The pace of innovation in the information industries continues to keep businesses on their toes. The rise of Google, for example, underscores the opportunities for upstart firms to capitalize on new opportunities. Well before Google, other firms like Qualcomm saw and capitalized on the potential of innovative technologies that incumbent firms either missed or wrote off. Indeed, the pace of innovation in the information industries has led some commentators to suggest that today’s Internet-enabled economy reflects Schumpeter’s vision of creative destruction where the important battles are not for customers of today’s products, but developing new technologies that can create a new market.
The importance of technological change to our economy raises a series of important questions for policymakers. One important set of questions revolve around government investment in basic research and the nature of the technological landscape. In a number of technology markets today, including wireless communications, the Internet, and biotechnology, government support for basic research as well as basic research by dominant firms laid the foundation for later innovations. Today, however, there is an increasing level of concern that such basic research is not adequately being supported.
A second set of questions revolves around whether and how start-up firms contribute to the pace of innovation. On one view, these firms are able to conduct risky experiments and basic research with the promise of being bought out by more established firms. In other cases, upstart firms worry about the ability of established firms to undermine their success once the upstarts establish the popularity of a new product-particularly where the upstart must rely on the platform of an established firm. In some cases, upstarts call for regulation, such as the call for open access to wireless phones, to prevent such conduct and to foster innovation.
A final set of important questions related to innovation revolves around the role of intellectual property protection. On one view, including that of “neo-Schumpeterians,” strong patent rights enable firms to develop a firm position in today’s market and provides those firms with powerful incentives to invest in innovations. Others, however, are concerned that today’s incumbents-or even others who strategically invest in patents and not innovation per se-are able to abuse the patent system for their advantage.
To evaluate the appropriate role for government policy in facilitating entrepreneurship and innovation, this conference will bring together a group of industry leaders to examine these questions.
Introduction and Overview
- Paul Jacobs — Keynote
- Don Elliman — Keynote
Chancellor, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus