Aneesh Chopra, the first Chief Technology Officer in the United States from May 2009 – February 2012, explored the potential of using scientific and computer innovation to achieve economical advancement in the US. In his book “Innovative state: How new technologies can transform government,” he pointed out how the use of computer technologies and scientific research in a carefully designed strategy by the government could advance innovation with the collaboration of private industry.
The book explores the following questions:
- What does the innovation state look like?
- How can we develop a metric to measure innovation which can be calculated to get an idea about the status of each country or nation?
- Would big data analytics from Google, Amazon, and IBM lead to the innovation of countries?
- Even if we are able to predict the innovation state, what would this give us?
- Would the information be useful?
- Would money allocated for research in the budget of each country be an indicator of the pursuit of innovation?
- Would the result of high tech companies with creative ideas and higher GDP be a good indicator?
Maybe the happiness indicator represents a better prediction of the innovation state. Dan Buettner wrote in his book “The Blue Zones” that Singapore is one of the most innovative states produced in recent history.
Singapore represents an example of how the state transformed itself from undeveloped swampland to a high-tech and business magnet to the whole world, with the least corruption, even better than the United States and Scandinavian countries. Singapour lost recently its charismatic modern founder Lee Kuan Yew. This man somehow envisioned the future 50 years ago when he decided to increase education and innovation and build bridges of harmony among the three major groups: Indians, Chinese, and Malaysians.
He did not see individual freedom as important as the welfare of the group or society. He believed in “the broken window theory” which holds that cleanliness and order (in the city, airports, public bathrooms, and streets) are stimuli to people to create a thriving city. In fact, this mantra, as Lee Kuan Yew mentioned, is the main reason for producing an innovative state. Could this be replicated in other states seeking to improve their future?
I recently visited Dubai and was totally blown away by the progress of the state. In just a relatively short length of time, less than 10 years, this place turned from small buildings and vast deserts to a buzzing well-organized city. From the moment I landed at the airport, I sensed the organization of every aspect of the city. The long lines approaching the long row of immigration officers moved very fast similar to the lines in US airports. The amount of skyscrapers and modern designs spoke volumes of the well-organized city. Dubai looks like a buzzing city for business, science, and cultural diversity. The current ruler, as he mentioned in a 60 minutes interview, moved fast to implement plans to realize his dream of developing an innovation state.
I was blown away when I learned about Dubai Biotechnology & Research Park, established in the Free Zone. The park contains 160 laboratory units and it provides 500,000 square feet of offices with 22 floors. The Park harbors around 190 Life Science Companies from all over the world, including many American and European companies: Pfizer, Merck-Serono, IFF, Bayer, Amgen, Maquet, National Reference Lab, PepsiCo, B. Braun, Thermofisher and Firmenich. The Park represents a small scale Silicon Valley experiment.
Many computer companies like Hewlett-Packard, EMC Corporation, Oracle Corporation, Microsoft, Dell, IBM, Google, and Yahoo can be found in Dubai. The city functions as a hub for many foreign news outlets: NBC, CNN, BBC, Reuters, Sky News, and AP. The city became an innovation state by attracting more investors and funds for scientific research.
Finally, could Dubai use the experience of Singapore to move forward by creating more economic opportunities as guided by the blueprint of the innovative state as described by Aneesh Chopra in his book? Time will tell.
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