A viable approach to increasing STEM starts with empathy
Finding the Secret to R&D that Produces Innovation
Bridging the gap between the ivory tower and the cover of a national magazine , feeling comfortable with the prospect of "failure," balancing resources in austere times -- these are some of the big questions that surround the state of American competitiveness today.
And these are the sorts of issues journalist Derek Thompson, Senior editor at The Atlantic, broached with four guests who spanned business, government, journalism, and academia.
That last sector -- the sector of publicly funded research -- is, according to the panelists, the birthplace of some of the present's most futuristic thinking. Whether those publicly invested dollars ultimately become products that generate revenue is another story entirely.
The infrastructure for transforming academia's ideas into marketable products, by and large, isn't in place, agreed the experts.
Panelists Rathindra DasGupta fights that uphill battle. He runs the National Science Foundation's Innovation Corps, which selects the highest potential NSF research projects to push to market. DasGupta thinks that culture plays a huge part as well. Researchers "don't understand how big [their] projects are in terms of economic potential," he said.
For their part, business leaders -- who understand products and profits -- often don't understand how to cultivate innovation, according to John Loehr, co-author of Booz and Company's Global Innovation 1,000 Index.
But Loehr doesn't believe investment in R&D is the answer. The key finding of his report? In his words, "There is no statistically significant relationship between financial performance and innovation spending in terms of either total R&D dollars or R&D as a percentage of revenues."
Instead, Loehr places a premium on questions such as: "What is it about the Bay Area that makes it so innovative?" He has found that business leaders there have innovation strategy: "Top innovators report directly to the CEO. Innovation vision communicated effectively up and down."
You've probably heard something about today's "economic climate." In austere times like today's, capital available to invest in the seeds of innovation -- from R&D to entrepreneurship education -- research and R&D -- is harder to come by, but the need for innovation is greater than ever. How do we walk the tightrope of saving and investing?
Mason Peck, NASA's Chief Technologist who recently appeared before Congress about the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, cautioned against thinking of R&D and technology investment as discretionary funding.
Though the near term often takes priority, said Peck, "without investment, we'll lose out in the long run."
- A love of all things innovation is what first drew Laura to Ashoka, where she works to identify and connect leading social entrepreneurs--innovators applying new solutions to some of the oldest and most entrenched societal problems. She also serves as managing editor of Ashoka's StartEmpathy, the forthcoming online home of a movement focusing on educational innovation. Before coming to Ashoka, Laura worked as Communications Director of a mobile health technology start up building products to bring primary care into the 21st century.
Learning about innovation from the DIY solutions of hobbled citizens