In the 1950s and 1960s, the United States was internationally pre-eminent in science and technology. The only country comparable to the US in terms of per capita innovative output during this time was Switzerland and much of any significant scientific and technological effort and achievement remained the exclusive preserve of a few advanced industrialised countries.
In the last 30 years or so, however, the economic landscape has changed considerably and indeed continues to change with amazing rapidity.A situation of strategic economic parity has come to exist in the triad regions of North America, Western Europe and the Pacific Rim (including China). Increasing globalisation has meant that several more nations have become important players on the world economic stage and the rules of the game have subsequently changed.
To some extent, it is no longer easy for any one player to dictate the rules of the game – to determine what is right or wrong, or what is or what ought to be.In the area of science, technology and innovation, the supremacy of the United States and the few other monopoly powers has become seriously challenged and partly eroded. Several developments have materialised.
Firstly, there has been increased competition from fast followers, which has subjected advanced nations to competition via imitation by firms in hitherto less innovative countries. Secondly, there has been a more rapid diffusion of intellectual capital.This has been aided by the revolution in communications technology, which has rendered the notion of space and time virtually irrelevant. The result of this is that the advantage provided by a given amount of innovation decreases rapidly with increased diffusion of intellectual capital. Thirdly, competition for investments by multinational enterprises (MNEs) mean that these companies increasingly need to locate investments wherever circumstances offer the greatest opportunity, including Research and Development (R&D) activities.Lastly, there has been a steady, albeit gradual, emergence of more nations that are innovators.
These have consciously committed themselves to the expansion of their innovative capacity with the result that the historically small set of highly-innovative advanced countries has expanded. In addition, the Scandinavian countries, the newly industrialising countries of South East Asia, China and India are also beginning to make the transition from imitator to innovator