Kirkus Reviews QR Code
ADVANTAGE by Adam Segal


How American Innovation Can Overcome the Asian Challenge


Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-393-06878-8
Publisher: Norton

An optimistic forecast for the future of American innovation.

Despite the rise of China and India as economic powers seeking advanced technology, the United States will “play a dynamic role in the new world of globalized innovation,” writes Segal, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. In recent years, America’s technological lead has eroded as a result of flat spending on basic research, declining science and engineering enrollments and other factors, most notably the rise of Asia. China, for example, is pushing to the forefront of nanotechnology is already the world’s largest exporter of high-tech products. But many policymakers have overblown the Asian threat, writes Segal, ignoring or underestimating many of the factors that go into innovation. In particular, Asia lags in developing the new talent and the organizations and relationships (between academe, government and business) that sustain innovation. Although booming, education in China and India is producing engineering and science graduates who often lack practical, analytical and teamwork skills. Progress in both nations is also slowed by state controls and bureaucracies. To boost innovation at home, the United States must revitalize connections between universities and industry, encourage technological entrepreneurship and build more collaborative communities of scientists and entrepreneurs. The author stresses the need for American scientists to maintain close ties with Asia, where more and more scientific advances will occur. “In this era of collaborative and globalized innovation,” he writes, “companies and countries are inextricably dependent on ideas and talent from the outside.” Segal offers many suggestions to help encourage the design of effective policies to bolster “the creation, commercialization and spread of novel ideas.” By exploiting its “comparative advantage—an open and flexible culture and a web of institutions, understandings and relations that move ideas from the lab to the marketplace,” the United States can remain a force in innovation and may even produce technological discoveries that spur recovery from the current recession.

Not necessarily for general readers, but a must for policymakers.