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U.S. Industries Falling Behind Globally in Scientific Innovation

In the previous post, we discussed New Jersey-based Merck & Co.’s current plans to restructure in order to foster more scientific innovation. An opinion piece appearing today in The Wall Street Journal, America’s Growing Innovation Gap, by the chairman, president and chief executive officer of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company, John C. Lechleiter, lays out why America needs to focus on fostering innovation now more than ever.

Lechleiter refers to a study published last year by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation that ranked the U.S. sixth among the top 40 industrialized nations in innovative competitiveness, but dead last in “the rate of change in innovation capacity” over the past decade. The study looked at what countries are doing to become more competitive in the future through higher education, investment in research and development, corporate tax rates, and more.

Lechleiter believes we are at serious risk of falling behind the rest of the world if we fail to take actions to support innovation in industry.


Lechleiter believes strongly that the burden of sustaining innovation remains on enterprising businesses. He believes that enterprising industries should be supported by public policies in three main ways. First, he writes that innovation in any industry is a high-risk venture and that industry needs to be surrounded by the right combination of elements to help the innovation take root and grow.

He writes that innovation needs a society that values scientific inquiry and free markets where those doing the innovating will be rewarded for the value they create through the risks they take. Solid intellectual property laws need to be in place for the product of those risks to retain their full value. Corporations also need the ability to invest in research and development through R&D tax credits.

To be a leader in innovation, U.S. businesses also need to be able to develop outstanding scientists through a strengthened U.S. education system. In addition, immigration laws should be improved to make it easier for top scientists from around the world to live and work in the U.S. In order to retain outstanding scientists in the U.S., Lechleiter writes that we need a well-funded basic research infrastructure.

Lechleiter believes that taking risks and innovating are the keys to improving business and industry and the American economy. While some may argue that in a tough economy there is not money to invest in innovation, Lechleiter believes it absolutely paramount that we continue to invest because, rather than the problem, innovation is the solution.

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