The United States of America (U.S.) has been heralded as the world's premier engine of technological advance. However, recent criticisms suggest that its technological advance may slow relative to other nations. This chapter describes the U.S. National Innovation System, how it is evolving, and factors that threaten or reinforce its ability to generate technological innovations.
The primary philosophy supporting innovation in the U.S. has been to establish conditions that let innovation flourish on its own. While particular institutions contribute to the flow of innovation, any analysis of the U.S. innovation system must begin with the underlying conditions that aid innovative progress.
The preconditions for U.S. innovative success are many, and identification of the most important factors is a subject of ongoing research. None the less, it seems safe to identify, albeit crudely, four cornerstones of U.S. success at innovation.
One cornerstone of U.S. success at innovation is incentives. Businesses and entrepreneurs in the U.S. have, to a reasonable extent, the right incentives to propel innovation. The incentives include intellectual property rights and, typically more importantly, other means to capture monetary returns from invention.
Intellectual property rights are enshrined ...