Opening the Door to Innovation

We live in interesting times. In our previous post of this series, we noted that on the one hand citizens trust institutions less, and on the other, we’re casually putting our trust in people and networks that haven’t properly earned that trust yet.

In this article, we’ll grapple with the fact that while we know innovation is the lifeblood of a successful, modern society, unfortunately we’re seeing that one of the very things that fosters innovation and domestic investment – open markets – is under threat from escalating tariffs and trade barriers.

The innovation conundrum is not helped by the observation that too often organizations are sabotaging their own efforts – by treating an innovation program as a foreign body which needs to conform to established ways of doing things (even if these are the very things they want to update).

Thankfully, we’re seeing some governments embrace innovation and find new, more effective and efficient ways to serve their citizens. For example, the U.S. Air Force recently needed to find a better way to refuel their planes in mid-air. Through an innovative procurement process and partnering with agile software developer Pivotal, they built a new, digital system in just a few weeks and paid back the project’s cost in the first month.

There’s Always a BUT

In Dell’s whitepaper ‘Realizing 2030: A New Era of Government‘, we observe that the most innovative economies promote open labor and product markets, cultivate an entrepreneurial culture, adopt fair and transparent tax policies, and ensure open internet access.

Emerging technologies have a starring role to play here. For instance, AI and machine learning can create a virtuous circle of innovation. But there’s a caveat. To do this, they need access to vast amounts of data across government boundaries.

Similarly, blockchain can address the greatest barrier to innovation – trust – by bringing transparency and security to multi-layered supply chains crisscrossing the global economy. But research from material-handling trade group MHI and Deloitte uncovered that only 11 percent of manufacturing and supply chain professionals believe they have a working understanding of blockchain technology and how it might be applicable to supply chains.

To some extent this is predictable – blockchain is still a nascent technology. The best way to tackle a lack of understanding in emerging technologies is to improve our science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills.

One of the foundational elements of an innovative culture is a workforce educated in STEM, digital literacy and entrepreneurship – in the public and private sectors.

Open Wide

To flourish, innovation also depends upon unrestricted trade – enabled by fair and transparent tax policies.

As a guideline, when trade barriers are raised, innovation falls and consumer prices rise. To succeed in the next era of human-machine partnerships, governments will need to weed out tariffs and trade barriers that impede innovation, economic growth and job creation, and in their stead, encourage information sharing, research and development and cross border data flows.

They’ll also need to re-examine government procurement models, how they can champion innovation in their own work and strengthen IP protection. And of course, they’ll need to partner with the private sector to improve entrepreneurs’ access to capital with incentives to invest in startups and support infrastructure to reduce scale-up costs.

To spotlight actions a city can take to improve the local ecosystem for women entrepreneurs, Dell worked with IHS Markit to launch new diagnostic tools for governments and policymakers. The “Women Entrepreneur Cities Index” provides data-driven research and recommendations on how to foster high-potential women entrepreneurs, including in-depth blueprints of ten cities across the world.

We can’t assume society will just innovate. If we don’t move (or at least lower) the hurdles, people will crash into them.

Which is why we’re encouraging government decision-makers to read our whitepaper for a fuller menu of policy recommendations. Enabling innovation might not be easy, but it sure is worth it.

Next, we’ll be looking at workforce readiness and probing into how we can prepare our students, education systems, workers, and businesses for 2030.