Innovating our way out of the recession

Posted on: September 15, 2009

If penicillin had been discovered today, the culture dish would have been thrown away and the scientists would have had a visit form the Health and Safety Executive.

That was the conclusion of Dr Norman Lewis speaking at the Ted X event at Leeds Metropolitan University last week on Innovation and the recession.

Dr Lewis Chief Strategy Officer for Wireless Grids Corporation,and with over ten years experience in Telecoms innovation, believes that Western culture has lost its way when it comes to research and development. Only Japan currently is increasing its percentage of investment in R&D and the Western economies are in danger of being left behind.

The reason, as far as Dr Lewis is concerned, is pure and simply culture. Once research was done for the sake of research with outcomes unknown and risk extensive. Today we invest in it only if the outcomes are known and there is a return on investment.

The word innovation has become a marketing gimmick; in fact we no longer talk about the practice but simply the process.

Our major innovations came out of risk taking and the future according to Lewis is bleak. He believes that what is lacking is that there is nobody prepared to lead us in the right direction and drive innovation.

The new industries, the new employment, and a new generation of innovators are far along the horizon.

For the first time in human history we have lost our ability to drive beyond risk, instead everything to be certain and predictable.

One solution could be a trip to Mars. Citing the Kennedy mission in the 1960’s to get to the moon “because it was difficult”, that same vision, he concluded, is now required to drive innovation into the middle of the century.

Do you agree with Dr Lewis? Let us know your views


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