Sun, Oct 05, 2014 - Page 8 News List

China, Asia speed up innovation

By Edward Jung

For more than a century, the US has been the dominant global force for innovation. However, China and other Asian countries are testing that dominance, and the West should welcome the challenge.

China’s move from imitation to innovation has been a matter of national policy in recent years. In 2011, for example, the Chinese government established a set of ambitious targets for the production of patents.

Almost immediately, China became the world’s top filer of patents.

China soon surpassed the US in other important measures. Each year, Chinese universities award more doctorates, and more than twice as many undergraduate degrees in science and engineering, than US institutions.

Moreover, China is set to outpace the US in investment in research and development (R&D). Since 2001, China’s R&D expenditure has been growing by 18 percent annually and has more than doubled as a share of GDP. In the US, that ratio has remained relatively constant.

To be sure, such metrics can easily be manipulated — a fact that critics are quick to point out. However, statistics from the US National Science Foundation reveal a genuine drive to innovate across much of Asia, with East, South and Southeast Asian countries together spending more on R&D than the US.

Technology-intensive activity in the region is fast approaching that of North America and Western Europe.

In fact, Asian countries are helping to fuel one another’s innovative success. China’s invention initiative has produced such rapid results in part because the government actively cooperates with its Asian competitors.

Indeed, despite territorial disputes and other divisive issues, the commissioners of the patent offices of Japan, South Korea, China and to a lesser extent, Taiwan and Singapore meet often to define and coordinate their intellectual property policies. China’s leaders know that they can learn from countries like Japan and South Korea, which implemented policies to encourage innovation and protect intellectual property rights long before China did.

The precise impact of Asia’s intellectual property expansion is impossible to predict. However, its transformative potential is obvious.

Asian countries are essentially giving tens of thousands of top minds the opportunities and incentives to tackle today’s most pressing challenges, such as developing cost-effective sustainable energy solutions, ensuring affordable healthcare for aging populations and improving the quality of life in overcrowded cities.

These complex problems demand a plurality of innovative talent and long-term international collaboration — not just to find solutions, but also to deploy them. In an increasingly knowledge-based global economy, partnerships and cooperation are set to be the natural order.

In this context, the West would be foolish to resist Asia’s intellectual property emergence. Instead, Western governments should support, learn from and reap the rewards of the invention boom in the East.

For example, the US, which leads the world in bringing innovative products to the market, should offer commercialization channels to innovative Chinese universities and small companies.

Chinese and Western companies should also be encouraged to invest in one another’s intellectual property.

Such cooperation has already begun. For example, in 2008, Intellectual Ventures (which I helped found) established a presence in China and other countries with emerging innovation cultures in order to focus their inventors’ talent and energy.

This story has been viewed 2857 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top