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Democratizing Innovation

Policymakers and the public at large understand the importance of innovation to economic growth and well being. What is less well appreciated is the degree to which the innovation agenda has been captured by narrow groups of investors and firms whose values and interests don’t necessarily reflect society’s needs.

CAMBRIDGE – Innovation is the engine that drives contemporary economies. Living standards are determined by productivity growth, which in turn depends on the introduction and dissemination of new technologies that allow an ever-wider variety of goods and services to be produced with fewer and fewer of our planet’s resources.

Policymakers and the public at large understand the importance of innovation. What is less well appreciated is the degree to which the innovation agenda has been captured by narrow groups of investors and firms whose values and interests don’t necessarily reflect society’s needs.

In today’s advanced economies, private firms undertake the bulk of research and development. The business sector’s share of total R&D spending ranges from 60% in Singapore to 78% in South Korea, with the United States closer to the higher end, at 72%. But it is the public sector that provides the essential social, legal, and educational infrastructure that sustains private R&D.

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