Can government help companies innovate, or do they tend to get in the way instead?
The answer is that often regulations tend to impede innovation and progress. Other key aspects of a country’s ability to innovate are the relative risk tolerance of its citizenry and whether it is culturally accepted to try and fail at something.
The United States leads the world in innovation because it has created the perfect storm of a risk tolerant citizenry, where failure is sometimes a badge of honor, and a government that invests in basic research, helps to commercialize it, and for the most part tends to go out of the way from a regulatory standpoint.
Other countries have looked to America with envy, often as some of their most innovative citizens were leaving to realize their visions in the New World. That is now starting to change, however. Some of the best and brightest are returning to their home countries from America and other governments are looking to replicate, or even improve upon, some of the factors that have led to success in America.
One of those countries is now Britain. Britain has been home to some phenomenal inventors over the past several centuries, but in the recent past the Brits have not been as successful at turning invention into innovation as the Americans. They are now working to change that.
When I was living there I saw several initiatives to spur innovation and new industries, and I also saw a growing innovative spirit. One of the top innovation agencies in the world, WhatIf?! (primary focus on product/service innovations), is located there and the country is full of design talent to go with its heritage of invention. This is allowing the creation of new global leaders like Dyson and Tesco with the right stuff to become leaders across the globe instead of only across Britain.
There is an interesting article on how Britain jumpstarts design (sorry, BusinessWeek unpublished it). America was the innovation leader in the last century. Who will be the innovation leader in this century? Will it be Britain, America, or someone else?
Who do you think it will be?
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