Competing nations

It is for some time now clear that, following China’s trend, many countries are trying to play catch up and define what their national (and regional) innovation policies should look like in the hopes that they will find a way to be competitive on an international scale. A dialogue at CIP Forum 2011 put together representatives from China, USA, India, Sweden and Qatar to explain their approach to building knowledge regions and national innovation plans.

The idea behind creating knowledge regions is to focus on specific geographical locations that will act as development hubs for 1-2 (maybe 3) industries. These regions would drive up the level of entrepreneurship and economic growth of the region and participate in the country’s economic growth as a whole. If comparing the CIP dialogue participants’ input on creating national (and regional) innovation plans it would seem that European countries are facing and will face the biggest challenges. Here are some of the hurdles that I believe the old continent will face:

Retaining valuable talent. One of the key issues for making knowledge regions (and national innovation plans) a reality is building the knowledge base required in order to support these industries and making the region attractive both for national and global talents. Given that knowledge is now an international commodity it is easy to see how attracting, creating and retaining global talents has become a major impediment for countries looking to set up a coordinated innovation plan. Immigrant integration issues (e.g. language barriers, discrimination, etc.), outdated schooling systems and under-motivated young professionals– are some of the challenges Europe countries will face in this respect.

Leadership in change. Europe has been an industrial power for many decades and consistent past success has given European leaders an ongoing confidence in the continued future economic success of their countries. With India, Brazil, China catching fast from behind in the international economic battle realizing the need for and taking charge of introducing change will be a necessity for European leaders (who will hopefully come to this realization rather sooner than later).

Unity. I believe that one of the biggest factors of success behind China’s national innovation plan is the unity of its people which, heavily supported by government, have an intense determination to work together to achieve their national goals (moving from a manufacturing-centered country to an innovation-center country).

In Europe, despite the creation of the European Union there are constant political barriers that will stand in the way of the European unification (exemplified also in Italy and Spain’s opposition to the enhanced cooperation in the area of unitary patent protection). Surpassing the European national boundaries and advancing cooperation will be key in assuring international competitiveness for the region as a whole.

Image credit: Minnesota Historical Society

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