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  July 12th, 2018 | Written by

Is US Losing Its Innovation Edge?

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  • AI, robotics, green energy, and biotechnology, will determine how people we live and function in the future.
  • There is a race among the world’s powers to dominate emerging technologies.
  • How countries innovate and adapt emerging technologies, will drive their economies and societies.

“A cluster of new technologies, namely AI, robotics, green energy, biotechnology, and others will do more than just transform science—they will also determine how we all live and function in the not so far off future.”

That was Atlantic Council President and CEO Frederick Kempe speaking at the launch of a new report on innovation.

He added that the “race among the world’s powers to dominate these emerging technologies are what geopolitics were to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. During the coming two decades, the extent to which countries innovate, absorb, and adapt emerging technologies, will drive their economies, shape social dynamics, and determine their respective military capabilities.”

The Atlantic Council’s new report, “The Global Innovation Sweepstakes,” evaluates the state of innovation in ten countries after more than 200 interviews with scientists, technologists, policymakers, and business leaders. The report, released by the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security in partnership with Qualcomm, examines technology hubs around the world and offers recommendations to increase global innovation. The report examines the state of innovation globally and how new technologies will shape the international order.

The report’s principal authors, Resident Senior Fellows Robert A. Manning and Peter Engelke, identified three different categories of global innovation status after interviewing experts in China, Japan, India, France, Mexico, Belgium, South Korea, Sweden, Russia, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Singapore. They are: countries on the cutting edge of tech-based innovation, those who easily adapt and absorb new technologies, and those that struggle with both development and adaptation of technologies.

The report also provides recommendations for the United States and other countries to harness the power of innovation. Countries should build their human capital by investing in higher education and vocational training, promoting the participation of women and minorities in technology, and protecting the social safety net.

More can be done to promote innovation through international cooperation, the report argues. The global standardization of 5G broadband, new WTO rules for digital commerce, the resumption of trade talks by the US with the European Union and China, and joint standards for artificial intelligence and synthetic biology, can all help spur innovation, in the US and around the world.

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) speaking at report launch event, warned that America’s edge is slipping, as developing countries like India and China increase their domestic research and development (R&D) budgets. “We saw what happened with the loss of economic opportunities, technology development, and more when the Japanese beat us in the race to 3G,” he said. The US suffers from lackluster telecommunications innovation, he added, resulting in a “spectrum crunch” in urban areas and sparse coverage in rural areas.

In Yuma, Colorado, Gardner’s home town, “We have five bars,” he said, “just not on our phones.”