This article appears in BusinessWeek as part of the “Innovation Economy“, authored by Michael J. Mandel. The title of the article is “How To Sharpen The Innovation Edge“.

The article starts by saying that although over the past 75 years, economists have learnt and lectured much about the world’s economy, there is little consensus about what to do to “encouraging innovation”. Views of some economists: cutting nation’s budget for more funds for private-sector research, slashing taxes to encourage entrepreneurs, strengthening patent and copyright laws and also the view that too much protection of intellectual property will slow innovation – by increasing litigation, that is.

The article goes on to say why this is so tough – the innovation economy is dynamic and consists of a host of variables – government, universities, corporations, start-ups, VC’s, etc. and to top it all – all have separate roles. Besides, innovation is no longer restricted – it’s global…although I still haven’t quite figured out what that means – innovation going global?

And then again – as most articles do – since most are written by Americans anyway – the articles goes on to say that (and I quote) “There is one guidepost amid the confusing trends: the enormous and surprising success of the American innovation machine in recent years.” I would have loved to bite this down – unfortunately it is quite true – besides America and Americans also have money to sound out the whole world about their achievements – for a country like India, sounding out our achievements is like a middle-class family wondering on what paper to print the marriage cards.

The article then goes on to give some ideas on spurring innovation, which are:

  • BETTER NUMBERS ON INNOVATION (to say that innovation will be promoted when the case is supported with real numbers – which indirectly means that it requires systems to be transparent I suppose and that itself is a great problem for a consultant to solve!)

The points above are described with various characteristics of innovation, which make the above steps necessary – for example – for the first point – “INVEST IN RESEARCH AND EDUCATION”, the article builds its case thus: “Innovation depends on good ideas and smart people. So, to encourage innovation over the long run, the best course is to increase government funding for basic research, which is not profitable for most companies, and to spend more on graduate education in science and engineering.” …an example from the US follows, citing the “reasonably good record” of the US in these areas… Frankly, the article does make a good case for investing in research and education – atleast for the US.

Ah! Then the article mentions the “innovation becoming global” bit – apparently what it means is that innovation is spreading from a few large industrial countries to a broader stage. What is now needed to encourage innovation further is collaborative research without boundaries and to make use of innovations elsewhere (again that made me clueless – elsewhere? – and I’m not sure I got the “innovation becoming global” bit either).

More from this issue of BusinessWeek about the Innovation Economy as I read through it myself – later in the blog!