Several data points converged across our field of experience this week, all supporting a disturbing trend in the US economy.
We attended an inspiring and frightening talk by Ray Lane at the MIT Enterprise Center. Many readers know Ray and his remarkable career from Oracle President to a Managing Partner at the top VC firm Kleiner Perkins (KP). His most disturbing slide showed the global market position of key technologies by country. In the US vs. China space, the basic message was: the US, in Internet and software technology, holds most of the top market positions, but when it comes to the energy sector - clean tech - China rules. The US has a very poor position in this planetary important market. KP has committed their firm, in the billions, in their green tech fund, as have many other investors, including the US Department of Energy, with the ARPA-E. But will there be a healthy market in the US for these technologies? We have innovation, but do we have demand? Without demand, innovation flies to other markets where entrepreneurs can thrive.
Right on the heels of that event, the IEEE Spectrum pops into the inbox at ChainLink with their Patent Survey. This is an interactive map, which shows by category and company, the leaders in patent filing. This map will give you great insight into who is innovating by company and country. Some interesting distinctions by category - Japan rules in electronics.
As researchers, we always use these types of data to understand the trends in markets. We look at products and investments as key data. Innovation and capital have to go together. Availability of capital to bring those innovations to market is the one/two punch, and in several key markets, we see the capital flowing elsewhere. We found this Wall Street Journal interview with David M. Rubenstein, Managing Director of The Carlyle Group, typical of big investors these days. Rubenstein talked about their growing investments in China and India. They, like many others, are doing a lot and expect to do a lot more in these markets. This trend has been increasing over the last ten years.
Capital moves elsewhere. Innovation in key markets moves elsewhere. Demand moves elsewhere. This does not paint a rosy picture for the US Manufacturing sector going forward. Western governments, which are basically broke, cannot provide an ongoing funding of these emerging markets unless there is demand from business and consumers.
The question is, are we supporting our most critical technologies and our most important career paths? Are we at the point of no return? Will we become a France or a Germany in our future? No doubt India and China, by sheer size alone, will have larger economies than the US, probably in our lifetime. For them, and others, to be global and prosperous players, it is not a win or lose game. The populations of the world are so large, there really are
enough markets for us all to win.
|Shiho Fukada for The New York Times - An Applied Materials research lab in Xi'an, China. |
The Santa Clara, Calif., company is the largest supplier of the equipment used to make
semiconductors, solar panels and flat-panel displays.
But we have to be in the game.
What is most critical for our future is that we be well-positioned in the largest planetary markets, like Energy, like Healthcare, and others that we can't do without - Food, Semiconductors, and yes, Chemicals, to maintain a living standard that sustains the general welfare of our populations; protects and educates our children; provides affordable healthcare; and economically cares for our elders with the respect they deserve. There are many definitions of a wealthy society, but that might be enough! It is time for our government policies to support those needs!
To view other articles from this issue of the brief, click here.