confines of a particular national culture.
The popular notion of innovation worships the lone inventor in his or her workshop, but the correct metaphor is not a light bulb going off in someone’s head but a rising tide. Sundry inventions and discoveries – in parallel and in series – culminate in whole new industries. It took half a century to get from the first computers to a full-scale digital revolution. Only recently did the genetic engineering sector develop from the original discovery of DNA in 1953.
Cultural traits appear to play a key role. Iceland benefits from a collaborative culture, one where mutual trust allows people to work together – in contrast to the United States, where legal issues must be resolved first. However, the US received praise for having a culture that accepts failure, allowing people pick themselves up and try again.
The latter cultural trait is particularly evident in the US educational system, where students are encouraged to try different things and experiment. By contrast, the French school system, with its “single right answer” model, is believed to stifle creativity and thus innovation. Education reformers believe that children should be encouraged to think independently and to use the scientific method.
W. Brian Arthur, Professor, Santa Fe Institute, USA
Francis Gurry, Director-General, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Geneva; Global Agenda Council on the Intellectual Property System
Priya Hiranandani-Vandrevala, Founder and Co-Chairman, Hirco Group, India
Richard A. Jefferson, Chief Executive Officer, Cambia, Australia; Social Entrepreneur; Global Agenda Council on the Intellectual Property System
Atsushi Seike, President, Keio University, Japan; Global Agenda Council on Ageing
John Kao, Chairman and Founder, Institute for Large Scale Innovation, USA; Global Agenda Council on Innovation
This summary was prepared by William Hinchberger. The views expressed are those of certain participants in the discussion and do not necessarily reflect the views of all participants or of the World Economic Forum.
Copyright 2011 World Economic Forum
No part of this material may be copied, photocopied or duplicated in any form by any means or redistributed without the prior written consent of the World Economic Forum.
Keywords: National innovation, creativity, national innovation policy
Chairman and Founder, Institute for Large Scale Innovation, USA
BA, Yale College; MD, Yale College of Medicine; MBA, Harvard Business School. Formerly: residency in...
W. Brian Arthur
External Professor, Santa Fe Institute, USA
Graduate degrees in Mathematics, Operations Research and Economics. Known for work on positive feedb...
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Cambia, Australia
1978, BA, Univ. of California; 1985, PhD in Molecular, Cellular and Dev. Biology, Univ. of Colorado....
Founder, H Living, USA
Postgraduate degree, Mumbai Univ. Chartered Accountant. Entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist wi...
President, Keio University, Japan
1993, PhD, Labour Economics, Keio Univ. Former: Visiting Scholar, UCLA; Consultant, RAND Corp.; Visi...
Director-General, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Geneva
LLB and LLM, University of Melbourne, Australia; PhD, University of Cambridge, UK. Since October 200...