How to Innovate Like Germany and Taiwan

It doesn’t take a genius mastermind to get the idea ball rolling. Innovation is for everyone and everyone can benefit from it. This was made clear in a recent report, The Global Flourishing of National Innovation Foundations, published by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

Stephen Ezell, Director of Mobile Innovation Policy for the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, sat down with Emily Jarvis on Emily’s Corner to discuss the implications a push for innovation is having on government.

The report looked at 50 countries and how they have established national innovation foundations. It evaluated what made these national innovation systems so successful, as well as how they rate amongst each other.

But first, why does innovation matter? Ezell noted: “countries increasingly realize that it is innovation that drives long-run economic growth.” He pointed out that policymakers around the world have come to understand this as well and have decided to invest in national innovation foundations. In so doing, they are “articulating national innovation strategies in an attempt to coordinate disparate policy areas and government agencies in a coordinated manner to promote innovation activity by commercial nonprofit and government actors and their economies.”

What set countries like Germany, Finland, and Taiwan apart was their determination to bring science, technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship to the center of their economic policymaking activities. Ezell explained that “they are mindful of the need to bring together industry, academia, universities, and government in particular sectors of their economy. They [then] can have conversations about the kind of skills companies need in the workforce to be competitive in global markets and how their high schools and universities need to focus on those skills.”

So, what does this mean for the U.S.? Ezell advises the U.S. to continue to push the federal government and all of the surrounding government entities to encourage innovation from within. He shares that government should be at the forefront of this movement because “public policies need to be implemented broadly to support the innovation capacity of all actors across a broader economy.”

Therefore, we must “fundamentally rethink the culture and incentives that underline the animus for innovation inside the government.” Ezell provides two ideas that can help combat this apathy.

First, he suggests that senior managers in the U.S. government make innovation a part of their annual performance reviews.

Second, govies need to broadly share knowledge about each other’s toolsets. This will provide a more structured basis to enact shared skillsets to help foster true innovation within the federal government. Coordination is essential according to Ezell.

These simple steps can lead “federal agencies to not only cross-pollenate best innovation practices, but to better help understand how they can work together in a more concerted effort to support the competitiveness of U.S. industry.”

Govies can make the entire process a fun and competitive one. Ezell reminds us that we already have rankings for things such as employee satisfaction and morale within federal agencies. Why not simply apply what already exists and works to the innovation sphere? Let’s rank innovation across various federal agencies. So govies, get the ball rolling and encourage innovation-now!

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