LISTEN to the growing cries of despair coming from some leading business people, and you might imagine that corporate Americaâ€™s competitiveness could be the next victim of the global financial crisis. But Jeffrey Immelt, the boss of GE, the worldâ€™s largest industrial firm, sees opportunity amid the woe. â€œCompanies and countries that really play offence vis-Ã -vis technology and innovation are going to come out ahead,â€ he said this week at an event in New York to present GEâ€™s coming innovations in health-care technology.
With those words, he touched on a debate that has been heating up for many months. Even before the financial crunch began, many businessmen were worried that America was losing its lead in innovation to India and China. They were particularly upset that Asian rivals had been investing with more gusto in teaching young people mathematics and science, and in advanced scientific research. Americaâ€™s National Academy of Engineering even issued a report last year, â€œRising Above the Gathering Stormâ€, arguing that Americaâ€™s â€œeconomic and strategic securityâ€ was in question because of lack of investment.