The United States Is Losing Its Innovative Edge: Report

Education, in particular, threatens the state of innovation in America.

math class


With the rise of China and the Global Competitive rankings earlier this month, it’s becoming clearer that the United States is losing its innovative edge. Now a new report recently released by the National Academies details just how hard America will have to work to play catch up with China and other countries in the very near future.

Five years ago, the authors of the same report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, set out a vision for how to increase the United States’ competitiveness with direct recommendations to improve K-12 education, particularly in math and science and make visa requirements more friendly for international innovators to join and patent in the United States. The updated report argues that the United States is at a tipping point and that all stakeholders–government, individuals, academics, and others–must get involved to keep the United States competitive. “In the face of so many daunting near-term challenges, U.S. government and industry are letting the crucial strategic issues of U.S. competitiveness slip below the surface,” says the report.

Some startling statistics from the press release:

  • In 2009, 51% of U.S. patents were awarded to non-U.S. companies.
  • China has replaced the U.S. as the world’s number one high-technology exporter and is now second in the world in publication of biomedical research articles.
  • Between 1996 and 1999, 157 new drugs were approved in the United States. In a corresponding period 10 years later, the number dropped to 74.
  • Almost one-third of U.S. manufacturing companies responding to a recent survey say they are suffering from some level of skills shortage.

With limited national funding available to invest in research and education, the report cautions that an important foundation of innovation and competitiveness—education—is failing Americans and threatens the role and image of the United States in an increasingly competitive environment. For more on how to get involved, you can download the report here.

[Photos courtesy of U.S. Army]


About the author

Jenara is an overseas reporter for Fast Company and a freelance writer/producer in Asia, regularly on CNNGo, and a graduate of Harvard and UC Berkeley.