BOOK REVIEW

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Innovation: Key to America’s Prosperity and Job Growth

Tapan Munroe
Publisher:  CreateSpace, 2012  ‐  147011142X, 9781470111427

 

The author, Tapan Munroe, is a wellknown economist. He is a speaker, consultant, advisor, researcher, strategist and commentator on the innovation economy in the USA. His current research is focused on the economics of innovation, and the economy of innovation hubs such as Silicon Valley and High Tech San Diego.

In his 210-page book, published in English by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform in 2012, the author uses an easy to understand journalistic style to capture the essence of the economic challenge of sustainability in twenty-first century America and takes an enjoyable and very up-to-date look at some of the contemporary issues that are shaping the world economy (particularly that of the USA) and can foster enterprise and innovation.

Tapan believes that innovation occurs when new ideas are transformed into useful and/or improved artifacts, leading to new business and new companies that create new jobs and generate income for the country, thus making it the key to economic prosperity.

The author highlights the need in contemporary society to constantly apply the concept of the triple helix – determined by the relationship between universities, business, and governments, aimed at the economic and social development of the country, and shows that the structure of the economic and social development of a nation depends exclusively on the training of the skills that are essential for innovative work.

The essays were written between 2008 and 2012 and were published in various newspapers where Tapan was a columnist. The collection of texts in the book is divided into two sections. The first is entitled “Innovation” and contains nineteen essays, and the second, under the heading “Jobs: Skills Gap and Workforce Readiness”, contains fifteen.

These two sections could be summarized in two keywords: Innovation and Work, and the keywords are connected, over the course of the articles, by education, the author’s major concern. It should be pointed out that the act of “educating” is mentioned in much of the thinking of the leading protagonists in the triple helix (universities, companies, government) presented in books, magazines, conferences, seminars, meetings, roundtables, and other forms of dissemination that have arisen around the world since the concept originated in the 1990s.

The author invited Raymond K Ostby to write an essay entitled “Innovation −Overview”, for section I, and John O`Dea to write an essay entitled “Jobs-Skills Gap and Workforce Readiness – Overview”, for Section II. Marty Beard was invited to coauthor the essay “America’s Exceptional Opportunity – the Mobility-Social Network Nexus”, presented in section I.

At the beginning of the book, several people provide their impressions regarding the articles and refer to the book’s importance in the present world economic context – of a knowledge and innovation based economy. The foreword was written by Thomas M Loarie, and the preface by Raul A Deju, while the editor, John Ahlquist, emphasizes how Tapan “is able to take difficult subjects and distill their essence for the general reader”.

The ideas put forward by Tapan in this book provoke the reader into critical and reflective analysis. They address business leadership, dreams, the workforce, education in entrepreneurship, technological education, skills-based education for the workplace, schools, students, job skills, competitiveness, the knowledge-based economy, local development, structural unemployment, incentives, the economy, networks, space, ecosystems, innovation habitats, public and private venture capital, the entrepreneurial university, research groups, quality of life, innovative companies, the business environment, partnerships, collaboration, consensus, and culture, among other matters.

In summary, and emphasizing certain important aspects of the American triple helix context that appear in the book, we find:
1 With regard to universities:
1.1   There is currently a gap in US education that threatens the future of the country’s economy: the skills available in the US labor market nowadays are not the ones needed to enable the country to compete in the twenty-first century global economy.

1.2   The US economy needs continual efforts and investment in education, training, research and development, and to stimulate the identifying of innovative business and partnerships between government, universities and private companies that encourages innovation.

1.3   The US educational system should be overhauled, to address the structural unemployment that currently exists in the country and prepare young people to take up jobs that will make the country competitive on a global scale, thus bringing to an end the skills gap that currently exists in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
2 With regard to government:
2.1   Governments must have a clear view of what needs to be done in the country and clearly define the challenges that the people have to face and the priorities that need to be determined in order to achieve innovation in all areas of knowledge, as well as pointing out how optimism is crucial to the nation’s success.

2.2  A look at the country’s history shows what can be studied and learned from: innovation has been key to economic prosperity and long-term competitiveness.

2.3   Public policy should provide citizens with a list of principles that enable them to think up and implement innovative action, at any moment, that could contribute to development.
3 With regard to companies:

3.1   There is no doubt that the revolutionary technological advances in electronics, transportation, communication and science are creating new businesses and jobs that were previously hard to imagine, and are increasing productivity. However, this requires enterprise and the seeking out of talent in business.

3.2   Entrepreneurs and inventors should have access to abundant incentives, suitable tools and venture capital, as well as fast and reliable communications, the tolerance of society, and laws and regulations that facilitate, rather than repel, innovation and entrepreneurship.

3.3   The government needs to show optimism and leadership, in order to help guide the private sector towards a bright future for innovation.

Finally, the book sends out a warning to nations – the gap that currently exists between innovation and work is the result of the lack of skills-based education for the citizens who make up their country’s workforce. Without a well-trained workforce, it is impossible to sustain an innovation-based economy.

Development strategies focused on innovation can only be successful if governments, universities, and businesses, are determined to set out policies that give priority to education based on the development of skills that are critical for the jobs available in the present economy. Only continual investment in education, R&D and businesses can eliminate the skills gap in the labor market, represented by the structural unemployment that is now facing innovative companies in a knowledge-based economy.

In closing, Tapan’s book is a timely call for a USA return to prosperity, as it provides useful ideas and gives specific examples of how the country can regain and maintain its position as world leader in innovation, against the competition from emerging markets like China, Brazil, and India.