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Government’s role in innovation

William H Janeway wrote an interesting article in the Observer newspaper today raising the issue of government funding or intervention in the development of innovation.

He has written a book on the innovation economy and its history. Essentially he says that whilst the billionaire entrepreneurs of the digital economy continue to recycle their wealth in new technologies it will not be enough for the commercialisation of new materials and applications coming from these technological changes. This will require large companies, not start ups. Scale matters.

However he notes that “Silicon” is the exception. Yet even here success was driven initially by the US defence department’s generous budget.

From 1953 to 1978 federal funding accounted for more than half of all R&D in the US equivalent to 1% of GDP. That would amount to $150 bln today!

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