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S&T Strategies of Six Countries: Implications for the United States
Finding 10-3. Although of vastly different sizes, China and Singapore have similar S&T strategies. Both countries invest heavily in top-down higher education and research, create research parks near universities, and promote international collaborations. Both heavily subsidize study abroad for Ph.D. students. Both recruit talent globally, using high-quality facilities and research support as incentives. Both move quickly and with authority when decisions are made. Both utilize strong top-down leadership to adapt their cultures to facilitate their S&T goals. Both will find ways to achieve their goals, even if later than planned.
Singapore has done very well in realizing its five-year goals, which indicates that its national goals for defense, renewable energy, climate change and sustainability, urbanization, infectious disease management, and food security and water supplies are realistic. If the past is the prologue, China will find a way to achieve its S&T aspirations, although probably not within the stated timelines, except for those related to its highest, national security priorities. Key obstacles for China are likely to be its inadequate educational system, insufficient numbers of qualified domestic S&T personnel, a bureaucratic scientific and market environment that is systemically prone to corruption, continuing dependence on a high economic growth rate, continued reliance on the acquiescence by multinationals and foreign governments to invest in the country and transfer their technology, and a highly centralized political system that is opaque to outside influences. The latter point contrasts with Singapore, which although highly centralized, has recruited outside assistance throughout its planning processes. China’s anti-monopoly law compels multinational corporations to transfer proprietary technology to their Chinese subsidiaries, and its IP regime is poorly regarded. These could be substantial self-inflicted wounds if multinationals become reluctant to locate cutting-edge R&D facilities in China, focusing instead on application-specific, mostly development facilities.
Japan has restructured its university system to facilitate faculty participation in its S&T innovation environment. But after about 20 years of reforming its top-down and bottom-up innovation environments, progress in reform has been slow, possibly because of cultural issues that limit recruitment of talent, restrict immigration, discourage women in the workforce, and create an opaque leadership. Its decreasing population and decreasing student interest in S&T may also be factors. Little change in Japan’s S&T innovation environment can be expected in the near term, although a downward shift in its relative strength compared to other countries is more likely than an upward shift. Nonetheless, if the value attributed to multinational corporations in China and India is discounted, Japan will remain the strongest competitor of the United States in S&T for the next decade. The United States should position itself to capture value from Japan’s R&D efforts in the niche areas of energy, food and resource security, and environmental protection.
Following the South Korean model, Brazil is determined to become a world power in agricultural research, deep-sea oil production, and remote sensing based on its S&T innovation environment and its careful, conservative planning and investing. Its top-down S&T innovation environment includes clear plans and investments. Most research is undertaken in universities, but the country has not yet developed adequate mechanisms for technology transfer to industry, which is the principal voice and financer for S&T investments. Brazil supports economic development in business through tax revenues, rather than debt. In many states, including Sao Paulo, 1 percent of corporate revenues is collected and pooled for re-investment in industrial development. The shortages of workers and students in S&T, the absence of research and research opportunities in industry and consequently the absence of university-industry research collaborations, the low efficiency of goods and labor markets, and the disconnect within the national S&T community itself hamper the development of Brazil’s bottom-up S&T innovation environment. These limitations will likely be addressed over time, leading to a steady, although not rapid, strengthening of a global S&T innovation environment. A significant change in Brazil’s S&T innovation environment and global leadership position is not expected over the next three to five years.
Through its national S&T innovation environment, India’s goal is to become a self-reliant, developed country by 2020. Attainment of that goal is doubtful. India’s strengths are its large domestic market, young and growing population optimistic about the future, private sector with experience in market institutions, well-developed legal and financial systems, and critical mass of English-speaking S&T and other professionals. India now solicits and encourages foreign participation in its industries. India hosts 150 of the Fortune 500 companies, and expatriates are returning to contribute to India’s development. However, India has no apparent public strategy beyond its five-year plans. Its progress has been steady, with its most significant, top-down S&T commitments being directed