Much has been written about the emerging global battle for dominance of the innovation-based economy between China and the United States. This battleground has been referred to as the “fourth industrial revolution,” characterized by a paradigm shift in the way innovation affects technological development.
The winner of this battle, it's predicted, will control the keys to the world’s economic prosperity for the next several centuries.
We don't dispute that warning. However, we pose the following question: How would one measure innovative dominance? Currently, there's no comprehensive, standardized way of measuring whether an economy is successful in creating a nurturing innovative industry.
Ultimately, success in the new economy will involve creating great jobs, attracting people to live there, and giving people in the area a chance to thrive. The Brookings Institution believes that regions successful in building the innovation economy will garner disproportionate benefits. Its research supports that belief and has identified five “innovation superstar” regions as creating far more jobs, attracting more capital for growth, and generating higher productivity than other areas of the United States. The flipside of successful innovation, however, is its uneven distribution across the nation.
Brookings’s definition of “innovation jobs” spans industries. More than simply information technologies, software, and semiconductors, it includes industries such as agricultural technology, robotics, telecommunications networking, chemical manufacturing, aerospace, and science and technology services. The areas that have generated rapid growth in these innovative industries tend to have great universities that produce world-class research and highly trained people, thereby nurturing the conditions that foster and infuse innovation in technological development.
Given the opacity of the Chinese economy, we doubt that we would ever be able to measure regional innovation growth in China. We may never know whether Hangzhou is out-pacing Chongqing let alone Silicon Valley.
Fortunately, with generous funding from the CEO Leadership Alliance of Orange County, the A. Gary Anderson Center for Economic Research at Chapman University has started that measurement journey for the United States. The center has harnessed a team that includes scholars from both Chapman and the University of California–Irvine to create a regional innovation indicator. That effort is being spearheaded by the authors of this article.
In addition to providing local leaders with a scorecard to measure their progress in creating jobs in the innovation industries, we hope it will be used as a tool in determining the causal factors that explain how and why innovation jobs are created. As a bonus, the Chapman-UCI Innovation Indicator will provide the first look at how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected innovation economies.
It will be critically important for the United States to continually measure its progress in its innovative industries. By focusing on broadening the country’s global innovation competitiveness, we can ensure that America enhances its global dominance in creating and nurturing prosperity for its citizens.