America Tech Might

Business Week asks if the US advantage in technology is slipping.

For half a century, America has reigned supreme in technology. U.S. research institutions have been the best on the planet, and the U.S. capital-formation machine has turned their discoveries into one breakthrough after another in transistors, communications gear, computers, and just about every other key high-tech field.

Now, life at the top suddenly seems a lot less lonely. In fact, although the U.S. is still the undisputed champ in technology overall, in a handful of key areas it already appears to be falling significantly behind foreign competitors.

Never before have so many countries in the world sought to emulate the U.S. system of innovation. As more brilliant researchers steer clear of the U.S. and more and startups appear in emerging economies, a worldwide technology race is taking shape. And it promises to be a marathon.

US companies need to accept that the locus of innovation is moving – perhaps towards Asia. In this context, it may be a good idea for some of the engineering talent to come and spend a few years in Asia working at Indian and Chinese companies to understand the new markets. Think of this as a reverse brain-drain — just like Indians migrate(d) to the US in search of opportunities in the past quarter-century.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.