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Asia’s Invention Boom (Part 2)

In my earlier post, Asia’s Invention Boom, we explored how Asian countries have moved from imitation to innovation. Why should the US welcome the challenge Asian countries are asserting in becoming the dominant global force for innovation?

Asia’s Invention Boom (Part 2)

Asian countries are essentially giving tens of thousands of top minds the opportunities and incentives to tackle today’s most pressing challenges, such as developing cost-effective sustainable-energy solutions, ensuring affordable health care for aging populations, and improving the quality of life in overcrowded cities. These complex problems demand a plurality of innovative talent and long-term international collaboration – not just to find solutions, but also to deploy them. In an increasingly knowledge-based global economy, partnerships and cooperation will be the natural order.

In this context, the West would be foolish to resist Asia’s IP emergence. Instead, Western governments should support, learn from, and reap the rewards of the invention boom in the East. For example, the US, which leads the world in bringing innovative products to the market, should offer commercialization channels to innovative Chinese universities and small companies. And Chinese and Western companies should be encouraged to invest in one another’s IP.

Such cooperation has already begun. For example, in 2008 Intellectual Ventures (which I helped found) established a presence in China and other countries with emerging innovation cultures in order to focus their inventors’ talent and energy. The resulting global network of more than 400 institutions and over 4,000 active inventors has produced more patent applications than many R&D-intensive companies do.

In this ecosystem, everyone wins. The inventors gain access to the company’s expertise in IP development and to an international community of experienced problem-solvers. Intellectual Ventures gets a stake in valuable solutions. And the world benefits from those solutions.

Imagine if more such initiatives were launched, not only by companies, but also by governments. A cooperative approach could help to improve the troubled trade dynamics between Asia and the West, characterized by disagreement over China’s lax enforcement of IP laws.

Instead of shaking its fist, the West could provide incentives that encourage China to become a responsible actor in the existing IP regime. These could include, for example, efforts to organize viable alternatives to piracy for the tens of thousands of Chinese companies that currently earn a living from it. Some Western entrepreneurs already turn to these so-called Shan Zhai enterprises to manufacture their prototypes at scale, creating a kind of cross-border Kickstarter culture.

Eventually, many Shan Zhai companies will evolve into legitimate businesses with their own IP. Given that Asian countries naturally will uphold and defend IP rights more vigorously when they have more at stake, the West should look for ways to hasten this transition.

The West can also take some lessons from the various models Asian countries are experimenting with as they ramp up domestic innovation. In South Korea, LG recently launched a program to solicit invention ideas from the public, promising inventors a hefty 8% stake in the proceeds of any ideas the company commercializes. That is probably not an approach that many American companies have considered. But maybe they should.

Asia is also experimenting with creative ways to finance innovation, such as China’s IP exchanges and Malaysia’s IP loan programs. The West should pay attention to these efforts, because they could offer alternatives to traditional avenues for sourcing and financing invention, such as venture capital, that are producing lackluster results.

Finally, Western companies should be willing to supply inputs to Chinese businesses selling innovative products. This recommendation may seem radical, but only because the view of a one-way flow of innovation from West to East has become so entrenched. In fact, there is no good reason for Western businesses to stand on the sidelines as Asia produces whiz-kid entrepreneurs and high-tech start-ups. These pioneers are building ecosystems with points of entry at every level, and the West should enter at all of them.

As Asian innovation comes into its own, the US and other developed countries must find ways to participate – or risk missing the opportunity of the century in a vain bid to recapture bygone supremacy.


This article originally appeared in full in Project Syndicate, which provided readers with original, engaging, and thought-provoking commentaries by those who are shaping the world's economics, politics, science, and culture.


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Asia’s Invention Boom (Part 1)

For more than a century, the United States has been the dominant global force for innovation. But China and other Asian countries are now testing that dominance, and the West should welcome the challenge.

Asia’s Invention Boom (Part 1)

China’s move from imitation to innovation has been a matter of national policy in recent years. In 2011, for example, the government established a set of ambitious targets for the production of patents. Almost immediately, China became the world’s top patent filer.

China soon surpassed the US in other important measures. Each year, Chinese universities award more PhD’s in science and engineering than US institutions do – and more than twice as many undergraduate degrees in these fields.

Moreover, China is set to outpace the US in investment in research and development. Since 2001, China’s R&D expenditure has been growing by 18% annually and has more than doubled as a share of GDP. In the US, that ratio has remained relatively constant.

To be sure, such metrics can easily be manipulated – a fact that critics are quick to point out. But statistics from the US National Science Foundation reveal a genuine drive to innovate across much of Asia, with East, South, and Southeast Asian countries together spending more on R&D than the US. And technology-intensive activity in the region is fast approaching that of North America and Western Europe.

In fact, Asian countries are helping to fuel one another’s innovative success. China’s invention initiative has produced such rapid results in part because the government actively cooperates with its Asian competitors.

Indeed, despite territorial disputes and other divisive issues, the commissioners of the patent offices of Japan, South Korea, China, and, to a lesser extent, Singapore and Taiwan meet often to define and coordinate their intellectual-property (IP) policies. China’s leaders know that they can learn from countries like Japan and South Korea, which implemented policies to encourage innovation and protect IP rights long before China did.

The precise impact of Asia’s IP expansion is impossible to predict. But its transformative potential is obvious.

More on that coming next week in Part 2 of this post….


This article originally appeared in full in Project Syndicate, which provides readers with original, engaging, and thought-provoking commentaries by those who are shaping the world's economics, politics, science, and culture.


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The Evolution of Invention

Depending on your age, you’ve likely seen some of today’s most advanced technology in its infancy — a mere prototype of an idea born from zealous inventors. Remember these?

The Evolution of Invention

Before there were online music curators, there were mixtapes.

If only Zack Morris’ brick phone had a “Track Mr. Belding” app.

The Model T was just as amazing in its feats of engineering as the Model S.

As more and more inventors piggy back off of historical inventions, the pace of innovation grows faster than ever. In fact, three inventors and physicists were awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize for their invention of blue LED — a technology derived from 1960’s LED research that has literally illuminated the 21st century in a new light.

IV CEO Nathan Myhrvold told ZDNet in an interview about the business of ideas:

“One of the things that’s made Silicon Valley so successful is that when you get a critical mass of people doing new things, willing to think differently, willing to take risks, that makes it easier for the next one, and the next one, and the next one…. Five years from now, technological entrepreneurs will be even more successful more quickly than they are today, because it's easier to plant in a garden that's already plowed and in fields that have already been fertilized.”

At Intellectual Ventures, we’ve seen how a vibrant patent marketplace makes ongoing research and development of new inventions a profitable activity. And while we’re all curious to see what the next stage of evolution looks like for smart phones and cars, we think innovations in some of the most challenging areas will be the most rewarding.

So, keep your eye on the problems modern day inventors are solving and the early prototypes churning out of lean startups. One day in the not too distant future, those ideas could be the basis for a technology that makes the impossible possible.


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Defining a Venturer

Explorer. Entrepreneur. Pioneer. Disruptor. All fine synonyms to describe what we do and who we strive to be at Intellectual Ventures, but not one is an exact fit. So what does one do when the status-quo won’t suffice? What we’ve done so many times before — innovate and create anew. That’s why at IV, we refer to ourselves as “venturers.” 

Defining a Venturer

What is a venturer, you ask? You can skip Merriam-Webster and the like — it won’t be listed. Instead, we’ve defined it ourselves: A person who sees opportunity and goes for it. And we think it’s a perfect match for the unique personalities at IV and the inquisitive community we join in exploring uncharted territory.

To venture is to take risks, to do things differently and, every now and again, to do something new for the very first time. We venture every day at IV — from creating a market for intellectual property and innovation to exploring new inventions that will solve global challenges. 

And we’re in good company. There’s a long history of venturers who’ve helped pave the way for ideas that are changing the world today. One of our favorite examples was 45 years ago, when Apollo 11 enabled the first man to set foot on the moon. It’s an impactful reminder of the power of invention and how big the payoff can be when you commit to trying new ways of doing things, succeed or fail.

Learn about IV’s latest ventures by following IV in the news.


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Global Leaders Chart the Future

The Boao Forum for Asia came to North America for the first time this year, and Seattle proudly hosted what’s become a prestigious gathering of the brightest minds in government, business, and academia.

Global Leaders Chart the Future

This year’s conference focused on issues surrounding energy, resource management, and sustainable development. IV has long recognized the increasing innovation powerhouse that is Asia and welcomed the opportunity to participate in conversations on everything from the future of global health to intelligent cities.

The following is a brief overview of IV’s participation and represents the diverse idea creators and decision makers we work with who are passionate about participating in a truly international dialogue.

Click the thumbnails to watch the videos:

Renewable/Clean Energies: The Way Forward
John Gilleland, CEO of IV spin-out TerraPower, participated in a panel discussion on the potential risks and rewards of energies such as nuclear power.

Health, Inclusive Growth, and Human Development
The panel included Maurizio Vecchione, senior vice president of Global Good and Research and focused on the meaning of invention in the context of global health.

Global Benefits from Asia’s Invention Boom
IV Founder and CTO Edward Jung gave a keynote on the importance of avoiding an innovation Cold War with Asia.

Green Buildings for Urban Environments
This “future flash” presentation by Arlan Collins, principal & co-founder of CollinsWoerman, highlighted IV’s newest joint venture in sustainable building construction.

Strengthening Global Partnerships
A dialogue between Henry Paulson, former U.S. secretary of the treasury; Zhou Wenzhong, secretary general of the Boao Forum for Asia; Nathan Myhrvold, IV founder and CEO; and Bill Gates tackled the tremendous challenges and opportunities our world faces.

While the event convened a community diverse in both geography and backgrounds, it also inspired a singular awareness that was shared by all: The opportunity for global collaboration and cooperation has never been greater.

To learn more about how IV collaborates to solve global challenges, visit Global Good.


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Inventor Superhero: Ellen Ochoa

Like superheroes, inventors bravely venture into unknown territory, face tough challenges, and ultimately make life better for the rest of us. Next in our series of inventor superheroes, we’re celebrating someone whose talents have taken her all the way to space and whose research and inventions have made her a pioneer of spacecraft technology.

Inventor Superhero: Ellen Ochoa

Inventor Superhero: Ellen Ochoa, Ph.D. (1958-present), director of the Johnson Space Center

Superpowers: Optics: Ochoa is a co-inventor on three patents that help scientists refine images that come from space — she invented an optical inspection system, an optical object recognition method, and a method for noise removal in images. Ochoa can also fly planes and play classical flute.


Eureka! Moment: First Hispanic woman in the world to go to space. Ochoa served on a nine-day mission aboard the Discovery shuttle in 1993 to study the Earth’s ozone layer.

Ellen Ochoa: NASA astronaut, mission specialist. Photo by NASA [public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Cool Gadget: Robotic Arm: On several flights, Ochoa operated a robot arm that helped transfer clothing, computers, and medical equipment from the shuttle to the International Space Station.

Superhero Lair: NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas

Nemesis: School bullies who think girls can’t succeed in science, engineering, technology, and math (STEM)

Who’s your favorite inventor superhero? Let us know who we should profile next at @IVinvents.


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Inspiring Girls to Pursue STEM

“If you don’t give up on yourself, we won’t give up on you.” That was the message IV President and COO Adriane Brown stressed to girls in fourth through eighth grade at LaSalle-Backus Education Campus in Washington, D.C.

Inspiring Girls to Pursue STEM

Earlier this month, Adriane spoke to students about her career journey, the challenges she faced along the way, and how she overcame them to become both a leader and a role model for girls who want to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM). She noted that for a long time, people have said girls aren’t good at STEM and asked that the students join her to help bust that myth.

“The workforce of the future is going to revolve around STEM,” Adriane told the girls. “You can be the leaders of that movement.”

The school’s principal, Dr. Deborah Ann Cox, joined Adriane in emphasizing how important it is for young women to have strong role models. “Regardless of the hardships you face in your personal lives, you have someone to look up to. Ms. Brown is your role model. Just like her, you can be anyone you want to be.”

LaSalle-Backus Education Campus is making its own efforts to encourage girls’ participation in STEM fields by starting up a STEM and robotics club this year. By the end of the morning, 22 more girls signed up for the club.

“It’s up to you,” Adriane concluded. “Never let anyone tell you that you can’t.”

Learn more about IV’s commitment to educating next-generation inventors.


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Building Mazzi

In developing countries, the smallholder farmers who rely on milk for subsistence and, in many cases, income, frequently lose milk to spillage and spoilage when they’re transporting their milk from the farm to collection points and chilling stations.  

Building Mazzi

At the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting today in New York, Nestlé announced their partnership with Global Good to increase the agricultural productivity of smallholder dairy farmers in East Africa.The aim of the partnership is to conduct field research in East Africa and distribute Mazzi, the milking & transportation system developed by the Intellectual Ventures Laboratory and Global Good, among dairy farms that need them most over the next two years.

Mazzi streamlines the collection and transport of milk from the cow to market. Designed to reduce waste and limit contaminants, it results in higher yields and profits for smallholder farmers and other low-income stakeholders across the dairy value chain.

To learn more about how Intellectual Ventures developed Mazzi, check out the Lab’s Invent blog.


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Staff Spotlight: IV in Ireland

The invention marketplace is global — and so is IV. Declan Carew is one of our worldwide employees based in Ireland.

Declan draws from a unique mix of experiences while developing commercial investment strategies for IV. His background includes working for a range of multinational companies in varied roles including R&D and commercial product/service development, to coaching his sons’ teams in GAA (Irish Football and Hurling) and rugby.

Visit our latest staff spotlight to read Declan’s take on technology and IP development, and learn how he builds relationships from the “other side of the pond.”


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IV Investigates: Research Highlights from IV Lab

If you follow our Insights blog, you’ve read about some important milestones in the invention industry – from new technology development to patent reform. Insights is just one of the ways we participate in the conversation about invention and share information about who we are and what we do.

IV Investigates: Research Highlights from IV Lab

Photo: At the research bench in IV’s Electronics Lab

Another important way we highlight what we’re working on is through peer-reviewed research. Nathan Myhrvold, our CEO, has shared research on everything from intellectual property to paleontology, and employees across the company are encouraged to follow suit to promote collaboration with other scientists and, we hope, advance the many fields we work in.

Most recently, several IV Lab teams have published scientific papers about their investigations of malaria and tuberculosis diagnostics:

To keep following the latest research and published works from IV employees, bookmark IV Lab’s Investigate blog. 


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Edward Jung

Edward Jung

Edward Jung is a founder and CTO of Intellectual Ventures.

Edward Jung

Edward Jung

Edward Jung is a founder and CTO of Intellectual Ventures.

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Uniting international innovators is crucial for future inventions. Check out @WIPO multilingual #patent database. ow.ly/D7WtN

Oct 21

Why Asia is becoming a global force for innovation & a welcome challenge for the West. IV CTO Edward Jung via @ProSyn ow.ly/D6X7G

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RT @STEMConnector: 100 Diverse Corporate Leaders in #STEM: Adriane Brown- President & COO @IVinvents bit.ly/1r2mjjz #100STEMLeaders

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