Industry icons such as Bill Gates, Nobel laureates such as economist Dale Mortensen, and other well-known thinkers such as Nouriel Rubini gathered recently for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum at the Davos mountain resort near Zurich, Switzerland.
Among other global leaders invited to the 2013 event themed “resilient dynamism” was University of Maryland business professor Anil Gupta, who participated in the summit’s mission to “catalyze and facilitate global, regional and industry transformation.”
Gupta, the Michael D. Dingman Chair in Strategy and Entrepreneurship for UMD’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, facilitated panel discussions covering “Policy and Practice for the Age of Talent” and “Building National Innovation Capacity.”
In the former session, he joined Nobel Laureate Mortensen and the CEOs of Heidrick & Struggles and Egon Zehnder as a discussion leader on the topic of how governments and businesses can build human capital.
In the latter session, he served as a chair and moderator to facilitate a discussion on what governments and businesses can do to build national innovation capacity. Other panelists in this session included Malaysia’s Minister of Science and Technology, the Governor of Colorado, the Dean of Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, and the COO of Telefonica, one of the world’s largest telecom operators. This session was rooted in the premise that “innovation increases the productivity of labor and capital and is the single-most important driver of long-run economic growth.”
While every country hopes to thrive and create wealth through innovation, “it is not at all easy to become or remain an innovation power,” Gupta said. “Just look at pharmaceuticals. In 1980, Europe was far ahead of the United States in pharmaceutical R&D. Today, the picture is exactly the opposite.”
Gupta noted that the panelists outlined the following as the “main ingredients” for building innovation capacity at the national level:
- Focus: “Except for large economies like the United States, China or India, no country can afford to aim for technological leadership across all sectors. Nations should focus on areas where they hold unique advantages.”
- Investment in R&D: “Nations must spend more than the global average of about 2 percent of GDP on R&D in order to excel at technological innovation. An example is South Korea, which spends more than 3 percent of its GDP on R&D.
- Strong Educational System: “South Korea again stands out as an exemplar with its very strong higher education system.”
Gupta, a regular columnist for Bloomberg Businessweek, has presented at the Economist magazine's annual Emerging Markets Summits for the past two years. He’ll also speak at the Global Entrepolis in Singapore in fall 2013 and at the forthcoming World Economic Forum summits in India ("India Economic Forum") and China ("Summer Davos”). For the latter, he moderated an agenda-setting session at Davos with the likes of IMF Chief Economist Min Zhu.
In addition to Gates, Zhu, Rubini and political leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron, other participating notables among the 2013 summit’s 2,500 invitees included Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and about 100 academics ranging from scientists to economists and business professors. “It was a delight for me to represent the Smith School and the University of Maryland, College Park,” Gupta said.