Friday, December 14, 2007

Advance Australia?

Paul Romer (prominent US economist in growth theory):

"In the next century we're going to be moving back and forth, experimenting with where to draw the line between institutions of science and institutions of the market. People used to assign different types of problems to each institution. "Basic research" got government support; for "applied product development," we'd rely on the market. Over time, people have recognized that that's a pretty artificial distinction. What's becoming more clear is that it's actually the combined energies of those two sets of institutions, often working on the same problem, that lead to the best outcomes."

So what state is Australian science and innovation in? How do we measure it? How can Australian institutions improve their positions as innovators? Or should we just free-ride on countries who fund research more aggressively than us?

2 Comments:

Blogger C-MAC said...

I'm all for free riding... but unfortunately the world leaders in innovation (US and Japan) are also world leaders in applying pressure to standardise intellectual property laws and thus prevent free riding. Given the pliability of our politicians and the current state of FTA's, TRIPS, etc, it looks like the only option is to become aggressively innovative.

3:58 AM  
Blogger C-MAC said...

More Romer pearls: For Europe and the United States, I think we need to be thinking very hard about how we can restructure our institutions of science. How can we restructure our system of higher education? How can we make sure that it has the benefits of vigorous competition and free entry, especially of those bright young people who might do really different kinds of things? We should not assume that we've already got the ideal institutions and the only thing we need to do is just throw more money at them.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of countries have a long way to go to catch up to the state where we are in the United States -- and I'm not that happy about where we are in the United States. Many European countries simply have not recognized the power of competition between institutions. So they have monolithic, state-run university systems. That stifles competition between individual researchers and slows down the whole innovative process. They also need to let people move more flexibly from the university into the private sector and back. This is something that many countries watching venture capital start-ups have become aware of, although they've been slower to get their institutions to adjust.

4:20 AM  

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