Fair Play in the Global Market

By Perry Kinkaid, ABC Tech

Going global with innovation.  Be prepared … at the recent “Fusion is the Future Forum” in Edmonton I had the opportunity to discuss how technology is “changing everything” with several presenters from across Canada and the US. The Forum presented adavnces in technologies for achieving fusion ignition – in my lifetime! As interesting was an off-line discussion with two industry leaders about the race to be first in innovation and how China is employing students and technology tourists for capturing innovations and rerouting them home to China. There the technologies are rapidly converted into commercial opportunities. Also discussed were the implications of trust busting corporations that are dominating the digital revolution.”

China’s Technology Ambitions Could Upset the Global Trade Order HERE

While in Taiwan some years ago I witnessed a relentless business culture – an emerging Asian Tiger, a culture passionate about innovation and profiting by re-engineering of other’s technology.  Over dinner one evening my corporate guest claimed, “We re-engineer technology and can have your product in the US market in 6-weeks.”

The global competition for technology is a sign of the economic significance of being competitive in the acquisition of technology AND the capability to commercialize it.  To compete requires innovations and an effective ecosystem. Without innovation and a requisite ecosystem, the options to compete are few – and would be deemed “unfair” in a law-abiding culture. They can be found in sports, in business, the underground and national economics where profit trumps fairness, where winning – no holds barred, and raw competition prevails.

The disadvantaged are governed by regulatory fair trade and purchasing practices, practices that serve to sideline entrepreneurs, companies and entire nations in the global pursuit of emerging technologies. Consider Canada repeatedly finds itself disadvantaged by unfair harvesting of its natural resources in the forestry, agriculture, energy and fishing. Hence, the need for fair trade practices and their enforcement.  Nations of law value fair trade in commerce, and enforce their practice.  The balance of interests has become VERY complex as social and environmental matters are complicating economic objectives.

The commercialization chain for emerging technologies is long, but starts often within research universities. Success requires speed often at the cost of safety, money – usually public, and advanced research talent regardless of source.  Some universities have proven to be very flexible, engaged and competitive.  Some are  private; most are public becasue emerging technologies are more attractive to economists than to capitalists.  To compete in the global race for dominance in innovation requires partnerships.  In the U.S., the military-industrial complex is well financed and engaged in research that a nation like Canada can not afford. (An interesting question is whether NAFTA negotiations are considering U.S. military spending in the assessment of industrial subsidies. The U.S. military is a primary beneficiary of public taxes and a major source for subsidizing industrial research in emerging technologies: energy, transportation, construction, advanced materials, etc.)

Canada has no military-industrial complex.  It relies heaviliy on publicly funded incubators or accelerators. To be efffective these entities must be: independent of academic constraints, have access to capital and growth oriented leadership – ambitious and achievement oriented. Chinese capital is financing it’s recently declared Silk Road, a global network of incubators and accelerators for advancing innovation. The capital is finding seeking out incubators and accelerators around the globe.

How to compete?  The options are few.  Protectionism is a defensive measure: developing technologies to thwart cysbersecurity and enforcing regulations against the theft of innovations. Offensively, jusrisdictions ramp up financing innovation, targeting applied solutions and taking on the competition head to head.  The size and global presence of US enterpises such as Intel and Microsoft, Google and Amazon, make them better partners than competitors, though they are ideal targets for competitors and for theft.  And each are exposed to international scrutiny for having become too big, too influential, too monopolistic.  Will they soon be crippled by trust-busting lobbies?  Will that be to the benefit of those who are investing time, energy, effort in theft – as a cheap way to compete?

Again, trust busting and the organized theft of innovations are two forces that may have more disruptive impact on the race for dominance in innovation than the emergence of any technology we are currently monitoring.