Tatu, Robin, ASEE Prism
MARKETING NATION America needs creative entrepreneurship, not more engineers, a businessschool professor argues. THE VENTURESOME ECONOMY: How Innovation Sustains Prosperity in a More Connected World by Amar Bhidé Princeton, 2008, 508 pages
At a time when both the National Academies and President Obama say America needs more research funding, engineers, and scientists. Amar Bhidé offers a very different assessment. U.S. market strengths derive from a complex interplay of forces, says this Columbia University professor. They rely not merely - or even primarily - upon high-level science but also upon creative product development, adaptation, and business strategies. Rather than presenting a threat, technological advances in India and China will support continued U.S. development, just as innovations from abroad have always done.
Arguing against those he terms "technonationalists," Bhidé presents a vision of an America that thrives through risk-taking and skillful marketing. To maintain a global lead, we should not simply pour money into more science but invest in a range of educational and business resources. Nor should we advance a narrow agenda of protectionism, he argues, but rather, embrace global competition as healthy and supportive of U.S. development. "High-level knowledge is now highly geographically mobile and is used to produce goods and services far from where it originates," writes Bhidé. Yet it is often mid-level innovators and not scientific or engineering experts who play a key role in turning such knowledge to profitable local use. The provocative arguments explored in The Venturesome Economy should provide engaging reading for ASEE members.
Bhidé bases his analysis upon a sixyear study of 106 U.S. venture-capital businesses. Such youthful enterprises are often more risk-taking and globally focused than established businesses, he writes; so it is through them that we can observe innovation at work. Book 1 of The Venturesome Economy, which details the results of this study, serves as the underpinnings for the larger considerations explored in Book 2, Some readers may find this latter section more intriguing, with its often contrarian positions. Bhidé argues, for example, that U.S. immigration policy should stop favoring technical Ph.D. immigrants over younger, less trained talent who can provide labor for !T departments, banks, and retailers. He also questions the findings of the National Academies' report Rising Abone the Gathering Storm, charging that it draws upon limited and outdated data.
The research into VC-backed businesses in Book 1 is also engaging, and it is this section that provides greater support for Bhide's assertions. Here he is able to demonstrate how successful businesses of- ten capitalize on the technical innovations of others, and how success is secured through the creative adaptation, repositioning, and marketing of services or products, rather than through the initial science. …