Thanksgiving for Innovation

| October 2, 2002

Thanksgiving for Innovation

After 160 years of puzzling over the role of innovation in economic growth, The Economist decided it was high time to pay tribute to society's innovators and entrepreneurs by inaugurating its series of Innovation Awards. The magazine has always been fascinated with entrepreneurs' ability to conjure up wealth out of almost nothing, but has simultaneously been frustrated with the failure of economic models to explain how this wealth-creation process works.

The Economist's six Innovation Awards went to innovators who have made the biggest contribution to the wealth-creation process in their fields over the past few years. The recipients include: Leroy Hood (bioscience award) for his automated DNA fluorescence sequencer that accelerated the pace of the Human Genome Project, James Gosling (computer award) for Java programming language, and Shuji Nakamura ('no boundaries' award) for developing the first commercial blue and violet semiconductor lasers that can enhance storage capacity in electronic devices. Other award categories included energy/environment, nanotechnology, and telecoms.

While economic models are adept in theoretical arguments, they can sometimes fall short in explaining the fluctuations of real-life economies. Though unexplained growth could be due to any number of factors, The Economist posits that it is derived from 'the addition of new knowledge gleaned from scientific discovery and technological progress - in short, innovation.' Not only is innovation a significant and overlooked factor in economic expansion, but rather 'the single most important ingredient in any modern economy - accounting for more than half of economic growth in America and Britain.'
--Erica Sagrans
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