How the U.S. Can Reclaim Its Title as World Innovation Hub

If you haven't had your weekly dose of hand-wringing about the U.S. falling behind Asian countries in science and technology, here is a new study by the Boston Consulting Group. After identifying the countries with the best environments for innovation, it ranked the United States in 8th place.

Who's number one? The tiny city-state of Singapore. South Korea in second. 


Why the low rank for the United States, home to Silicon Valley, prestigious research universities and, until recently, mountains of wealth? You, at least according to the study authors. They conclude that the American workforce just isn't good enough, for two reasons.


First, they say, the U.S. just isn't attracting the talent it used to, partly due to our weird immigration laws. Business Week cites the example that companies receiving some of the federal bailout money aren't allowed to import employees on H-1B visas, which are often used for speciality workers in the sciences. Because U.S. unemployment has risen so high during the recession, Congress didn't want to look like they were handing out money to give jobs to foreigners. In Singapore, however, the population totals only 4 million, so bringing in fresh minds to boost the economy is an absolute must.


While the U.S. isn't importing enough talent, the study says, what's here isn't good enough. The second reason the authors give for the U.S. lag is the same beat we've been hearing for years—American science education just doesn't cut it. While Americans have panicked at each new reporting stating that our students' math and science test scores lag behind the world's, Singapore's government has quietly committed to improving its students' science education, the study says.


However, being the world's innovation hub hasn't insulated Singapore from worldwide economic calamity. Its unemployment has doubled from last year, though only to 4.4 percent. Still, that threatens to undermine the tiny country's status as a top dog in science and technology, especially if it's not able to import as many foreign workers. But going into a shell, backing off from risk-intensive but innovation-promoting policies to play it safe until better times come around, would just send the country into a standstill and delay those better times.


That's a good lesson for the United States as we try to simultaneously bring ourselves out of this crippling recession and also reclaim our title as the world's innovation hub. And the country might be on the right track—New Scientist says that Obama's dream team of science advisers and calls to restore science's prestige in America might push us well ahead of the European Union. But could the U.S. catch South Korea and Singapore? Probably, but there are a lot more things worth worrying about than being number one on somebody's list.

The 4 types of thinking talents: Analytic, procedural, relational and innovative

Understanding thinking talents in yourself and others can build strong teams and help avoid burnout.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to collaborate within a team and identify "thinking talent" surpluses – and shortages.
  • Angie McArthur teaches intelligent collaboration for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Herodotus’ mystery vessel turns out to have been real

Archeologists had been doubtful since no such ship had ever been found.

(Christoph Gerigk/Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation)
Surprising Science
  • In 450 BCE, Greek historian Herodotus described a barge that's never been found.
  • When the ancient port of Thonis-Heracleion was discovered, some 70 sunken ships were found resting in its waters.
  • One boat, Ship 17, uncannily matches the Herodotus' description.
Keep reading Show less

Horseshoe crabs are drained for their blue blood. That practice will soon be over.

The blood of horseshoe crabs is harvested on a massive scale in order to retrieve a cell critical to medical research. However, recent innovations might make this practice obsolete.

Credit: Business Insider (video)
Surprising Science
  • Horseshoe crabs' blue blood is so valuable that a quart of it can be sold for $15,000.
  • This is because it contains a molecule that is crucial to the medical research community.
  • Today, however, new innovations have resulted in a synthetic substitute that may end the practice of farming horseshoe crabs for their blood.
Keep reading Show less

Jordan Peterson on Joe Rogan: The gender paradox and the importance of competition

The Canadian professor has been on the Joe Rogan Experience six times. There's a lot of material to discuss.

Personal Growth
  • Jordan Peterson has constantly been in the headlines for his ideas on gender over the last three years.
  • While on Joe Rogan's podcast, he explains his thoughts on the gender differences in society.
  • On another episode, Peterson discusses the development of character through competition.
Keep reading Show less