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
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
- 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.