Wireless, homland security, and automotive electronics aren't the only major trends in the industry. American engineers and scientists have historically led the world in creating not just new products, but whole new industries, by pushing the boundaries of technology. That may be about to change, according to a recent report from the Economic Strategy Institute.
The warning signs are clear, according to the institute. Its short list of challenges for the U.S. technology community includes a huge and rising trade deficit in advanced technology products, falling revenues that are forcing technology companies to cut back on R&D spending, an expansion of outsourcing research abroad, and limited investment in the deployment of high-speed broadband networks. (In six years, the U.S. has slipped from first to 16th in global broadband penetration rates.)
Indeed, there's no shortage of studies and recommendations on how the U.S. should work to enhance its competitiveness and productivity to maintain its global technology leadership. The downside, according to the National Academy of Sciences, which produced one of the most widely quoted reports on U.S. competitiveness earlier this year, one indication of the country's status is that U.S. industry is spending more on lawsuits than on R&D.
Most pundits and politicians agree that the U.S. must act boldy, starting at the federal level, to help the country stay on top in technology. Sustaining any competitive initiative may be as big a challenge as implementing it.