This being so, can governments do anything to increase innovation among companies and organizations within their borders? Not much. Ever since I became the editor of Red Herring magazine in the mid-1990s, I have heard countless story pitches about the establishment in different countries of government-supported technology clusters or hubs. All were to have competed with Silicon Valley and Cambridge, MA. All ignominiously failed, with the possible exception of the technology cluster in Cambridge, England. The things that governments can do to foster innovation are limited and simple: fund research based on long-term discovery, devise regulations and tax incentives that promote risk capital and entrepreneurialism, protect intellectual property, uphold the rule of law, and maintain flexible labor markets. Otherwise, governments do best by doing least.
Rather, innovation seems to be more the product of culture and methodology. The culture of innovation tolerates failure and smiles upon creativity. But such a culture is not enough in itself: successful innovation also pitilessly rejects bad ideas when their promise has been exhausted and efficiently executes the development and commercialization of the best ideas.
Wherever I go, innovators seem to instinctually recognize these paired demands of culture and methodology–and, more important, they burn with a passion for innovation itself.
Attentive readers will have noticed that Technology Review looks a little different. Don’t repine: we’ve changed very little. Beginning on page 27, you’ll find a new section, To Market, that will follow the emerging technologies we write about elsewhere as they become commercial products. Also, we’ve shifted around our furniture. Regularly recurring pages that enjoyed some propinquity of subject or style are now contiguous: we’ve placed Notebooks, our guest columns, directly after this page and Hack, our deconstruction of a particular technology, in the back of the magazine, where it now abuts Reviews. Otherwise, the changes are superficial, although we hope you find them pleasing and useful: we have new fonts that are more legible, a new palette that is brighter, a new treatment for our charts that is more straightforward, and new section headers that more obviously announce the different parts of the magazine. We think the new design is very elegant; but write and tell me what you think at email@example.com.