Ever since the so-called Great Recession of 2007 – and the subsequent tepid economic recovery that followed – the media is replete with gloom and doom forecasts for a dismal future in the US. Do a Google search on is the US losing its competitive edge and you will quickly find dozens of articles including this more positive article from Forbes.
Call me naive, but I simply do not believe it. In fact, I believe we are on the cusp of what will be an innovation economic boom in the US.
The Coming US Innovation Economic Boom
Currently, job creation is picking up with over 1 million new jobs created in the last 3 months, but the recession ended over 5 years ago. The current pace of recovery is 5 years late for what would typically be expected after a strong recession. Many economic indicators including average work hours and pay increases as well as workforce participation rate are disappointing and lagging expectations.
So, how can I suggest a boom is just around the corner?
Let's look at some very positive trends that will fuel a rebirth of innovation in the US:
- 3D printing is in its infancy – it will transform manufacturing
- Crowd funding provides access to capital for millions of budding entrepreneurs
- The Internet of things will transform efficiency in the home and office
- Nanotechnology is just beginning to gain traction
Today, 3D printers are still costly (typically over $1,000), making them the toys of techno geeks but not something the average homeowner would buy or use. But, 3D printers are expected to see continued reduction in costs, combined with increased capability and versatility. Within 5 years, there will be a 3D printer in almost every home. This will spawn a cottage industry in innovative manufacturing for inventors and many others. New products can be tweaked and refined in hours or days instead of months. Medicine is already benefitting with 3D manufactured stents and soon 3D printed organ replacements suitable for transplantation.
Crowd funding provides a low cost way for millions to access capital – forget bank loans. On Indiegogo and Kickstarter entrepreneurs may garner tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in capital for their new product ideas with successful crowd funding campaigns. With a good video and a well crafted campaign (and a lot of hard work) success is within reach. Crowd funding has already given life to many new products that would never have seen the light of day otherwise.
The Internet of things means that millions of common household items like microwave ovens, refrigerators and other things will soon be sold with Internet connectivity. Your refrigerator may send you an email warning that the compressor is about to fail – preventing the ruination of all of your frozen meats and other items. Your home might advise you of an early infestation of termites – potentially avoiding thousands of dollars in damages. The possibilities are endless.
Nanotechnology is in its infancy. Nanotechnology tennis racquets provide superior performance for tennis professionals as do nanotechnology golf clubs. The technology is not yet in wide usage due to high costs, but like other technology items, costs will continue a downward spiral. Soon nanotechnology may enable lighter weight, yet stronger automobiles. Here again, the possibilities are indeed endless.
The synergy and combination of the four items described above will certainly produce a wave of innovation that will transform our everyday living within 5 years or less. That transformation will likewise engender an economic boom much as the dotcom boom of the nineties did. Inventors will be at the nexus of all of this innovation.