CNN TV and Web Special on Innovation
June 5th, 2011
09:12 AM ET

CNN TV and Web Special on Innovation

Editor's Note: The "Global Innovation Showcase" is a special feature created by the New America Foundation, a non-partisan, future-oriented think tank based in Washington DC, and the Global Public Square. Tune in tonight at 8pm ET/PT for a special edition of CNN GPS, "Restoring the American Dream: How to Innovate."

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union shocked the world by launching a tiny satellite, about the size of a beach ball, called Sputnik. It weighted about 200 pounds and circled the Earth in a little under two hours.

America was shocked to find itself behind in the space race and began to put energy, effort and billions of dollars into science, technology and innovation. Less than 12 years after Sputnik, Americans landed on the moon.

Now, a decade into the 21st Century President Obama in his last State of the Union speech declared: “This is our generation's Sputnik moment. We need to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.”

In his State of the Union address, President Obama mentioned the word “innovation” nine times, more than any other president ever has. And on this issue most of his opponents agree. Listen to Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich or Mitch Daniels and the word innovation pops up again and again. Everyone wants innovation and agrees that it is the key to America's future.

The Soviet Union is gone, but other nations have taken its place, challenging our longstanding supremacy as the world's leading innovator.

How well are we meeting the challenge? In a recent ranking of 40 countries' efforts to foster innovation over the past decade, guess where the United States ranked? Dead last.

This year China is projected to outpace the U.S. in the number of patents it files. That's the first time any other country has overtaken the United States.

The spirit of enterprise, innovation, pioneering and derring-do propelled America standard of living and economy beyond any other nation in the world.

Indeed, as I wrote in TIME this week, “Innovation is as American as apple pie. It seems to accord with so many elements of our national character — ingenuity, freedom, flexibility, the willingness to question conventional wisdom and defy authority. But politicians are pinning their hopes on innovation for more urgent reasons. America's future growth will have to come from new industries that create new products and processes."

"Older industries are under tremendous pressure. Technological change is making factories and offices far more efficient. The rise of low-wage manufacturing in China and low-wage services in India is moving jobs overseas. The only durable strength we have — the only one that can withstand these gale winds — is innovation.”

But how can we move beyond the political rhetoric and get America back on track to being “Innovator #1 in the 21st Century?”

I argue that "Ultimately, innovation cannot work without both significant government support and a vibrant and dynamic private sector that allows people to experiment, fail and try again."

We’ve got an impressive lineup of innovation experts to give you their answers on TV and online.

Tonight at 8pm ET/PT, there will be a special edition of CNN GPS, “Restoring the American Dream: How to Innovate” with:
– Google Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt
– The head of the U.S. military’s crack team of innovators, Dr. Regina Dugan
– Author, Steven Johnson
– Economist Paul Romer
– Venture capitalist Len Baker
– And innovation maven John Kao

I’ll be live tweeting the "How to Innovate" special with #Innovate with @StevenbjJohnson and @JohnKao. You can follow along @FareedZakaria.

And I’m thrilled to announce the launch of the “Global Innovation Showcase” on our website. With the New America Foundation, we will feature the big ideas, trends and inventions that shape our world – and change how we play, do business and even think.

To get us started online, we have

– John Kao asking Is America Still an Innovation Nation and explaining What is Innovation anyway.

– Author Zachary Karabell on the Innovation Challenge Posed by China.

– Author Steven Johnson offers A Brief History of Innovation.

– And Professor Anne-Marie Slaughter writes an excellent piece entitled Rebellion of an Innovation Mom.

As always, I am keen on hearing your big ideas and insights, so share them online in the comment thread, on Facebook or through iReport.

Post by:
Topics: Economy • Global • Innovation • United States

soundoff (477 Responses)
  1. David M. Tetreault

    Is innovation the key to America rebuilding both its economic leadership in the world as well as its superiority as a global brand capable of creating the worlds most admired products, services and advanced technologies? This is the question of the day – the fact remains clear that a tremendous amount of the best jobs in the world are no longer found in the U.S. We have unfortunately seen these jobs disappear due to the MBAization of America. Our reliance on bogus financial modeling and earnings projections have allowed the brightest CEOs from large multi-nationals to VC backed start-ups to error on the side of outsourcing across all verticals and throughout all industries. This has had a devastating impact on the ASPIRATION for INNOVATION. True innovation in the U.S. must supersede the I-Phone 5, Solar Panels, Facebook Friends, the Ford Taurus, Google Keywords and many of the highly touted faces of innovation that our brought to us by the media. While each of the fore mentioned are highly respectable products and services – none mark the requirements of true innovation as required to take America to a higher level. The country is in need of aspirational innovation, which will motivate new generations to embrace the fileds of engineering, math and sciences. Think for a moment how John F. Kennedy inspired a nation in his quest to send men to the moon. His inspiration led to the ultimate Aspiration for Innovation, which spanned several generations and took America to its pinnacle as the developer and producer of the worlds greatest products.

    June 7, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Reply
  2. That5thdimensionalcubeinyourhead

    That is very low....

    June 8, 2011 at 7:14 am | Reply
  3. That5thdimensionalcubeinyourhead

    Naughty. Bad.

    Fine.....if I did it. It was an 'ism'. You cannot change fate. You erased it, so perhaps it was not so...

    But then again, it is all up to you. Love, and good bye.

    June 8, 2011 at 7:22 am | Reply
  4. That5thdimensionalcubeinyourhead

    Everything is as it should be.

    June 8, 2011 at 7:23 am | Reply
  5. That5thdimensionalcubeinyourhead


    We speak to you many ways....for in a song, lies your soul.

    June 8, 2011 at 7:28 am | Reply
  6. Michael

    The USA needs to go back to the days when we 'drained brains' from elsewhere and reinvigorate science. The influence of so called christians in this country to be anti-science is going to be the ruin of this country.

    June 8, 2011 at 9:53 am | Reply
  7. Frank Barber

    What is all this concern for “innovation” about? CNN, and most pundits, say we must be more innovative. But humans are naturally innovative. Americans today are certainly not less innovative than Americans of the past. It is OPPORTUNITY that drives innovation; and it is opportunity that has declined in America. America became the greatest nation in the world because it provided, and was known to provide, exceptional opportunity. Have we used it all up? The opportunities in America that drove our growth are well known even by school children: land, water, trees, minerals, etc., and freedom to pursue one’s dreams. What are the opportunities that today drive China, et al, that we don't have; or are not perceived to have by ourselves as well as the rest of the world? What opportunities might we have that could be unique to America? How do we measure opportunity? These are the proper questions to ask!

    June 8, 2011 at 10:49 pm | Reply
  8. Christian

    Innovation is great! But not when it benefits the competition more than the innovator. I believe we are asking the wrong questions. Instead of how can we innovate more? How can we make our innovation benefit us? Example: Apple, what would it take to bring the manufacturing of the I-Phone or I-Pad, I-whatever HERE? Home. How do we do it? We have about the right amount of innovation but now we need the jobs to implement what we have innovated..

    June 9, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Reply
  9. Richard D. Saam

    Energy is the problem. There is not enough energy (oil, coal, nuclear sustainable solar) in the world to sustain the human population in a manner commensurate with basic human dignity.
    I have sent this potential innovation to every one I can think of.
    It may be viewed as in the context of Albert Einstein’s letter to President Franklin Roosevelt (but only peaceful intentions).

    And it is a continuation of that effort (Manhatan Project and succeeding efforts) recently expressed in the National Ignition Facility, Livermore, California.

    As a civilian engineering professional
    with many years studying the nexus
    between cosmological and earthly engineering/scientific principles,
    I join with the United States Tax Paying public
    in congratulating the diverse people
    associated with the continued Department of Energy, National Ignition Facility (NIF)
    in engineering a successful platform for classified nuclear stockpile verification
    but more importantly,
    in engineering a complementary non classified fundamental research vehicle
    for potentially obtaining new required energy
    to drive the world's economy
    in a manner worthy of humans' best aspirations.

    A new energy source is necessary
    as evidenced by any judicious evaluation
    of current and anticipated world energy per capita usage.
    As the late Nobel Prize recipient, Dr. Richard Smalley, Rice University said:
    'We need 10 technological miracles to obtain the required energy'.
    NIF may provide a few of these miracles
    (Maybe the current preliminary NIF experiments already
    hint at one of these required technological miracles)

    Because of its unique design,
    The National Ignition Facility(NIF) is the only ongoing world class experiment
    capable of developing something fundamentally scientifically new.

    I do not mean NIF's use as impinging
    its spatially oriented 192 laser beams on to a hydrogen mass target.
    I mean spatially oriented laser interaction(no hydrogen mass target)
    for Schwinger Pair Production
    as conceptually described by Julian Schwinger before the time of lasers
    (Julian Schwinger, On Gauge Invariance and Vacuum Polarization, Phys. Rev. 82, 664–679 (1951))
    and the study of such pair production from vacuum
    as a potential energy source.

    Engineered Schwinger Pair Production
    means integrating a widely diverse technology base
    from astrophysics (Big Bang nucleosynthesis)
    to earth based laser engineering as per NIF.

    I do think the Schwinger Pair Production mechanistic answer
    to energy production
    is staring us in the face
    from the whispering vastness of astrophysical space
    with data compiled by latest satellites (WAMP, PLANCK)
    waiting to be engineered at earth scale
    at a facility such as NIF and its successors.

    Within this scientific context, I have one continuing question?:

    In the operation of the newly commissioned National Ignition Facility,
    has any gamma-ray radiation been detected
    at the intersection of spatially oriented laser beams
    without intervening target hydrogen mass
    indicating a Schwinger pair production
    and particularly at an energy of 56 MeV?

    It is recognized that the NIF reactor is not optimally setup
    for Schwinger pair production but
    selected laser beams from the 192 angled available NIF lasers
    hold out the hope
    of providing the correct symmetry
    to create an observed energy at 56 MeV
    (from vacuum and no target mass).
    This 56 MeV creation would be a direct indication for Schwinger pair existence
    and provide the basis for further Schwinger pair production optimization (in vacuo)
    and at a much lower energy than predicted at the
    Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) facility
    with its extremely high but linear laser intensity of order 1×10^26 watt/cm^2.
    The angled impinging lasers are a unique feature to NIF.

    Optimal Schwinger Pair Production is anticipated
    in a standing wave intersecting laser geometry
    as per Figure 4.3, 4.4,
    a geometry that would modify the vacuum permeability, permittivity
    and implement Schwinger pair production in a Critical Optical Volume Energy(COVE)
    at much lower incident energies than previously predicted (ELI)
    and potentially be a source of energy exceeding the laser input energy.
    WHY NOT LOOK? My extremely limited and diverse credentials
    in the necessarily unclassified public domain
    may be an asset to this civilian energy quest.

    At your service & All the best,


    Richard De Los Saam Licensed Professional Engineer, TX & CA
    | Patrol Plane Celestial Navigator (2541.5 Hrs)
    | (in the spirit of Nathaniel Bowditch)
    | BS chemistry – Loras College 1968
    | MS Engineering – Stanford University 1974
    | Government Service (GS) NAVFAC CEL 1975 – 1980
    | Independent Scientific Study and
    | Professional Engineering 1980-Present
    | Home: 525 Louisiana Ave
    | Corpus Christi, TX 78404
    | 361 944 1670

    Superconductivity, The Structure Scale of the Universe (Fourteenth Edition)
    (Elastic Resonant Symmetric Medium by Self-Energy)
    (Coherent Rabi Oscillations)
    (Schwinger Pair Production of Virtual Particles)
    Richard D. Saam, Corpus Christi, Texas

    June 11, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Reply
  10. Rick

    The biggest problem is the military tries to weaponize every new invention they can thus taking it out of the public sector.
    What happened to to water fueled car that was tested and driven by the inventor on a long road trip? Not long after the inventor showed it to the military he suddenly died and all of his work disappeared into the black hole we call the pentagon. WHY??
    I believe the oil industry saw this and killed him off and destroyed his work to keep us burning oil as our fuel. That is just one case. I know of hundreds of inventors who are afraid to even try to patent their work because of this.
    Most are afraid of the patent process and the paperwork nightmare that corporations have made it to maintain their control of the invention process. The military industrial complex and corporate America controls the patent office.
    Until the patent application process is made easier and FREE for all Americans, China will beat us out every time.
    America ceased being great when the corporations took over.

    June 12, 2011 at 3:04 am | Reply
  11. aaryn volk

    National high speed rail infrastructure will result in the creation of 1MM jobs; construction, architectural, manufacturing, service industry... Using China as a model one can fairly accurately predict the number of jobs that will be greated in all 50 states

    July 8, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Reply
  12. aaryn volk

    Cost Savings: Legislative Branch
    1. reset salaries of congressmen an senators to be equal to that of the average salary in the state that they represent
    2. replace the federal governments health care insurance program for each of congressmen and senators with their respective state's healthcare insurance that they represent, including individual policies
    3. reset the pension plans which the congressmen and senators receive to be no greater than the average pension plan in the states which they represent and to be no greater than 50% of their highest salary after 20 years of service

    July 8, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Reply
  13. aaryn volk

    Cost Savings:
    1. N.I.H.: restructure N.I.H. into a single entity from the 21 fiefdoms currently in place; i.e. implement Dr. Berndaine Healy's strategic cross cutting plan for N.I.H.
    2. N.S.F.: reduce budget by 20%; this will help eliminate the old boys club
    3. FDA: restructure FDA into two independent agencies, integrating the USDA into the food agency
    4. DARPA: restructure DARPA into an independent agency reporting directly to the White House's office of OSTP
    5. Restructure EPA into functional independent groups

    July 8, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Reply
  14. aaryn volk

    Job Creation: On average it takes industry 2.5 years to obtain a new order from a customer therefore industrial job expansion on average will take 3 to five years. New products take on average 12 to 20 years before they are commercialized; "post its" 17 years, microwave ovens 20 years.


    July 8, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Reply
  15. aaryn volk

    On average it takes industry 2.5 years to obtain a new order from a customer therefore industrial job expansion on average will take 3 to five years. New products take on average 12 to 20 years before they are commercialized; "post its" 17 years, microwave ovens 20 years.


    July 8, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Reply
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