How to Drive International Innovation: Scientific American Worldview

Which countries are winning the innovation game? Will the U.S. maintain its leadership position in the future? Have emerging markets lived up to the hype? Which new partnerships are transforming industries?

For the fifth year, Scientific American (SA) released their Worldview: A Global Biotechnology Perspective report at the 2013 BIO International Convention in Chicago. Included in this year’s report is the longest list of country rankings that SA has ever compiled and the numbers reveal that competition in the biotechnology sector is fierce.

To launch the report, CNN Host Fareed Zakaria hosted a Super Session discussion with:

  • Trevor Mundel, President, Global Health Program, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation;
  • Sam Pitroda, Chairman, National Innovation Council, Government of India;
  • Robert Hariri, MD, PhD, Chief Executive Officer, Celgene Cellular Therapeutics; and
  • Tomas Philipson, Daniel Levin Professor of Public Policy, The University of Chicago

One central question drove most of the discussion: How does innovation apply in developing versus developed countries?

“Some of the technology hurdles that are necessary in developing countries are really in the sweet spot of innovation for the biotechnology industry,” Mundel said.

In his work for the Gates Foundation, Mundel has found that places with poor infrastructure and poor health care systems need solutions that are technologically very sophisticated. They need vaccines which are effective in a single dose – since they may only be able access the child once in a year or a lifetime. They need vaccines that are stable in humid, 90-100 degree heat.

However, due to economic and intellectual property issues, oftentimes innovators focus their efforts on solving the issues prevalent in the developed world.

“The United States is such a dominant player. About half of the world health care spending takes place in the U.S. It’s a little bit less on drugs because other countries, particularly the emerging economies, are spending a little more on drugs,” Philipson explained. “If you think about providing world returns for innovation, which is ultimately what drives returns… that’s where the money is going to be made in innovation.”

Due to a lack of global intellectual property standards, Philipson said, only a handful of countries provide the bulk of global returns on investment.

In addition, Hariri explained, “One of the costs of developing technology is the tremendous investment in filing fees of all these jurisdictions and then attempting to meet every unique requirement in the different jurisdictions is overwhelming.”

According to Hariri and Philipson, innovations are being tailored to developed countries like the United States because strong intellectual property standards guarantee a better return on investment.

“I believe the patent system across the world is obsolete,” Pitroda said. “You cannot have global markets and national patents.”

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