What is the goal of research policy? Is it ideas? Is it science, which is testing ideas against reality to create knowledge? Is it technology, which is turning science from theory into something tangible? Is it products and services, which combine technologies to benefit society in some form or another? No matter which you think it is, how can we measure what the public gets from what the public spends?
Our challenge is this: the major innovative economies have significantly more of most of this stuff. They also may have more sustainability. Sustainability comes when research results in exported value-added products that generate revenue (both profits and taxes) that can be devoted to more private and public research. Those larger innovative economies are also (at least) incrementally improving. Since they have a larger base, the gap in innovative potential can grow.
We thus need exponential growth. That comes from aligning interests. Research is conducted within a triangle of interests defined by academia, government and business. What we need is the political, academic and business leadership that can sit together at a table and agree on how we use our current competitive advantages in science and technology to create a research policy whose sum is greater than its parts. Last but not least, technological innovation requires organizational innovation.
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