I recently returned from our first Food & Beverage 2011: Sustainable Innovation Summit last week in Chicago,  where some of the top innovation leaders from small and large global food giants (Kraft, General Mills, Heinz, Smuckers and many others), gathered to talk about innovation. We learned from each other how to better create a user experience that builds brand loyalty, and how to open new market channels.  It was an incredible experience for all of us. We all know that we are hungry for new solutions in the industry, and I have noticed that every industry is paying more attention to innovation opportunities–especially in our current economic climate.

I saw this article today over at InventionMachine.com, and thought it spoke to that insatiable desire to become more knowledge- and technology-intensive as we step up our game:

The world is hungry for innovation. So concludes a recent innovation study from the  National Science Foundation.   The upward trend of worldwide R&D expenditures has been doubling year-over-year for more than a decade and investment in innovation is now growing faster than total global economic output.National Science Foundation

As one might expect, R&D investment growth of mature Science and Technology (S&T) countries differ greatly from the R&D growth rates of rising economies. The US, the EU and Japan averaged 5-6 percent R&D expenditure growth from 1996-2007 while India grew 9 percent and China over 20 percent.

The growth in Asian R&D spend (excluding Japan) resulted, says the National Science Foundation, in decreases in the percentages of world R&D expenditures for the mature S&T entities like the United States, EU, and Japan. These decreases in R&D spend were substantial, especially in view of the short period and large expenditures involved. North America’s  share of estimated world R&D activity decreased from 40 to  percent whereas the EU’s share declined from 31 to 28 percent. The Asia/Pacific region’s share increased from 24  to 31 percent  – even with Japan’s comparatively low growth).

Similarly, the growth in the global research pool varies from country to country (again, with APAC countries outside of Japan taking the lead in terms of growth), but trends in research growth point towards continued growth.  All these new researchers produce lots of research in the shape of patents, articles, reports, etc.  According to the National Science Foundation report, worldwide, the number of engineering research articles has increased substantially faster over the past 20 years than total S&E article production, particularly in Asia.

With science and technology no longer the province of mature S&T enterprises, how can countries and companies hold on to their lead in innovation?  Investments in higher education, and attracting and retaining talent and support for R&D top the list.

As established and up-and-coming organizations compete for every advantage, they must strive to continually make themselves more knowledge- and technology-intensive. Organizations that put repeatable innovation best practices in place  – incorporating people, process, platform and programs along with disciplines for connecting to and leveraging technical knowledge and know-how are sure to come out on top.

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