Posted by: Al Meyers | February 27, 2009

A Datapoint We Should ALL Be Watching

A colleague shared with me an article that was printed in Wednesday’s NY Times.  I have copied the article below, and it paints a very troubling picture about the competitiveness of the United States.

The article reinstates the main focus of the new Education Secretary:  to ensure that we close the gap between the skills learned in school and the skills required for successful performance in the 21st century work environment.  Only through achieving these ends, will the United States (and any country for that matter), maintain and grow its global competitiveness and innovation.

This is exactly why the time is now to embrace fundamental, transformational, disruptive innovative educational tools and pedagogy.  Our children, and our future, depend on it.

February 25, 2009

In Innovation, U.S. Said to Be Losing Competitive Edge

The competitive edge of the United States economy has eroded sharply over the last decade, according to a new study by a nonpartisan research group.

The report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation found that the United States ranked sixth among 40 countries and regions, based on 16 indicators of innovation and competitiveness. They included venture capital investment, scientific researchers, spending on research and educational achievement.

But the American economy placed last in terms of progress made over the last decade. “The trend is very troubling,” said Robert D. Atkinson, president of the foundation.

Measuring national competitiveness and the capacity for innovation is tricky. Definitions and methods differ, and so do the outcomes. For example, the World Economic Forum’s recent global competitiveness report ranked the United States first. Much of the forum’s report is based on opinion surveys.

A report last year by the Rand Corporation concluded that the United States was in “no imminent danger” of losing its competitive advantage in science and technology.

The new report, published on Wednesday, offers a more pessimistic portrait. Its assessment is in line with a landmark study in late 2005, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” by the National Academies, the nation’s leading science advisory group. It warned that America’s lead in science and technology was “eroding at a time when many other nations are gathering strength.”

President Obama has often said that in the future, international prosperity will depend on the United States becoming an “innovation economy.” The administration’s economic recovery package includes added spending for areas favored by innovation policy advocates, including higher research and development spending and funds for high-technology fields like electronic health records. But the administration has no coordinated innovation agenda.

Some countries, including Singapore, Taiwan, Finland and China, are pursuing policies that are explicitly designed to spur innovation. These policies typically try to nurture a broader “ecology of innovation,” which often includes education, training, intellectual property protection and immigration. This is in contrast to the industrial policy of the 1980s in which governments helped pick winners among domestic industries.

The foundation study, according to John Kao, a former professor at the Harvard business school and an innovation consultant to governments and corporations, is an ambitious effort at measurement. He called its conclusions “a wake-up call.”

In the foundation report, unlike some competitiveness studies, results were adjusted for the size of each economy and its population. Consequently, the United States ranked sixth in venture capital investment (Sweden was first); fifth in corporate research and development spending (Japan led); and fourth in science and technology researchers (again, Sweden was first).

Over all, the most innovatively competitive nation was Singapore, which embarked on a national innovation strategy years ago, investing heavily and recruiting leading scientists and technologists from around the world.

Mr. Atkinson of the foundation said the United States should act more like the individual states had been doing for some time. They have government programs to attract investment and talent and improve work force skills of local people.

The study’s specific recommendations include federal incentives for American companies to innovate at home, ranging from research tax incentives to work force development tax credits. Public investments and regulatory incentives can accelerate the use of information technology in health care, energy systems, transportation, government and education.

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Responses

  1. Great post and note to your readers,

    They demonstrate that rewards from Innovation (in education, business & technology) are best derived from a combination of changes in approach, thinking and investment rather than just investment alone.

    If we are to close the gap between the skills learned in school and the skills required for successful performance in the 21st century work environment, then we have to change our approach, thinking and investment in education.


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