Whither innovation? Earlier this year, Alcatel/Lucent announced that it was cutting basic science research in several areas at the fabled Bell Labs, choosing instead to focus on more immediately marketable research and development work. In the face of a tightening economy, other companies may be facing a similar squeeze. But can investing in innovation help provide a ladder out of economic distress?
The presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain have made their opinions known about the role of innovation in America, responding to questions posed by ScienceDebate2008 (view their full responses here.)
Barack Obama: "Ensuring that the U.S. continues to lead the world in science and technology will be a central priority for my administration. Our talent for innovation is still the envy of the world, but we face unprecedented challenges that demand new approaches. ... My administration will increase funding for basic research in physical and life sciences, mathematics, and engineering at a rate that would double basic research budgets over the next decade. We will increase research grants for early-career researchers to keep young scientists entering these fields. We will increase support for high-risk, high-payoff research portfolios at our science agencies. And we will invest in the breakthrough research we need to meet our energy challenges and to transform our defense programs."
John McCain: "I have a broad and cohesive vision for the future of American innovation. My policies will provide broad pools of capital, low taxes and incentives for research in America, a commitment to a skilled and educated workforce, and a dedication to opening markets around the globe. I am committed to streamlining burdensome regulations and effectively protecting American intellectual property in the United States and around the globe.
... Nurturing technology and innovation is essential for solving the critical problems facing our country: developing alternative fuels, addressing climate change, encouraging commercialization of new technologies, deploying technology to manage cost and enable new jobs, stopping the spiraling expense of health care, and better educating our children and our workforce.... Above all, my commitment to innovation is a commitment to the well-established entrepreneurial spirit and creativity of America’s thinkers and tinkerers whose inventions have improved our lives and promoted prosperity. To maintain American leadership, I believe we must nurture the conditions under which entrepreneurs can continue to prosper by bringing new innovators to market and the American people can reap the rewards."
In this segment, Ira talks with Judy Estrin, Silicon Valley entrepreneur and author of a new book about how to reignite the spark of innovation in business, education, and government.
Produced by Flora Lichtman, Correspondent and Managing Editor, Video