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Lewis M. Branscomb: "Sustained Complacency" on Innovation Risks U.S. Economic Strength
Lewis M. Branscomb
While China and India are pioneering new globally networked business models, the United States risks falling behind because of the government's "sustained complacency" on innovation policy, veteran science and technology policy expert Lewis M. Branscomb said at AAAS's annual William D. Carey Lecture
Governments and businesses in other nations, sometimes working in concert with Western businesses, are cultivating decentralized, interdependent networks that go beyond conventional multi-national models to make innovation, manufacturing and distribution cooperative global processes, Branscomb said.
But he blamed both Republicans and Democrats for superficial attention to the innovation issue, saying that recent innovation measures have been few and "half-hearted." U.S. policy must do more than fund research and seek improvements in education and then count on "market forces... to bridge the 'valley of death' between basic research and commercial innovations," he said.
"We must have new leadership in the executive branch which recognizes that a broad range of government policies directly affect the nation's power to innovate," Branscomb said during the 8 May lecture at the AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy. "... Also needed are policies for transitional technology investments, economic policy, trade strategy, government procurement, standards policy, robust hard and soft infrastructure, and a culture in American society that embraces creativity.
"We need more than basic science. We need public policies that support useful research and means for converting research to economically sustainable innovations that can grow into profitable and sustainable larger enterprises."
Branscomb is professor emeritus of Public Policy and Corporate Management at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and adjunct professor at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at the University of California-San Diego. He also has served in top positions at IBM, including vice president and chief scientist, and as chairman of the U.S. National Science Board from 1980-1984.
The late William Carey, for whom the annual lecture is named, served as executive officer of AAAS from 1975-1987 and had a pivotal role in shaping the environment in which U.S. science and technology grew and prospered. He was the catalyst for the study of research and development in the federal budget and other initiatives which serve as the foundation for many of today's AAAS programs. The lectureship, started in 1989, recognizes individuals who exemplify Carey's leadership in articulating public policy issues that arise from S&T fields.
Edward W. Lempinen
15 May 2008