Are We Keeping Up?

Last week, I talked briefly about the Council for American Medical Innovation conference and the need for re-focusing federal policies to encourage medical innovation.  Additional panels featured prominent academics, politicians and industry leaders who highlighted the important role medical innovation plays in our economy, our lives and the future.  Today, I would like to revisit our earlier discussion on medical innovation and the role of the pharmaceutical industry and an idea that continues to resonate with me.  The theme for the discussion focused on a question, "are we falling behind?"

A more accurate theme may have been "are we keeping up?" 

The front page of the Wall Street Journal this morning (as with many other news publications) highlighted the visit of President Hu Jintao.  The Journal focused on the meeting's significance as defining "a new relationship between the world's longtime superpower and its rising Asian rival."  It is difficult to ignore China's rapid development and growth. 

During a panel discussion last Wednesday, Dr. Rob Atkinson, Founder and President of Information Technology and Innovation Foundation emphasized the dramatic growth of countries like China results in part from acknowledging the need for innovation in the global economy.  Atkinson urged policy makers to invest in innovation in order to keep competitive advantage here in the US.  Other nations "recognize there is a problem" in their innovation policies.  Acknowledging the problem forces them to improve, eventually helping them to gain on US industry.

The gap mentioned above was highlighted by Dr. John Lechleiter, President and CEO of Eli Lilly and Company, in a July opinion article for the Wall Street Journal.   Dr. Lechleiter highlights a recent study by Dr. Atkinson's organization, the Information Technology and innovation Foundation that ranks the U.S. 40th out of 40 countries in "the rate of change in innovation capacity" over the past decade.  The study set out to measure changes in innovation capacity resulting from changes to higher education, investment in research and development, corporate tax rates among other metrics.   In the words of Dr. Lechleiter "we're at serious risk of falling behind."

Fortunately, discussions on the role of innovation in America continue to occur.  You can participate in these discussions on-line (check out #medinnovate on Twitter) and in person at forums across Washington.  I will continue to participate in as many of these as possible and encourage you to do the same.