Technology Innovation Has Changed The World
In the last century the world was transformed by technological innovations – antibiotics, jet travel, telephone, television, computers, the Internet. Man has walked on the moon and decoded the human genome.
Life expectancy has soared. Agriculture has advanced to where the world can feed a global population that has more than tripled. Productivity in the U.S. has multiplied five or six times, an average increase of 2% a year. Most countries are catching up fast.
The march of technological progress has been uneven. More recently, change has been far more rapid in information processing and health care than in energy, transportation, and manufacturing. In many industries we still depend on older technologies that date back to the 19th and early 20th centuries. The internal combustion engine was invented in the 1860s, commercial electric power started in 1882. Changes are overdue in these important arenas, as problems multiply with conventional energy resources and transportation.
Will this next century bring the same exciting and radical innovation? Where is the Innovation Economy heading?
Indeed, innovations are now brewing that could revolutionize our lives. Nanotechnology – engineering at the scale of atoms and molecules – is leading to vastly faster computing based on carbon nanotubes, miniature medical probes, new types of lights and solar cells.
There are signs that energy technology will soon leap ahead, with the promise of efficient fuel cells, new approaches to solar power, and safer nuclear plants. Such advances have the potential to overturn the economics of energy, making the world less dependent on oil and other fossil fuels.
In biological sciences, the current limits on health and mortality are moving ahead rapidly.
Today, innovation is not just in the so-called developed countries – it is spreading worldwide, fast. Scientific research has increased in just the last decade or two, with the gains spread around the world. And many countries in Europe and Asia are devoting more money to higher education, which produces educated workers… the keys to innovation.
The U.S. is still the leading engine for innovation, and is still strong. There is concern America could eventually fall behind its global rivals, but that is simply a perception caused by the recognition that others are moving strongly. The U.S. still has the best graduate programs in science and engineering, and the kind of economic system and capital markets that support the exploitation of technological innovation.
The rapid pace of financial innovation (like Venture Capital in the U.S.) has translated into more innovation and growth. The invention of the credit card, introduced by Bank of America 1958, gave middle-class Americans access to easy and immediate credit. And the creation of the mortgage-backed securities markets in the 1970s transformed the way that housing was financed, enabling homeowners to tap into their home equity.
Without technological breakthroughs, it will be difficult to solve the most pressing long-term problems. The fast-growing energy needs of emerging economies such as China and India will impact world supplies of limited oil resources. This can only be solved with new sources of energy.
Providing affordable health care to aging populations around the world will be a major challenge, requiring medical productivity to improve dramatically with health-care technology advances such as robotics.
It will not be possible to generate enough good jobs for American workers in the future without new innovative industries. A technology breakthrough, like Nanotechnology or new energy sources, will create whole new categories of occupations – just as automobiles and railroads have done in the past.
More than ever, America’s prosperity depends on its ability to remain the global innovation leader. Innovation is good for America and the world. The benefits trickle down to reach every corner of the globe. Innovation can conquer poverty, hunger, disease, ignorance.
And perhaps too, this will bring reason and understanding to humanity at large.
Mark Borkowski is president of Mercantile Mergers & Acquisitions Corp.
Mercantile is a mid market M&A brokerage firm. You can reach Mark at [email protected] or www.mercantilemergersacquisitions.com