Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Federal Innovation Policy?

In an interesting analysis on the Science Progress website Profs. B. Godin and J.P. Lane  deplore that federal R& D expenditures strongly emphasize the R component and do not support commercialization.  However, the authors seem to make the assumption that what is good for business is also good for society. Certainly we want to expedite conversion of basic research to useful and desirable products, but in many cases commercial definition of what is desirable is very questionable. Think of the auto industry's long fights against seat belts or increased fuel efficiency for example. Translational research, moving ideas from the lab to the clinic, is a key topic in biomedical research circles these days. Unfortunately no one knows how to do it very well. I suspect the same is true in other areas of R & D. Probably increased federal support for commercialization of key technologies would be a good thing as long as there is some thought given as to which technologies are best for society and not just for the bottom line of particular corporations.


Friday, June 8, 2012

A True Greening of Corporations

In one of the most insightful articles I have ever read, Pavan Sukhdev, formerly a UN economist,  describes the reforms needed to have large corporations contribute to warding off our impending environmental disaster. Pointing out that corporations extract approximately $2 trillion in ecosystem services annually, Sukhdev suggests  four rather revolutionary approaches to mitigating these immense negative impacts. This includes measuring and minimizing ecosystem costs, building human and social capital, reducing speculative over-leveraging in business transactions, and increased taxation of resource use.

Clearly the ultra free market globalized economy that has been the model for that last several decades is on a collision course with the ability of nature to sustain it. We need to start seriously thinking about radically different ways  to organize the world economy. The article by Sukhdev is an important start.