Asia’s rising ‘science and technology’ star(s)
Talented Indian and Chinese-born scientists, who once flocked to the United States to advance their careers, are finding buoyant conditions closer to home – helping to develop their nascent economies. However, this raises some competitive challenges for mature economies like the USA, according to a recent report.
|The fast pace of change in Mumbai, heart of India’s technology boom.|
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Science and technology (S&T) graduates pouring out of Asian universities no longer immediately turn West for the chance to fast track their careers, and a large percentage of those who did are now returning home to a booming S&T environment, reports the American Electronic Association (AeA). Clearly, this is good news for the region – boosting employment and national accounts – but it also raises the bar in an already competitive sector.
The report, called ‘Losing the competitive advantage: the challenge for science and technology in the United States’, says that Asian countries, especially India and China, through economic restructuring, have significantly raised their workforce skill sets. “Public-private partnerships (in India) have invested in technical universities and communications infrastructure to create cutting-edge technology parks in places like Bangalore,” the report says.
The report analyses how R&D funding supports innovation by investing in the technologies that advance society, increase productivity, and ultimately improve standards of living. It explains the relationship between public funding and new R&D. While funding remains available in the USA, it has decreased from its peak in 1987 – dropping as a percentage of the economy. Meanwhile India and China are restructuring their economies to benefit from the free market system they once resisted, the report continues.
The figures speak volumes. The number of skilled workers immigrating to the United States has dropped by 27% between 2001 and 2003, the report says. While in India, over the past five years, more than 100 IT and science-based firms have relocated R&D labs to India, notes the New Scientist (19 February 2005) in a full feature story on the country’s rise to stardom. The IT industry alone contributed 3% of India’s GDP last year, up from 1.9% in 1999.
“High-tech companies are coming to India to find innovators whose ideas will take the world by storm,” the report entitled ‘India: the next knowledge superpower’ says. “Their recruits are young graduates, straight from India’s universities and elite technology institutes, or expats who are streaming back because they see India as the place to be – better than Europe and the USA.”
AeA’s Chair John Harker sees a silver lining for the USA in these developments. “As more countries adopt free markets, they open their doors to US products and services,” he comments. “But this also presents a challenge for the United States as these countries now aggressively compete against us – or soon will.”
The European Union has built strong S&T ties with both India and China. Under a 2000 scientific co-operation agreement, Chinese researchers have been able to participate in EU Framework Programmes, starting with the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) and continuing in FP6. Funding for projects comes from both the Commission and the Chinese government. In 2002, a similar agreement was signed between India and the EU.
“It is in the interest of both India and the European Union to share their experience, learn from each other’s success stories and join forces,” said the EU at the time the agreement was reached. “Through their continued practice of dialogue and partnership in scientific and technological co-operation, underscored by the pro-active policy and strategy-driven use of this agreement, they intend to mobilise their respective scientific expertise in order to tackle worldwide problems… such as poverty eradication, food security and safety, environmental sustainability – biodiversity conservation and climate change being top of the agenda – the security of human health, the role of science in society, knowledge and digital divides, etc.”
News sources and AeA
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