U.S. falls out of top 10 in measure of innovation

Scott Tong Feb 3, 2021
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An engineering student works on a robot. Engineering is one of the fields in which the U.S. lags, according to the Bloomberg Innovation Index. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

U.S. falls out of top 10 in measure of innovation

Scott Tong Feb 3, 2021
Heard on:
An engineering student works on a robot. Engineering is one of the fields in which the U.S. lags, according to the Bloomberg Innovation Index. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
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Say it with me now: We’re No. 11!

The United States, in Bloomberg’s annual ranking of innovative countries, has fallen outside the top 10.

What’s perhaps more concerning is the longer view: When Bloomberg launched the index, America was first.

Right now, South Korea stands atop this particular ranking.

The Bloomberg index finds the U.S. lagging in science, technology, engineering and math grads, advanced degrees and workers in research and development. 

All those are linked to the high cost of education here.

“The U.S. could subsidize STEM degrees to a greater degree,” said Alex Tanzi, who compiles the innovation rankings for Bloomberg.

He said when the world’s best and brightest do come here to study, increasingly, they leave afterward.

“There’s been talk when people get a Ph.D. in the U.S., it should come with a green card. So there’s policies like that that would induce people to stay in the U.S.,” he said.

It also matters what trained workers do in this country.

Youngjin Yoo teaches digital innovation at Case Western Reserve  University. He said big American companies hardly conduct long-term research anymore.

“We are living off the innovations of the ’60s and ’70s, you know, like Cold War. A lot of innovation activities going on now is consumer experience,” he said.

Consumer experiences with short-term payoffs, Yoo said. Like social media.

“I would almost argue that these are frivolous innovations.”

Yoo said the government should focus more on R&D and human capital, citing his native South Korea, now the Bloomberg innovation leader. There, “If you work for science and engineering R&D area, then you don’t have to go to military service for full length.” 

A lot of research suggests innovation is the main driver of long-term economic growth.

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