Innovation is how we make our living: Is China buying?

A wind turbine is seen near a gate of the ancient city of Wushu in Diaobingshan, Liaoning province January 18, 2011. REUTERS/Sheng Li

– Tom Lyon is the director of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, and Peter Adriaens is a professor of entrepreneurship at the Zell Lurie Institute of Entrepreneurial Studies, both at the University of Michigan. The views expressed are their own. –

President Barack Obama, in his State of the Union speech, called for America to “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” But who is the competition, exactly? Who is presenting “our generation’s Sputnik moment”? Who are we racing against to put a million electric vehicles on the road? The president’s answer: China.

Encouraging American innovation is a major piece of the president’s strategy to win the future. And a global leadership position in innovation is ours to lose.

During another era of innovation, the dot-com boom of the 1990s, the U.S. was perhaps the best market in the world for the launch of the Internet. Now, China is arguably the best market today for deployment of clean technology. China is adding energy production capacity, cars on the road, and new cities faster than any other country in the world. Plus, it has the financial and political power to direct the market to move away from cheaper, legacy technologies.

So how can U.S. researchers, inventors and entrepreneurs profit from the market in China while preserving innovation leadership? That’s a question we first explored during the University of Michigan’s Clean Tech Symposium this past December. In our view, the overwhelming message of the symposium was that the U.S. and China are well matched in bringing together the supply and demand for cleantech innovation.

Bolstering our entrepreneurial ecosystem

Peter Cohan and U. Srinivasa Rangan teach at Babson College and are authors of “Capital Rising: How Capital Flows Are Changing Business Systems All Over the World”. The views expressed are their own.

Since the “Great Recession” began, at least 8.5 million jobs have vanished. How will we create new ones? The answer lies in improving the entrepreneurial ecosystem (EE).

Everyone looks to entrepreneurs to create jobs. The Kauffman Foundation found that firms five years old and younger created most of the 40 million jobs in the U.S. between 1980 and 2005.

Let’s work together to boost entrepreneurialism


By Michael Gaiss

  Michael Gaiss is a Senior Vice President at venture capital firm Highland Capital Partners. The opinions expressed here are his own.

More than ever, entrepreneurship will continue to play an instrumental role as geographic regions and small businesses contend with today’s rocky business landscape. While the entrepreneurial fire may be well lit, there are opportunities to better coordinate and amplify it into a raging inferno.

Marketing can help this along by playing a key role in nurturing innovation and entrepreneurship. For regions looking to weather the downturn, help small businesses get off the ground and improve their positioning in the long-term, here are a few tips to consider:

Immigrants: the new, high-tech entrepreneurs


Picture the founders of any big-name tech company in the U.S. and you’ll probably think of Twitter’s Biz Stone, or Apple’s Steve Jobs, or Bill Gates from Microsoft.

In other words: white American men.

But a report released this month reveals that 16 percent of high-tech, “high-impact” companies are founded by immigrants.

The study, commissioned by the self-proclaimed “business watchdog” Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration, is significant for a couple reasons. For one, consider the term “high-impact,” which describes firms with sales that have at least doubled over the most recent 4-year period, with notable employment growth. These aren’t fledgling gadget companies with no hope for survival.