The Great Leap Forward – Will Europe Be Left Behind?

The slowdown in the pace of China’s development has been one of the consequences of the current economic woes, but may also provide some great opportunities as James Fallows explains in the Atlantic. It’s an excellent article going far beyond the usual post Olympic slowdown stories and looking at how battery companies such as BYD with their electric vehicles are innovating faster than their western rivals.

The shift in attitude is neatly summed up in BYD SVPs Stella Li’s comments “Designing the car, building the car, that is the easy part” – or in other words once you have the battery technology right you don’t need Ford or GM any more, enabling you to capture the entire value chain, at least in a market for low cost basic vehicles such as China.

Coupled with the news that China is also the world’s most robust emerging market for private equity and venture capital finance and catching the US in both quantity and quality of nanoscience publications it looks as if the real innovation crisis is occurring in Europe where academic excellence has no easy outlet.

If we look beyond the short term, and try to understand what the economy of 2014 will begin to look like, it would be unwise to bet against the US or China, but I do worry about Europe, and the UK in particular where there still seems to be no coherent policy for getting academic innovation into the economy.

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