As per this recent article over on the McKinsey Quarterly on Translating Innovation into US Growth: An Advanced-Industries Perspective, the US is posed for a future in which the elements of economic leadership are moving abroad. The US might still be the global leader in R&D spending overall, but in order to maintain its competitive edge, it has to be able to devise innovations the world wants and needs and translate those into economic leadership.
Economic leadership requires more than a capital market system that encourages (and rewards) risk taking and entrepreneurship, more than simply attracting top students and teachers globally, and more than bulk spending. As per the article, it also requires cutting-edge technology, demand, talent, and entrepreneurial spirit. And, right now, the US is falling behind on each of these.
In leading industrial technologies — such as advanced batteries, high-speed rail, hybrid automobiles, solar modules, offshore wind turbines, and machine tools — the United States finds itself competing against, or even catching up, with foreign companies and engineers. Furthermore, as the article notes, the US is now relying on Japan, Russian, and Western Europe to launch its satellites — an industry it used to pretty much own globally. If the US can’t even compete in green energy, it’s in for trouble.
More than 50% of the global middle class now lives outside North America and the demand for many next-generation products is now coming from Asia, Latin Ameria, and the Middle East. These customers are creating new markets and dictating preferences. US products for the US market are no longer profitable on their own in many industries.
Scientific and engineering talent is now building up outside the US while one-third of US manufacturing companies are suffering from skills shortages. Cutting edge research is moving to India and China as well as accelerating in Japan and Germany.
Once a mainstay of the private sector, risk aversion to new vetures is increasing across the board in the US. At the same time, the “new” India is becoming much more entrepreneurial and risk taking. It’s not a good combination.
Then, when you also consider:
Many emerging countries have labour and overall operating costs that are still only a third of labour and operational costs in North America or Europe.
A number of global multinationals, including IBM, have proved that you can move global Financial, Services, and Supply Management organizations to China and India and still be a world-class organization.
it becomes impossible not to ask if your supply management organization is about to move to Asia.