Monday, January 18, 2010

Asia Challenges U.S. Innovation Leadership, New Report Shows

Originally published at LeadEnergy

A major report released last week by the National Science Board concludes that U.S. global leadership in science and technology is declining as foreign nations – especially China and other Asian countries – rapidly develop their national innovation systems.

“U.S. dominance has eroded significantly… The data begin to tell a worrisome story,” stated Kei Koizumi, assistant director for federal research and development in President Obama’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The Director of the National Science Foundation, Arden Bement, noted that "China is achieving a dramatic amount of synergy by increasing its investment in science and engineering education, in research, and in infrastructure, which is attracting scientists from all over the world.”

The report, “Science and Engineering Indicators 2010,” is published every two years by the National Science Board, a 25-member expert council that advises the National Science Foundation, President, and Congress on science and technology policy, education, and research. Koizumi called it a “State of the Union on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”

This “state of the union” for science and technology comes amidst growing concern that Asia is out-competing the U.S. in the burgeoning global clean-tech sector. According to the “Rising Tigers, Sleeping Giant” report I recently co-authored with the Breakthrough Institute and Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, China, Japan, and South Korea have already surpassed the U.S. in the production of nearly all clean energy technologies, and these governments are expected to out-invest the U.S. three-to-one in this industry over the next five years. As U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu recently said, "The world is passing us by. We are falling behind in the clean energy race."

“Asia’s rapid ascent as a major world science and technology (S&T) center—beyond Japan—is driven by developments in China and several other Asian economies,” states the introduction to the report. “Governments [in Asia] have implemented a host of policies to boost S&T capabilities as a means to ensuring their economies’ competitive edge… the United States continues to maintain a position of leadership but has experienced a gradual erosion of its position in many specific areas.” According to Jose-Marie Griffiths, a member of the National Science Board, "While the US is the largest R&D performing nation — representing one-third of total world investment — Asia has narrowed the gap due to the sustained annual increases by China."

Read the full overview here.

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