Innovation is a Contact Sport

National Science Foundation Director Dr. Subra Suresh comments during the Science, Technology and Research (STaR) Symposium, at West Virginia State University.

Speaking at a recent event, National Science Foundation Director Subra Suresh stressed that research investments yield returns that benefit all of society and provide a “ticket to prosperity.” From a global perspective, Suresh said the United States is facing “unprecedented competition.” Geography no longer determines where innovation emerges, he said, “Good ideas come from everywhere.”

Suresh observed that “innovation is a contact sport,” and commercial success requires not only bright minds and labs, but also networks and access to resources. These factors drive new National Science Foundation programs, and also private sector ventures, he said.

Data suggests global industry executives would agree with Suresh.

In GE Capital’s “Global Innovation Barometer 2011,” 95% of global business executives surveyed believe innovation is the main lever for more competitive national economies. However, the majority of respondents believe that organizations must collaborate for new innovations to succeed.

A full 40% of those global business leaders feel a combination of players partnering together will be the biggest driver of progress over the next 10 years, while only 27% think small and mid-sized businesses acting alone will drive such innovation. Even fewer think that large businesses, universities and governments working solo will accomplish as much independently.

So the consensus between the Innovation Barometer report and Suresh appears to be that research impacts prosperity and economies, but research alone may not be enough. Because launching innovations is indeed a “contact sport,” winning the commercialization game requires a team effort.