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America's secret weapon: Its unparalleled capacity for innovation

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The U.S. presidential election has the country captivated. As many commentators have pointed out, the primaries are more focused on personalities than policy. While the parties focus on who is going to represent them in the fall, I want to make the case for something that I hope every candidate will agree on in November: America's unparalleled capacity for innovation. When the United States invests in innovation, it creates companies and jobs at home, makes Americans healthier and safer, and saves lives and fights poverty in the world's poorest countries. It offers the next president a tremendous opportunity to help people in America and around the world.

Of course, America's capacity for innovation is nothing new. We have been inventing for more than two centuries: think of Benjamin Franklin, Margaret Knight, Thomas Edison. By the end of World War II, the United States led the world in automobiles, aerospace, electronics, medicine, and other areas. Nor is the formula for success complicated: Government funding for our world-class research institutions produces the new technologies that American entrepreneurs take to market.

What is new is that more countries than ever are competing for global leadership, and they know the value of innovation. Since 2000, South Korea's research and development spending (measured as a percentage of GDP) has gone up 90%. China's has doubled. The United States' has essentially flatlined. It's great that the rest of the world is committing more, but if the United States is going to maintain its leading role, it needs to up its game.

I have seen first-hand the impact that this type of research can have. I was lucky enough to be a student when computers came along in the 1960s. At first they were very expensive, so it was hard to get access to them. But the microchip revolution, made possible by U.S. government research, completely changed that. Among other things it enabled Microsoft, the company I co-founded, to write software that made computers an invaluable tool for productivity. Later, the Internet - another product of federal research - changed the game again. It is no accident that today most of the top tech companies are still based in the United States, and their advances will have a massive impact in every area of human activity.

My favorite example is health. America's investment in this area creates high-paying jobs at universities, biotech companies, and government labs. It leads to new treatments for disease, such as cancer therapies. It helps contain deadly epidemics like Ebola and Zika. And it saves lives in poor countries. Since 1990, the fraction of children who die before age 5 has fallen by more than half. I think that's the greatest statistic of all time, and the United States deserves a lot of credit for making it happen.

The next few years could bring even more progress. With a little luck we could eradicate polio, a goal that is within reach because of vaccines developed by U.S. scientists. (Polio would be the second disease ever eradicated, after smallpox in 1979 - in which the United States also played an irreplaceable role.) There is also exciting progress on malaria: The number of deaths dropped more than 40% from 2000 to 2012, thanks in part to America's support for breakthrough tools like drugs and bed nets. But to make the most of these opportunities, we need to invest more in basic health research and specific areas like vaccines.

Energy is another great example. American-funded research defines the state of the art in energy production. Early advances in wind and solar technology were developed with federal money. And this research offers a strong return on investment. Between 1978 and 2000, the Department of Energy spent $17.5 billion (in today's dollars) on research on efficiency and fossil fuels, yielding $41 billion in economic benefits. Yet, until this year, the DOE's research budget hasn't seen a real increase since the Reagan administration.

If we step up these investments, we can create new jobs in the energy sector and develop the technologies that will power the world - while also fighting climate change, promoting energy independence, and providing affordable energy for the 1.3 billion poor people who don't have it today. Some of the more promising areas include making fuel from solar energy, much the way plants do; making nuclear energy safer and more affordable; capture and storing carbon; and creating new ways to store energy that let us make the most of renewables.

There's a lot of momentum right now on clean energy research. Last year, the leaders of 20 countries, including the United States, committed to double federal investments in this area. Complementing that crucial effort, I helped launch the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a group of private investors who will back promising clean-energy companies. The next president will have a chance to accelerate this momentum.

Investing in R&D isn't about the government picking winners and losers. The markets will do that. It's about doing what we know works: making limited and targeted investments to lay a foundation for America's entrepreneurs. This approach has been fundamental to U.S. leadership for decades, and it will become only more important in the years ahead.

By the end of this summer, the political parties will have chosen their leaders and will start looking ahead to the November election. The nominees will lay out their vision for America and their agenda for achieving it. These visions will probably have more differences than similarities. But I hope we can all agree that, no matter how you see America's future, there will always be an essential role for innovation.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2016.

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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How many of the innovations in America are actually being made by Americans?

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How many of the innovations in America are actually being made by Americans?

Why would that matter?

Because America's innovation is in no small way fueled by immigrants.

That is America's secrete weapon: a welcoming pluralistic open soceity.

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The great Philosopher and mathematician Alfred North Whitehead said that the invention of invention was the 19th century's greatest invention. The greatest invention of the 20th century is the invention of the systematization and standardization of invention. And that is America's greatest contribution to world history and why the modern age is a product of our innovation WE Americans,unlike Japan or any other country in the world, represent a cross section of just about every race,color or creed in the world. When you ask are the inventions and innovations done by Americans in America it only shows the lack of a real understanding of our unique and exceptional culture, there has never been another like it in world history. Enrico Fermi was Italian by birth and became a naturalized American citizen, just like my father . Were they American? 100% this is who we are and this is one of our enduring strengths.

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America may be "land of innovation," but Americans can no longer run their railroads properly, the Washington D. C. subway system is about to be shutdown, and the airports are a disgrace. Grumman cannot get the new stealth fighter, for which Dept. of Defense has paid nearly half a trillion dollars, to fly properly. Over 2 million Americans are in jails and prisons. 30 million American children are malnourished. The rich -- like Bill Gates -- pay practically zero in taxes. The suicide rate of middle-class, middle-aged Americans is soaring. Once you get away from Palo Alto, Portland, Washington D.C. and the Beltway and some other places--and go to Detroit, Newark, the old industrial towns in New England--you'll see a modern wasteland.

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"America's secret weapon: Its unparalleled capacity for innovation"

Except at Microsoft, who stalled about 20 years ago and has relied mostly on buying software designed my others since inhouse productivity has been halting at best for years.

Gates thinks big but he's not really a big thinker. Much of his philanthropy would be more beneficial if he would worked with existing agencies rather than creating parallel organizations. His ideas about improving public education are toxic. He never attended public schools so his perspective is certainly limited.

He has that classic ego trait that convinces him that because he was successful in one venture that he has the ability to be just as successful in others.

MattLazarusAPR. 22, 2016 - 10:25PM JST America may be "land of innovation," but Americans can no longer run their railroads properly, the Washington D. C. subway system is about to be shutdown, and the airports are a disgrace.

As to the railroads, that's nothing new. Goodness, the private companies wanted out of the business in the 1960s as they could not longer compete with the automobile as it became the preferred form of medium and even long distant travel. Add to this relatively cheap air travel and chronically underfunded Amtrak could/can never hope to compete. The U.S. passenger rail system was a creature of the 19th Century and would have had to be completely rebuilt to function as what is found today in Japan, Europe, S. Korea and even China.

The DC subway system is indeed a mess and while I'm not fond of Laguardia, JFK or LAX, SF, SeaTac, Denver, Logan, etc., etc, function as well as any behemoth could be expected and are hardly "disgraceful."

The U.S has more airports than any other country on Earth. To expect all of them to run as well and look as good as, say, mostly moribund Central Air, is silly. Narita, still the main airport for entering Japan, saw about 35 million passengers last year. By comparison, SeaTac, one of five major international airports on the West Coast but about half the size of Narita, handled 37 million in 2014.

gokai_wo_manekuAPR. 22, 2016 - 12:47PM JST How many of the innovations in America are actually being made by Americans?

All of them as we still have a pretty much open immigration policy, particularly for people bringing personal wealth or skills. I think what you wanted to say was how much of late 20th and early 21st Century innovation was the work of native born Americans and the answer would still be most of it.

Black SabbathAPR. 23, 2016 - 12:26AM JST Because America's innovation is in no small way fueled by immigrants. That is America's secrete weapon: a welcoming pluralistic open soceity.

Just consider the number of Japanese scientists who have won Nobel prizes for work done in the U.S. Arguably, most would never have achieved this had they stayed home.

Still lots of homegrown creativity, but it is true that immigrants have contributed enormously to America's continued economic strength, in spite of a mostly atavistic and rapacious corporate culture seemingly bent on undermining what made America particularly strong up through the early 1970s.

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Now...to bring innovation to the Middle East and stop war.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/86-DOS

I am assuming by "innovation" Bill Gates means buying out other "artists" works even if they are somewhat deceptive in approach. Of course big Gov can just steal "innovation" without paying artists and can work the judicial system against the individual. As long as the independent innovators bow-down and sell-out to Gov and big industry everything is good.

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Agree with Gates.

I say innovation means knowing something new way of using the resources which already existed; nothing you made as your own original resource like earth has.

Man reviews his knowledge of things that are really available; servants never think for the entrepreneur, anywhere; see Henry Ford thought, so Watson at IBM, so Gates and his fellow men ; so obviously only the entrepreneur comes with an innovation; others like employees might improve maximum;

So governments are full of employees right from representatives of people; they only fork out from tax payers; business men lobby and get tax benefits, by all means.

Anyway, unless every man becomes real economy himself or herself no economy is ever possible; so Americans said 'No taxation without representation';

How taxation is possible if there is no real representation any one would ask - more so any American first;

None cares about one Bill or Trump but he or she has to be a great economic tool himself or herself sir, with due respect to Bill

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That is America's secrete weapon: a welcoming pluralistic open soceity.

Agree a little bit Black Sabbath.

...but, . . . We're better without the radical jihadis who want to kill US citizens and our way of life. And illegal immigrants, who just leech off the system, commit crimes and send american dollars to 3rd world slums. These people have NO LOYALTY to america.

Enrico Fermi was Italian by birth and became a naturalized American citizen, just like my father . Were they American? 100% this is who we are and this is one of our enduring strengths.

These people are loyal to america and made it a better place.

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Yes, immigrants are responsible for much of the innovation in the US. This is important because it means that innovation is not a trait that is uniquely enhanced in American youth. A case can even be made that American-born underperform when compared to immigrants.

What it means is that the American system is more conducive to supporting creativity - at the moment.

Things can change. Increasingly oppressive patent/copyright laws can drive innovators out of the US, the way Edison's patent aggression drove the movie business out of New York and into a remote town called Hollywood. The American film success never would have happened if Edison's reach was nationwide at the time.

Add that to other increasing regulations and restrictions that limit research, and it's quite possible that another country will be ready to pick up the slack in welcoming innovators. There may well be a day soon when innovators from India, China and elsewhere don't have to come to the US to reach their potential. And I suspect it will come, mainly because Americans take this innovation as something of a birthright rather than something that needs to be nurtured and maintained. So they allow education to spiral ever downward, and allow laws created to protect "the public" or "children" that actually protect vested interests, megacorporations and banks to flourish.

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in spite of a mostly atavistic and rapacious corporate culture seemingly bent on undermining what made America particularly strong up through the early 1970s.

And since the1970's the information revolution, the computer phenomenon, lets not forget the strides in biotech the list is endless...and soon solar energy..it will come out of America's heartland same place that the computer chip came from!

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immigrants are responsible for much of the innovation in the US. This is important because it means that innovation is not a trait that is uniquely enhanced in American youth. A case can even be made that American-born underperform when compared to immigrants*

SAmuel B. Morse, telegraph; Thomas Edison,no comment needed; Henry Ford; Philo Farnsworth, Electronic television; Wright Brother; Aerodynamics: Sperry,Gyroscope; The list of native born American Inventors is endless!

*

Things can change. Increasingly oppressive patent/copyright laws can drive innovators out of the US, the way Edison's patent aggression drove the movie business out of New York and into a remote town called Hollywood. The American film success never would have happened if Edison's reach was nationwide at the time.*

The fledgling movie Industry left NY and Chicago because of the weather conditions!

commanteer Please get your facts straight!!

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America's Secret Weapon: Its Unparalleled Capacity For Innovation

Except in Health Care and Gun Control and Politics. Pathetic.

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America may be "land of innovation," but Americans can no longer run their railroads properly, the Washington D. C. subway system is about to be shutdown, and the airports are a disgrace. Grumman cannot get the new stealth fighter, for which Dept. of Defense has paid nearly half a trillion dollars, to fly properly. Over 2 million Americans are in jails and prisons. 30 million American children are malnourished. The rich -- like Bill Gates -- pay practically zero in taxes. The suicide rate of middle-class, middle-aged Americans is soaring. Once you get away from Palo Alto, Portland, Washington D.C. and the Beltway and some other places--and go to Detroit, Newark, the old industrial towns in New England--you'll see a modern wasteland.

In other words, what you're saying is that not every American is smart enough to be an entrepreneur or inventor. Surprise. Also, I think you added a zero in your stat on malnourished children:

Some 8.5 million Americans, including nearly 3 million children, experience hunger on a daily basis Many of them must rely on food banks and church-sponsored hot meals programs to get by. Of course, those who don't get enough to eat run the risk of becoming malnourished. - "Malnutrition in America", By Deborah Lundin last updated July 28, 2015

http://www.livestrong.com/article/487412-malnutrition-in-america/

I am assuming by "innovation" Bill Gates means buying out other "artists" works even if they are somewhat deceptive in approach.

Your own reference says that Microsoft bought a non-exclusive license to use 86-DOS, then later bought it out completely for $50,000. Microsoft was under no obligation to reveal to SCP - the originators of 86-DOS - what other companies they were working with while the purchase deal was hashed out. Only SCP (and, I guess, you) consider Microsoft "deceptive" for not telling them MS was working with IBM at the time. Regardless, by PC DOS 2.0, 86-DOS had been almost completely written out of the operating system and replaced with new code. By Microsoft.

Of course big Gov can just steal "innovation" without paying artists and can work the judicial system against the individual.

And of course, you have examples of this happening?

As long as the independent innovators bow-down and sell-out to Gov and big industry everything is good.

Please. Most of these independent innovators are HOPING for some big corporation to show interest. When Facebook came sniffing around Oculus, do you think Palmer Luckey wailed, "OH NOOOOOOO!!!!"?

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another product of federal research

Euphemism for massive military budget

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The U.S. presidential election has the country captivated.

. . . and popcorn sales have skyrocketed.

How many of the innovations in America are actually being made by Americans?

For starters, GPS. The whole friggin' world uses this. Everyday and in several different ways.

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