Teu­tonic In­ge­nu­ity

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page - DAN BREZNITZ

Read­ing the head­line, you might think that the most ur­gent ques­tion about suc­cess in in­no­va­tion and growth is whether the US or China should get the gold medal. The truth is: Ger­many wins hands down. Ger­many does a bet­ter job on in­no­va­tion in ar­eas such as sus­tain­able en­ergy sys­tems, molec­u­lar biotech, lasers and ex­per­i­men­tal soft­ware en­gi­neer­ing. So, in or­der to learn ef­fec­tive in­no­va­tion from Ger­many, US has en­cour­aged the Fraun­hofer So­ci­ety, a Ger­man ap­plied-sci­ence think tank, to set up no fewer than seven in­sti­tutes in Amer­ica. True, Amer­i­cans do well at in­vent­ing, and have the most so­phis­ti­cated sys­tem of fi­nanc­ing rad­i­cal ideas, leading to im­pres­sive re­sults, from Google to Face­book to Twit­ter. But the fairy tale that the US is bet­ter at rad­i­cal in­no­va­tion has been shown in re­peated stud­ies to be un­true. Ger­many is just as good as the US in the most rad­i­cal tech­nolo­gies. What’s more im­por­tant, Ger­many is bet­ter at adapt­ing in­ven­tions to in­dus­try and spread­ing them through­out busi­ness. Much Ger­man in­no­va­tion in­volves in­fus­ing old prod­ucts and pro­cesses with new ideas and ca­pa­bil­i­ties or re­com­bin­ing el­e­ments of old, stag­nant sec­tors into new, vi­brant ones. Ger­many’s style of in­no­va­tion ex­plains its man­u­fac­tur­ing prow­ess. For ex­am­ple, many, if not most, of the Chi­nese prod­ucts we buy ev­ery day are pro­duced by Ger­man-made ma­chin­ery, and the com­pa­nies that make them are thriv­ing.

From “Why Ger­many Dom­i­nates the US in In­no­va­tion”

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