Time to push the reset button on American-driven innovation

A new survey suggests Americans are more pessimistic about the country's role in future innovation than outsiders, but it could be just a matter of time before reality catches up with perception.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

For the data junkies among you, Newsweek has just published some research on American innovation that just so happens to be funded by Intel (although the news organization declared independence when choosing the questions and interpreting the results). The article, "The Decline of Western Innovation," and some of its companion pieces are great cases for why it isn't just the healthcare system we should be overhauling and why hacking your R&D budget might look good on the short-term balance sheet. Long term, not so good.

Given all the hooplah this week about the United States and China making all nicey nice, it's interesting to note that the survey base came from 4,800 adults in the States, China, Germany and the United Kingdom. Comparing the perceptions of the Americans and Chinese is especially interesting, so that is of course what Newsweek has done.

Turns out that generally speaking, we are a more pessimistic people than our Chinese counterparts, at least when it comes to inward reflection about innovation. Consider the following:

  • 61 percent of the Americans believe the recession has had a negative impact on American business innovation, versus 47 percent of the Chinese
  • 81 percent of the Chinese believe that the U.S. is staying ahead of China in innovation, versus 41 percent of Americans

Generally speaking, those Americans who believe that the United States is falling behind in innovation cite poor math and science education as the biggest factor -- 42 percent believe that is the root cause. The next nearest response is the 17 percent of Americans who believe the American government is not doing enough to support technological innovation.

Personally speaking, I think a survey of this type is a good reality check. A jolt. The good news is that most of the rest of the world doesn't think we are as behind as WE think we are. But there's only so long that this can last, before reality will catch up with this perception. The accompanying Newsweek article "Is America Losing Its Mojo," suggests ways that businesses can address the problem.

Key themes in that article:

  • Solving the funding gap for science research
  • Addressing the education system
  • Developing a more rational immigration policy
  • And (this is a big one folks), accepting responsibility for the solution.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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