Competitividad e innovación

Por Xavier Sala i Martí.

El gobierno tiene que entender tres cosas en temas de competitividad e innovación. La primera es que, en el nivel de renta de España, ser competitivo quiere decir innovar y que todas las empresas de todos los sectores pueden y tienen que innovar para progresar. Si uno estudia las grandes ideas empresariales de las últimas décadas, uno se da cuenta de que no sólo innovan los sectores "modernos" sino que también lo hacen sectores milenarios como el circo (Cirque Du Soleil), el vestido (Zara), los muebles (Ikea), el vino (todo el sector en Australia) o el café (Nespresso o Starbucks).

La segunda es que no sólo innovan a los científicos sino todos los ciudadanos: sólo el 8% de las ideas empresariales provienen de científicos a través de l'I+D formal. El 92% de las ideas empresariales provienen de los trabajadores (Amancio Ortega era un vendedor de camisas antes de crear Inditex), estudiantes (Mark Zuckerberg, creó Facebook siendo estudiante) o incluso saltimbanquis de calle (como Guy Laliberté, el creador de Cirque du Soleil).

La tercera es que para tener una economía competitiva e innovadora hace falta un sistema educativo que (a) dé los instrumentos para crear a la mayoría de la población (trabajadores, los estudiantes o incluso los saltimbanquis de la calle) y no sólo a científicos y (b) facilite la implementación empresarial.

Debilidad económica, el agotamiento de las balas para luchar contra la crisis, la depreciación del euro y la competitividad. Yo no sé qué pasará en alguna de estas áreas durante el año nuevo. El qué sí sé es que estas son cuatro aspectos de la economía que hay que tener en cuenta hoy, el día que empieza 2012.

Aquí artículo completo.

Robert Berran (1923)

Sunday DriveSunday Drive
My Darling BrideMy Darling Bride
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The Summer PicnicThe Summer Picnic
A Miss With A PurposeA Miss With A Purpose
A Gentleman's DaughterA Gentleman’s Daughter
A Tall Dark StrangerA Tall Dark Stranger
Lady ScounderLady Scounder
All Things BeautifulAll Things Beautiful
Fortesque DiamondFortesque Diamond
Letters To A LadyLetters To A Lady
One To TrustOne To Trust
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Fuente: American Gallery.

"Decline of Manufacturing" is Global Phenomenon: And Yet the World Is Much Better Off Because of It

By Mark Perry.

The chart above shows manufacturing output as a share of GDP, for both the "world less the U.S." and the U.S. alone, using United Nations data for GDP and its components at current prices in U.S. dollars from 1970 to 2010. We hear all the time from Donald Trump and others about the "decline of U.S. manufacturing," about how nothing is made here any more, and how everything that used to be made here is now made in China and other low wage countries.  An underlying assumption of most of those claims is that if the manufacturing base is shrinking in the U.S. (the "hollowing out of U.S. manufacturing"), that there is an offsetting manufacturing gain that is captured elsewhere in the world, as manufacturing output supposedly shifts from the U.S. to other countries, with world manufacturing remaining constant. 

In reality, the chart above shows that the decline in U.S. manufacturing as share of GDP between 1970 and 2010 is really a global phenomenon as the entire world becomes increasingly a service-based economy.  The manufacturing/GDP ratio in the U.S. fell from 24% to 13% between 1970 and 2010, while the world ratio fell at almost the same rate, from 27% to 16%.   

As a share of GDP, manufacturing has declined in most countries since the 1970s. A few examples: Australia's manufacturing/GDP ratio went from 22% in 1970 to 9.3% in 2010, Brazil's ratio went from 24.5% to 13.5%, Canada's from 19% to 10.5%, Germany's from 31.5% to 18.7%, and Japan's from 35% to 20%.

Bottom Line: When we hear claims that "nothing is made here anymore," it's not really the case that somebody else is making the stuff Americans used to make as it is the case that we (and others around the world) just don't manufacture as much "stuff" any more in relation to the growing levels of national income, which the graph above clearly shows. 

The main reason that the manufacturing/GDP ratio has declined in the U.S. and around the world is that productivity gains for durable goods have significantly lowered the price of those goods relative to: a) the prices of services, and b) household incomes, as I pointed out in this CD post on the "miracle of manufacturing." In other words, the declining manufacturing/GDP ratio reflects declining prices for manufacturing goods, which is a sign of economic progress, not regress.  The standard of living around the world today, along with global wealth and prosperity, are all much, much higher today with manufacturing representing 16% of total world output (including the U.S.) compared to 1970, when it was almost twice as high at almost 27%. And for that progress, we should celebrate, not complain about the "decline of manufacturing."  

Alex Tabarrok on Innovation.

By Russ Roberts.


But there are exceptions, as you point out. So, you would not get rid of patents on pharmaceuticals. Why? So, pharmaceuticals are really the classic case of where the innovation-to-imitation costs are extraordinarily high. It costs about a billion dollars to create a new pharmaceutical. The first pill costs a billion dollars; the second pill costs 50 cents. So, that's a classic case where imitation costs really are low. That's the best case for patents, in a field like that. But my question is: Why does every innovation deserve or require the same 20-year patent? Why do we have a system which gives a one billion dollar pharmaceutical--where there's $1 billion in research and development costs--we give that a 20-year patent and one-click shopping gets the same 20-year patent? That makes no sense whatsoever. So, what I suggest is a more flexible system. I'd like to have a 20-year patent, maybe a 15-year patent, maybe a 3-year patent. Something like that. And then we could say: You want to apply for a 3-year patent? We are going to get this through the system quickly; we won't look at it so much. Hurdle to make the case for it smaller. Exactly. You want a 20-year patent, though: You'd better show us that you really are deserving and put some costs in there. Now, a side-note on the pharmaceuticals--I'm surprised you didn't mention this. Maybe you are just trying to be strategic. It's true it costs a billion dollars to develop a new drug; but there's a reason it costs a billion dollars. A lot of that cost is to no avail. It's replicating tests that sometimes already happened in Europe. A lot of it is the regulatory structure around the drug industry. People who are worried about drug pricing--one of the ways to solve the drug pricing problem is to remove the patent or shorten the patent. I'd like to shorten, reduce the research and development costs and the approval costs. Are you with me there? Absolutely. So, we have drug lag and even more importantly, we have drug loss. There are lots of drugs today which probably could be invented, but people know going in the costs are just too high. So, sure, I would like to see those costs come down. As a theoretical point, however, I still think that the pharmaceutical industry is the best case for a patent in that the innovation/imitation costs are very high. But there are other things we can do to bring those costs down. 


You are looking for evidence of how innovation has been reduced in highly innovative fields. But these highly innovative fields--the Internet and smart phones and so forth--they've been innovative not because of these patents but despite them. And I think the situation is becoming worse in these fields. So, what we are seeing right not is firms like Google and Microsoft buying up these patent arsenals. And they are not doing it because they need access to those technologies. They are doing it because another firm can't sue them and prevent them from innovating. Well, what's bad about that? What's bad about that--I call this the Mutually Assured Destruction--and mutually assured destruction I think was not the greatest way to maintain peace. Probably not the greatest way to maintain innovation either. And I think what the real problem of this idea of innovation through strength--we will be able to innovation because we have this patent arsenal behind us--is that small firms don't have that. So, we are seeing a kind of Intellectual Property (IP) feudalism. We are seeing these very big companies get ahold of these arsenals so nobody can attack them. But that means the small firms can't attack them either. Small firms are being crushed. And what do we know about really disruptive creative disruption? That often comes from the small firms. So, I am worried that we are going to see--yes, you can get innovation if it's from big Google, but what about the little google, the google of 20 years ago, the next google? Which doesn't exist because it can't have the legal department, at its small size, that its competitors have. So, the innovation we are not seeing, that's the invisible innovation. We are not seeing it; we can't look for where it is. 


Any other ideas? Would you stop some things from being patented at all? The remarkable thing is that the extension of patents to software and semi-conductors and business methods and the broadening of the interpretation of these patents has been almost all judge-driven. This is actually not legislation so much. It's judges. Judges have decided to interpret these patents in these broad ways. And they don't have to do that. The law hasn't actually changed that much. I talk a little in the book about Thomas Edison and the light bulb, and there actually was a previous patent. Sawyer and Mann had patented to make the incandescent filament. Any fibrous or textile material. And Edison came along, and he tried 5000 different materials before he hit on the one--it happened to be bamboo, and not just any bamboo but bamboo that he had dispatched a man to Japan to find the right bamboo. So he had gone through all of these different types of materials and yet Sawyer and Mann sued him and said: We have a patent on any fibrous material. And the court looked at that and they said, this is crazy. You can't give such a broad patent. Sawyer and Mann didn't actually investigate all 5000 of these. And if we were to give such a broad patent, this would actually discourage innovation. So, they said no to the Sawyer-Mann patent and let Edison go ahead. We could do more of that today. The trouble today is we have not done what the judges did in the Sawyer and Mann case. We've said: You can get a patent on any fibrous material, analogously in many other fields. We've given these broad patents. And that actually discourages people from doing the real work of implementing, of creating a product. Now you can just patent an idea. It's like a science fiction author can patent ideas; long before they are every even possible to be implemented you can patent the idea. Even before it's technologically possible. And that has actually discouraged innovation. 


A point I want to make about education, by the way, is: There's probably no other area where we can have as much as an opportunity to increase innovation and growth than in education. Think about it this way: Almost all U.S. workers will go through the U.S. education system. Not all, but almost all. So, think about if we improved our education system tomorrow. Well, at first we are only going to get a small gain because only the new workers will come in under the new system. But as we get more and more workers coming in under the improved system, that means that we have 100 million people educated a little bit better. We are talking about trillions of dollars of potential gains there. So there's no other place, bottleneck, where we can have as much influence on the U.S. economy or society as the U.S. education system, because it's where all of our workers are going to be channeled at some point, through that system. So a small change there means a big change over the next 40 years. That sounds good; I'm not sure that's true. A lot of what we learn in life, we don't learn in a classroom, and so I'm not sure how--I think there are many ways in which they will become more productive and skilled, and we figure those ways out. And we sometimes do that in spite of our education. And sometimes our education is what allows us to do it. I think it's fascinating--you think about your education and mine--we logged a lot of hours in the economics classroom as undergrads and graduate students. And we learned a lot there. We learned a huge amount. But I'm amazed at how much I've learned since then. You could argue that's what helped me learn how to learn. Certainly there was a basic framework there. But we're in a really narrow technical field. Somebody who goes through the standard K-12 educational system and then goes on to study, it doesn't matter what it is, in college--I just have a feeling a lot of what they learn comes afterwards anyway. Maybe we ought to be shortening the whole process and getting people out into the world at an earlier age. If they were mature enough. Maybe. I think there's some truth to that for college for sure. For K-12, I think it's going to be more important. I would say you are right--people like you and I who have alternative sources of education, our parents, family, friends, peer group. All of these things are working in our advantage. But for a lot of kids in high school, they don't have those other factors working in their advantage. So the one we can really move, the one lever we have, we need to do everything we can to shift that lever. I totally agree.


[H]igh-skilled immigration I think is such an obvious, such a completely clear thing to do, that it's shocking that we haven't done it already. It's literally easier to win the lottery than it is for a person of advanced and high skills to get a visa into the United States; and what I mean by that is we give out more visas in the lottery program--random allocation--than we do to these people of extraordinary ability. Now that's insane. How can you have a system like that, where you just randomly give out visas and there's more of them than you give to people of extraordinary ability? That's crazy. We need to cut back on regulation and we need to think about it as not simply thinking about regulation as each regulation comes up. We need to think about pebbles in the stream. We need to think about what happens when you accrete, what happens when these things build up. I would like to see us change our mindset from the warfare-welfare state towards innovation.