Category Archives: Innovation

SG: Nurturing an Innovation Culture

Source: StraitsTimes, Nov 2015

Singapore has to move progressively not only towards an economy driven by innovation, but also towards an innovative society.

Singapore also needs to change the culture in education – to move away from an obsession with children’s grades and focus more on giving them diverse experiences, he said.

“No one knows for sure how we get a creative people. But there is some consensus that diverse experiences in life, particularly early in life, do help.

“Diverse experiences and interaction with people from diverse backgrounds, that helps,” he said.

“And that means everything you do on the sports field, in the dance hall, in debate and even when you’re just daydreaming.”

Mr Tharman even took a couple of minutes out of his speech to endorse daydreaming, saying that the meandering of the human mind is not purposeless.

maximising the innovative potential of everyone in the team, whatever job they are doing. 

Tina Seelig’s Invention Cycle

Source: AMA Highlights, Feb 2015

a clear framework on going from inspiration to implementation, following the entire pathway from the seeds of an idea all the way to bringing it to the world.

Imagination requires engaging and envisioning what might be different. Creativity is applying your imagination to solve a problem. This requires motivation and experimentation. Innovation is applying creativity to come up with unique solutions. This requires focus and reframing. And, entrepreneurship is applying innovations to bring the to the world. This requires persistence and inspiring others.

Paul Romer: Growth Theory & Non-Rival

Source: Growth Economics blog, Oct 2015

The essential contribution of Romer (1990) is its clear understanding of the economics of ideas and how the discovery of new ideas lies at the heart of economic growth.

the first two sections of the 1990 paper are written very clearly, almost entirely in text and with the minimum required math serving as the light switch that illuminates a previously dark room.

Here is the key insight: ideas are different from essentially every other good in that they are nonrival.

Ideas are not depleted by use, and it is technologically feasible for any number of people to use an idea simultaneously once it has been invented.

The key is that nonrivalry gives rise to increasing returns to scale.

Once you’ve got increasing returns, growth follows naturally. Output per person then depends on the total stock of knowledge; the stock doesn’t need to be divided up among all the people in the economy.

With nonrivalry, growth in income per person is tied to growth in the total stock of ideas — an aggregate — not to growth in ideas per person.

Over long periods of recent history — twenty-five years, one hundred years, or even one thousand years — the world is characterized by enormous growth in the total stock of ideas and by enormous growth in the number of people making them. According to Romer’s insight, this is what sustains exponential growth in the long run.

Imagination -> Creativity -> Innovation -> Entrepreneurship

Source: Maria Shriver blog, Jun 2015

a hierarchy of skills, starting with imagination:

  • Imagination leads to creativity.
  • Creativity leads to innovation.
  • Innovation leads to entrepreneurship.

… proposed definitions and relationships for moving from imagination to entrepreneurship:

Imagination is envisioning things that do not exist. This requires curiosity, engagement and the ability to conceive of ideas in your mind.

Creativity is applying imagination to address a challenge. Creative ideas fill a specific need and are manifest in the world. They are new ideas to you, but not necessarily new to others. It is important to distinguish between imagination and creativity. It’s imaginative to fill your thoughts with scenes of the seashore, and it’s creative to apply your imagination to paint a picture of the scene.

Innovation is applying creativity to generate unique solutions. In contrast to creativity, innovative ideas are new to the world, not just new to the inventor. This necessitates looking at the world with a fresh perspective, and involves challenging assumptions, reframing situations and connecting ideas from disparate disciplines. The resulting breakthrough ideas reveal opportunities and tackle challenges that haven’t been addressed the same way before.

Entrepreneurship is applying innovation, to bring unique ideas to fruition, thereby inspiring others’ imagination. Clearly, entrepreneurship is needed in businesses that are designed to commercialize innovations, but it is equally important in all endeavors that depend upon entrepreneurial thinking to address thorny problems. Entrepreneurial doctors develop and deliver lifesaving procedures; entrepreneurial educators invent and deploy effective teaching techniques; and entrepreneurial policymakers craft and implement groundbreaking laws to address social problems.

The Invention Cycle

  • Imagination is envisioning things that do not exist.
  • Creativity is applying imagination to address a 
  • Innovation is applying creativity to generate unique solutions.
  • Entrepreneurship is applying innovation, to bring unique ideas to fruition, inspiring others’ imagination.

Using Computers to Explore Options

Source:  MIT Technology Review, Sep 2015

Scientists in Boston have come up with a twist on an important method for “editing” genomes that could give researchers added control over the DNA of living things and influence a raging patent dispute over the powerful techniques.

Feng Zhang, a researcher at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, reported today in the journal Cell that he had developed a replacement for a key component of the genome-engineering system commonly known as CRISPR-Cas9.

Eugene Koonin, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health who coauthored the paper in Cell, said the current work began with computer predictions of proteins in bacteria that might serve a similar cutting role as Cas9. “It is indeed a new system that is substantially different than the previously known one,” he says.

2% Constant Growth Might Not Last

Source: Growth Economics blog, Sep 2015

Jones and Fernald break down the roughly 2% growth in output per capita in the U.S. from 1950 to 2007 as follows:

  • 0 percentage points due to capital deepening. In short, the capital/output ratio in the US has remained roughly constant.
  • 0.4 percentage points due to increasing human capital. This is calculated from the fact that average years or schooling were rising in this period.
  • 0.4 percentage points due to scale effects. This captures the fact that increasing population generates more people doing R&D as well as larger markets that increase incentives to do R&D.
  • 1.2 percentage points due to increasing R&D intensity, meaning that the share of the labor force engaged in R&D was growing.

Of these, the increase in human capital and the increase in R&D intensity both reflect growth in control variables. In short, neither can grow forever, as they are bounded. Years of schooling is bounded by life-span (and actively removes labor from production) and the share of workers engaged in R&D cannot go above 1. So by necessity, both of those terms cannot continue to grow forever, and hence growth would have to fall below 2% as some point.

We can already see in the data that average years of education is starting to level off at about 14. And so that 0.4 p.p. we got from growing human capital may begin to disappear in the near future.

Of all the terms above, only the scale effect is not a control variable, and hence is capable of continuing to provide growth forever. This means that the underlying balanced growth rate of the economy may be as low as 0.4% per year. But even that may be an overestimate, as population growth is slowing down over time.

The question of what happens to growth over the next few decades boils down to two sub-questions. (A) Will the intensity of R&D effort level off, or will rich countries as well as India and China continue to push greater proportions of their resources and people into R&D? If so, then growth can be kept close to 2% for a long time. (B) Will there be a fundamental shift in the nature of technological progress?

Are Humans Creators or Destroyers?

Source: National Review, Sep 2015

The fundamental question boils down to this: Are humans destroyers or creators?

If the idea is accepted that the world’s resources are fixed, with only so much to go around, then each new life is unwelcome, each unregulated act or thought is a menace, every person is fundamentally the enemy of every other person, and each race or nation is enemy of every other race or nation. The ultimate outcome of such a worldview can only be enforced stagnation, tyranny, war, and genocide.

But if we choose instead to have faith in the power of unfettered creativity to invent unbounded resources, then every new life if a gift, and every person, race, and nation becomes ultimately the potential friend of every other, and, rather than suppression, the fundamental purpose of government must be to protect human liberty at all costs. Only in a world of freedom can resources be unlimited. Only in a world of unlimited resources can all men be brothers.