What Does Your Innovation Globe Look Like?

When I was a boy I used to enjoy visiting my grandparents and one of my favorite objects in their living room was a globe where the countries would light up as different colours when I switched the globe on. After seeing all of these countries I would often go to the trusty Encyclopaedia Brittanica on the bookshelf to find out more about these places and what people actually did there. The power of maps is that they help us to think about where we are in relation to other people and places.

Last week I wrote a post about the significance of global connections for stimulating innovation and a few comments and tweets got me thinking about the importance of having a global innovation map. John Hagel tweeted that he wasn’t convinced that the global connections were more important than local, implying that both were probably important. The post resonated with Karen Fu in Singapore. If you live in Singapore the importance of international connections for creating wealth is strikingly obvious. Singapore exists because of these connections.

Ned Kumar left a comment to the effect that some places are the international hubs for certain skills and industries so therefore the value of local connections will be greater than international ones. I can’t fault the logic here, Ned. The research study I refered to in the post used a sample of Norwegian firms so the importance of international connections in most industries will be much greater in that country because of the relative size of the population.

After considering these comments, I think that we need have our own innovation globe to keep thinking about where we need to connect to in order to find the existing hubs of expertise and the emerging hotspots of new ideas and technology. It doesn’t have to be an exhaustive searching exercise but it probably does need to be done at least annually so we can at least see what we need to find out about (and Google is a whole lot more powerful and quicker than the encyclopaedia).

The Royal Society has just released a report on the global map of reseearch and development. While the geography of the core of R&D still lies in Europe and the US it shows some very surprising trends about how quickly other centres are emerging as new leaders in science and technology.

The fast moving cities are mainly based on or near the Chinese coast with Sao Paolo in Brazil also emerging rapidly as a front runner. If I was a CEO of a business based in the old centres of Europe and the USA I’d be wanting to know exactly what was going on in these regions. While companies in Europe and the US might be in the clusters of today, they need international pipelines to reach out to the clusters of tomorrow.

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One thought on “What Does Your Innovation Globe Look Like?

  1. John,
    Thanks for the shout out. And thanks also for the RS report – interesting stuff.

    To me one of the biggest fact that stands out from this discussion/topic is the fact that COLLABORATION is key to innovation and research. Yes, one can have an idea “in-silo” but it is impossible to take that idea and develop it to its full potential without reaching out to others.

    Also, [I think] the decline in R&D output in US & Europe and the increase in countries like India and China is not totally uncorrelated. While United States is a tremendous power when it comes to R&D, it is also true that immigrants (residents & naturalized citizens) have made a strong contribution to the field of science & technology in the past few decades. I might not be exactly correct in the stats but from what I remember over 50% of the science researchers in the US are foreign born, close to 50% of the Ph.D’s awarded go to foreign students (the percentage being higher for science) and in the past decade over a third of the Nobel prizes have gone to foreign born scientists.

    So now that countries like China & India putting a premium on reversing the “brain drain” and also doing much better economically, this past few years have seen fewer people leaving their home shores and even more importantly many from those regions are going back to their home countries from countries like US and from Europe. I think this dynamics has had a role to play in the increase in research output in those areas. (And within those countries, the hot spots are the major cities that fuel intellectual stimulation & opportunities)

    There are many other reasons that also contribute to this trend – the fact that traditionally those countries have an excellent and rigorous program when it comes to educating their kids in science & math (so a deeper future pool of researchers), the increase in social media/networks that makes knowledge sharing & collaboration easy, less breadth of other opportunities and so more focused on intellectual accomplishments etc.

    Once again – an interesting topic for discussion.


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