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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Economist special report: Innovation

The Economist published a special report on innovation on the October 13th-19th 2007 issue of the magazine. The report is broken down to seven articles spanning 20 pages and I don't want to distill it too much, so I will break it down to seven posts.

Source: Economist / Illustration by Noma Bar

Something new under the sun
Something new under the sun |
Innovation, long the preserve of technocratic elites, is becoming more open. This will be good for the world, argues Vijay Vaitheeswaran
Listen to Audio / Buy PDF / Interview with the author

Highlights / Digest

  • "The energy and car industries have not been innovative in many years because they have faced no real crisis, no impetus for change," [Vinod Khosla] inists. (Mr Khosla helped to found Sun Microsystems)
  • Larry Page, co-founder of Google, had earlier hosted a gathering of leading environmentalists, political thinkers and energy experts to help shape an inducement to get things moving: the Automotive x Prize, to be unveiled in early 2008. The organisers will offer at least $10m to whoever comes up with the best "efficient, clean, affordable and sexy" car able to obtain the equivalent of 100 miles-per-gallon using alternative energy.
  • Rapid and disruptive change is now happening across new and old businesses. Innovation, as this report will show is becoming both more accessible and global.
  • North America still leads the world in research spending, but the big labs' advantage over their smaller rivals and the developing world is being eroded by two powerful forces.
    1. Globalisation, especially the rise of China and India as both consumers and, increasingly, suppliers of innovative products and services.
    2. The rapid advance of information technologies, which are spreading far beyond the internet and into older industries such as steel, aerospace and carmaking.
  • One way to arrive at a useful definition [of innovation] is to rule out what innovation is not. It is not invention.
  • New products might be an important part of the process, but they are not the essence of it.
  • Clever ideas have always been everywhere, of course, but companies were often too closed to pick them up. The move to an open approach to innovation is far more promising.
  • "We firmly believe that innovation, not love, makes the world go round," insists John Dryden of the OECD.
  • With manfacturing now barely a fifth of economic activity in rich countries, the "knowledge economy" is becoming more important.

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