The contribution of foreign-born individuals is not limited to basic research: Yahoo, Sun Microsystems, eBay, Intel and Google were all founded or co-founded by immigrants from Taiwan, Germany, India, France, Hungary, or Russia. During the 10 years following 1995, 52 percent of Silicon Valley start-ups—now employing many thousands of people—were founded by immigrants.50 According to a Duke University study, foreign-born entrepreneurs during the period from 1995 to 2005 founded, or were partners in founding, one-fourth of the new engineering and technology companies in the United States, employing 450,000 workers in 2005. A strong multiplier effect exists when creative scientists and engineers are provided an innovation-friendly environment. Yet, United States immigration policy in many cases discourages qualified individuals from studying in the United States or remaining here after graduation.

As the rest of the world enjoys increasing prosperity and greater freedom some foreign-born graduates of United States universities are being attracted to return home. Although this trend is not massive at this point, there are numerous specific examples relating to some of America’s more renowned researchers. A recent change of attitudes is indicated in a Kauffman Foundation survey that found a majority of Indian and Chinese students indicating they would like to remain in the United States a “few” years after graduation, but only six and ten percent, respectively, said they would like to remain permanently.51 Once a tipping point has been reached in a nation’s ability to innovate, the decline becomes self-reinforcing as students no longer seek to attend that nation’s universities and graduates seek work in more promising venues.


The Innovation Ecosystem

Once new research discoveries have been converted into products and services through the application of advanced engineering practices it becomes the role of entrepreneurs to assure that those products and services are first to market. Even weeks can matter in the race to be first; hence, the job-creating value of research is highly perishable. It took


V. Wadhwa, Foreign-Born Entrepreneurs: An Underestimated American Resource, Kauffman Thoughtbook 2009, The Kauffman Foundation. Available at:


V. Wadhwa, A. Saxenian, R. Freeman, and A. Salkever, Losing the World’s Best and Brightest: America’s New Immigrant Entrepreneurs, Part V, March 2009. Available at:’s_Best_and_Brightest.pdf.

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