American Innovation Lies on Weak Foundation

Eduardo Porter:

Those days are long gone. Today, laments Mark Muro of the Brookings Institution, investment in innovation has been balkanized, split between government financed basic research, squeezed by skimpy budgets, and a corporate R&D effort constrained by its focus on the very short term.

What happened? The researchers at Duke and East Anglia reject the argument that tightening regulations have pushed companies to cut their research budgets. Corporate investment in basic research, they note, is waning in Europe, too. This is not exclusively an American dynamic.

They also doubt that science has somehow become less valuable, an argument proposed by prominent economists like Robert Gordon of Northwestern University. Citations of recent scientific research are as common in corporate patents today as they were in the 1980s, suggesting science remains critical to companies’ innovation.