Monday, November 29, 2010

Science on the Move

I’m fond of saying there’s no point being brilliant at the wrong thing (thanks Edward de Bono). Which is why any news of a boom in new ideas might be taken with a grain of salt. Quantity is not quality, nor is every idea a winner.

But quantity does increase the likelihood of stumbling on that one crazy, simple idea that changes everything. And diversity across the group of crazies asking the questions makes it just that much more likely.

That’s why the latest UNESCO report on the Current Status of Science Around the World is exciting. If you can make it past the uninspiring title, the topline outtake is that the power base of world science is making moves.

Where once most of the world’s spending, patenting and publishing of scientific work was done by the EU, Japan and the US, today more and more is being done by emerging players like China, India, Brazil and the Republic of Korea. In 1990 the established doyens of science and technology were responsible for more than 95% of R&D globally. By 2007 it had dropped to 76%.

The bottom line is more insights and ideas are being tested by more people in more places everywhere. The challenge will be for the new players in science to remain in a fluid state of emergency, and avoid the inertia that most institutions fall prey too, a state that kills the best ideas at birth.

The good news is the creative revolution has gained momentum to a point where anyone who stagnates will be replaced by someone with more edge. In the meantime, look out for the next big thing to come from somewhere new.

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