For years, the answer was the US. But that’s been changing. According to a 2009 Economist Intelligence Unit study ranking the world’s most innovative countries, the US ties with Finland for 3rd place; Japan and Switzerland are 1st and 2nd. The Innovation Imperative study from Boston Consulting Group & The Manufacturing Institute, using different metrics, ranked the US #8, following Singapore, Switzerland, Sweden, Iceland, Ireland, Hong Kong, and Finland. An October 2008 Conference Board Report ranked the US #1 overall but gave it low marks on several categories including technology transfer, pharmaceutical exports, and patents by population size. What’s concerning is that, with economic conditions the way they are, the future is not looking brighter.
Serial entrepreneur Judy Estrin saw this happening and began doing research on the causes, including interviews with 100 innovators. The result is her book, Closing the Innovation Gap. Underlying issues included decreasing investment in education (and pay for teachers), cut in government funding for research, increased risk aversion by companies seeking faster returns on R&D investments, and government policies. The point is- we need take action to reverse the trend.
What am I doing about it? Among other things, collaborating with a group of innovators to send a letter to select US legislators and policy makers to present the problem and propose some ways to reignite innovation in this country. What can you do to help?