Bookends: "Launching the Innovation Renaissance"
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If you’ve read recent headlines and found yourself wondering what could be done about the poor state of the economy, go no further than this book. Launching the Innovation Renaissance is an essential guide to moving beyond America’s “great stagnation.” The book’s author, Alex Tabarrok, asks, How can we create a 21st century economic renaissance?
Tabarrok’s answer is based on a TED Talk that he gave and subsequently turned into a short ebook—TED being the purveyor of bite-sized bits of knowledge, condensed into friendly 18-minute-long slices of video. America needs a comprehensive innovation strategy, in his mind, and one that builds on the gains that it will necessarily produce.
Three key factors propel innovation. The first is the country’s patent regime. You can agree or disagree with Tabarrok’s diagnosis and prescription, but you have to agree with him that far too much of the patent system is congested with regulation and litigation. Prizes, such as the $10 million Ansari X Prize for spurring on private space flight, offer tremendous potential for complimenting patents in encouraging innovation.
Education is vital to America being a nation marked by innovation. Small gains in education confer a lifetime of benefits to each of us. Unfortunately, as Tabarrok puts it, college has been oversold. Yes, and overbought. What we need to do instead is boost the quality and provision of education. We need to also draw a line in the sand when it comes to high school dropout rates. Increasing the quality of education means tremendous gains in prosperity. One study found that “the value of a permanent 25-point increase in [test] scores discounted over the next 80 years would be over $40 trillion.”
America is also competing on the global playing field for talent and losing sorely. While many people from around the world still clamor to immigrate to the United States, nearly as many are turned away. Furthermore, while American institutions educate the world’s best and brightest students, we take even less time to send those students away to contribute to other economies. All of this occurs in the face of evidence showing the significant share of startups and Fortune 500 companies created by first- or second-generation immigrants.
Relative to other spending priorities, innovation occupies a minute portion of the public sector’s budget. “Innovation,” it would seem, “has few champions.” Tabarrok rightly concludes that “no single institution solves all problems. Patents, innovation prizes, patent buyouts and advance market commitments all have their place. The key is to match problems to institutions.”
America has enjoyed centuries of relative prosperity, yet we shouldn’t rest on our laurels. Rather, we need to innovative to thrive in the 21st century.
Step-by-step and piece-by-piece, Alex Tabarrok puts together a blueprint for America as the 21st century’s “innovation nation.” And all of this in a short TED ebook? Why, even that’s innovative!