Innovation Will Set America Back on Track

12/4/08

Most Americans are depressed about the economy. But if we pull back and try to rise above the clouds, there are real reasons for hope.

The combination of a “Yes We Can” administration headed to the White House, along with our country’s established leadership in innovation, has us standing at the crest of a trail that could ensure we never enter this chasm again. Let’s get back on our feet and remember what we are made of.

America is the world’s leading innovator in medicine, energy, information technology, and almost every discipline. Our research, patents, startups, and venture capital, all show a country driven to innovate, to create, and to dream the big dream for a better future.

United States’ innovation drives our everyday lives. The light bulb. The transistor. The PC. The Internet. The human genome. An innovator’s spirit cannot be doused by a few rain showers, and thrives on adversity. We are amazed by modern day dreamers and historic visionaries, including Thomas Edison, Jonas Salk, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and others. They, like most Americans, possessed an innate disrespect for the status quo. They defied conventional wisdom and created new industries.

America succeeds where others fail because we value creativity over conformity. We respect the hope and naïveté of the young, because sometimes they are right. We seek risk, because it makes us stretch and break new ground. We support a free market for all good ideas, and welcome the best and brightest from distant shores.

We learn from failure and don’t punish it automatically, but we do not tolerate poor performance either. We reward the risk-takers.

Try that in Germany, or Japan, or China.

We must stay on the trail of innovation, in spite of adversity. Be aware that the trail is prone … Next Page »

Robert Nelsen is a co-founder and a Managing Director of ARCH Venture Partners. He focuses on biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and nanotechnology. Follow @

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  • Krassen

    “We reward the risk-takers.”
    No argument here:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/16/opinion/16cohan.html

  • http://www.tvo.bidmc.harvard.edu Mark Chalek

    Rahm Emmanuel says: “Let’s not let a crisis go to waste.” The perfect storm of universal health care, the advent of baby boomers reaching Medicare age, the need to refinance and retool NIH and FDA, and the imperative to deliver on the promise of personalized medicine—- all roads lead to new alliances to accelerate the fruits biomedical research into products and services that improve health. VC’s, academic leaders, a new Tech Czar in DC, and forward-thinking biomed corporate leaders should embrace this opportunity.

  • BKC

    Robert,

    Staying positive and looking at silver linings is good for the immune system.

    It’s beyond tragic that the wall street financial ‘risk takers’ (cough cough, $700B payoff) are being rewarded with our tax dollars and our children’s tax dollars while they have effectively pulled the liquidity rug out from under the life science industry.

    Interestingly, China is on the path to lead in patents shortly:

    http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N09397137.htm

    There is an abundance of innovation and scientific advancement in this country. Thousands of patents sit untouched at the finest research universities in the world.

    It’s a shortage of accountability, regulation and, now, liquidity… the result of an abundance of empire building and greed, that leaves the industry hanging on a cliff.

    With the adults back in charge, let’s hope we recover our national standing and honor, and importantly, hold the law breakers accountable so we can avoid such fiascos in the future.

    The culling has begun…real people, real jobs lost…promising drug therapies abandoned…therapies and human capital are being set out on the curb.

    For perspective, $10 Billion spent each month in Iraq. 10,000 $10 Million Series A financings A MONTH. Clean tech, biotech.

    NIH Budget 2007 $28B. Three months in Iraq $30B.

    It is up to us to hold those in office accountable to enact the change we need.

    Jeez.

  • ckaspereli

    In every market downturn untold numbers of projects get shelved along with any patent filings that may have emerged. People move on and work on other things, if work is available. In a recession it’s not enough merely to innovate, people have to be able to afford to buy things. Big internationals are cash wealthy for the most part and are reluctant to initiate expensive projects with an uncertain future. We need startups to pick up the slack, startups to hire people, startups to reignite innovation. We need to put money into the hands of ordinary people, not Big Banks or megalithic internationals which will just sit on it.