Of course, America’s capacity for innovation is nothing new. We have been inventing for more than two centuries: think of Benjamin Franklin, Margaret Knight, Thomas Edison. By the end of World War II, the United States led the world in automobiles, aerospace, electronics, medicine, and other areas. Nor is the formula for success complicated: Government funding for our world-class research institutions produces the new technologies that American entrepreneurs take to market.
What is new is that more countries than ever are competing for global leadership, and they know the value of innovation. Since 2000, South Korea’s R&D spending (measured as a percentage of GDP) has gone up 90 percent. China’s has doubled. The United States’ has essentially flatlined. It’s great that the rest of the world is committing more, but if the U.S. is going to maintain its leading role, it needs to up its game.
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