American Innovation Facing Rising Competition

Panel and University Collaboration Event discussing innovation process

With American R&D spending waning, the National Science Foundation director calls for industry, university collaboration to speed innovation.

Maybe not since the space race has the United States faced such stiff competition over leadership in technology innovation. The only way for American innovation to stay ahead of the pack is to accelerate the time between idea and market reality, according to a National Science Foundation director who says that such an effort will require tight private and public collaboration.

“The government can stimulate the partnership between the industry and academic research institutions like universities, and promote the concept of technology transfer and technology commercialization,” said Grace Wang, director of the NSF Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships.

Investment in fundamental research and early-stage technology development can lead enormous social and economic impact, according to Wang, who said that the NSF funded Google and Qualcomm during the early days of those companies. “That was when Qualcomm only had a few employees and now it has grown into an 18,000 employee company.”

For the U.S. to stay ahead of the curve on the leading edge, it’s essential to focus on the effectiveness of the research and the development. “Putting the resources together to make sure that our fundamental research is very much industry relevant is very important, and that’s why it’s very important for the government, industries and universities to work together,” she said. Wang’s comments came at an Intel-sponsored industry and university research event in San Francisco.

Global Arms Race for Innovation

In 2013, U.S. R&D expenditures, forecast to be $423.7 billion, will directly and indirectly employ 8.27 million domestic workers and generate $1.238 trillion for the U.S. economy, according to a report from Battle, the non-profit research and development organization, and R&D Magazine.

Grace Wang director of the National Science Foundation Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships

“Between the government, industries and universities, the government role is to stimulate academic and industry partnerships so that concepts from universities can get to market reality more quickly,” said Grace Wang of the National Science Foundation. Photo courtesy National Science Foundation.

Despite almost half (47 percent) of the top 100 global innovators being from the U.S., according to Thomson Reuters, Wang expressed concern that the government’s commitment to R&D is being outpaced by other countries.

“Between the government, industries and universities, the government role is to stimulate academic and industry partnerships so that concepts from universities can get to market reality more quickly,” said Wang.

The government can also help universities focus and understand the fundamental research needs that exist in large companies and small businesses, she said.

“We have to accelerate this process and plant the seeds,” she said.

The NSF is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 that last year had an annual budget of about $7.0 billion. By contrast, computer chip maker Intel invested $10.1 billion in R&D in 2012. The NSF funds approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities, primarily in mathematics, computer science and the social sciences.

“This growing investment in R&D by industry leaders coupled with the knowledge base and resources of universities could speed innovations if they could only work together on projects that have the greatest potential,” said Wang.

“Nowadays with open innovation and open source, there’s access to a lot of data so this is no longer going to be true,” she said.

She emphasises that we’re in a new era of technology-powered manufacturing and new products can be made available quickly to consumers around the world.

American Innovation Facing Rising Competition

Panel and University Collaboration Event discussing innovation process

With American R&D spending waning, the National Science Foundation director calls for industry, university collaboration to speed innovation.

Maybe not since the space race has the United States faced such stiff competition over leadership in technology innovation. The only way for American innovation to stay ahead of the pack is to accelerate the time between idea and market reality, according to a National Science Foundation director who says that such an effort will require tight private and public collaboration.

“The government can stimulate the partnership between the industry and academic research institutions like universities, and promote the concept of technology transfer and technology commercialization,” said Grace Wang, director of the NSF Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships.

Investment in fundamental research and early-stage technology development can lead enormous social and economic impact, according to Wang, who said that the NSF funded Google and Qualcomm during the early days of those companies. “That was when Qualcomm only had a few employees and now it has grown into an 18,000 employee company.”

For the U.S. to stay ahead of the curve on the leading edge, it’s essential to focus on the effectiveness of the research and the development. “Putting the resources together to make sure that our fundamental research is very much industry relevant is very important, and that’s why it’s very important for the government, industries and universities to work together,” she said. Wang’s comments came at an Intel-sponsored industry and university research event in San Francisco.

Global Arms Race for Innovation

In 2013, U.S. R&D expenditures, forecast to be $423.7 billion, will directly and indirectly employ 8.27 million domestic workers and generate $1.238 trillion for the U.S. economy, according to a report from Battle, the non-profit research and development organization, and R&D Magazine.

Grace Wang director of the National Science Foundation Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships

“Between the government, industries and universities, the government role is to stimulate academic and industry partnerships so that concepts from universities can get to market reality more quickly,” said Grace Wang of the National Science Foundation. Photo courtesy National Science Foundation.

Despite almost half (47 percent) of the top 100 global innovators being from the U.S., according to Thomson Reuters, Wang expressed concern that the government’s commitment to R&D is being outpaced by other countries.

“Between the government, industries and universities, the government role is to stimulate academic and industry partnerships so that concepts from universities can get to market reality more quickly,” said Wang.

The government can also help universities focus and understand the fundamental research needs that exist in large companies and small businesses, she said.

“We have to accelerate this process and plant the seeds,” she said.

The NSF is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 that last year had an annual budget of about $7.0 billion. By contrast, computer chip maker Intel invested $10.1 billion in R&D in 2012. The NSF funds approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities, primarily in mathematics, computer science and the social sciences.

“This growing investment in R&D by industry leaders coupled with the knowledge base and resources of universities could speed innovations if they could only work together on projects that have the greatest potential,” said Wang.

“Nowadays with open innovation and open source, there’s access to a lot of data so this is no longer going to be true,” she said.

She emphasises that we’re in a new era of technology-powered manufacturing and new products can be made available quickly to consumers around the world.