Asian Countries Challenge U.S. Tech Leadership

News-Asia
February 6, 2012

The United State remains a global leader in supporting science and technology research and development, but only by a slim margin that could soon be overtaken by other regions of the world. That is a key finding in the Science and Technology Indicators 2012 report released recently by the National Science Board.

The United State remains a global leader in supporting science and technology research and development, but only by a slim margin that could soon be overtaken by other regions of the world. That is a key finding in the Science and Technology Indidcators 2012 report released recently by the National Science Board.

“The information clearly shows we must re-examine long-held assumptions about the global dominance of the American science and technology enterprise,” said NSF Director Subra Suresh. “And we must take seriously new strategies for education, workforce development and innovation in order for the United States to retain its international leadership position.”

According to Indcators 2012, the largest global S&T gains occurred in the so-called “Asia-10” — China, Indian, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Phillipines, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand. Between 1999 and 2009, the U.S. share of global research and development (R&D) dropped from 38 percent to 31 percent, whereas it grew from 24 percent to 35 percent in Asia during the same time.

Many of those countries are building S&T into their development policies in order to remain globally competitive. They include investments in higher education, infrastructure and ongoing support for R&D.

“Over the last decade, the world has changed dramaticaly,” said Jose-Marie Griffiths, chair of the NSB committee that oversees the annual report. “It’s now a world with very different actors who have made advancement in science and technology a top prority. And many of the troubling trends we’re seeing are now very well established.”

The report notes President Obama’s 2009 Strategy for American Innovation, which recognized the importance of science and technology as drivers of innovation.

Analysts reacting to the report noted there are factors in play that could make the U.S. more competitive with China when it comes to manufacturing. Wages in China are growing at a rapid pace would could lessen its advantage. A report by the Boston Consulting Group found that within five years, the cost gap between the United States and China will be virtually closed.

The NSB authors also see positive developments along with their troubling findings. They note the, “resulting developments open the way for widespread international collaboration in science and technology” where the benefits can accrue to all. But the rapid growth taking place will also bring about painful dislocations amplified by changes brought about by the recent recession.

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