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Innovation Policy

Just about every country in the world adopts policies to foster innovation and entrepreneurship. The recently elected president of South Korea, Ms Park Geun-hye, has pledged "to stimulate new industries through measures such as start-up incubators" (Financial Times, December 21, 2012).

Classical innovation theory focuses on R&D spending, financing and deregulation to enhance entrepreneurship. However, the central figure in innovation is the entrepreneur: either the founder of a new enterprise or the internal entrepreneur in an existing firm.

So, the central issue is how to create an entrepreneurial climate in the country. Without it, other measures to stimulate innovation are likely to bear little fruit. The question then is: how do you do it? We will work on this issue in the period to come.

Innovation in education

The way in which we teach has not changed much since the Middle Ages: the master with chalk and blackboard in front of a class with students sitting at desks. The blackboard may have been replaced by a power point projector – which makes it even worse – but the principle is the same. In recent years, attention has focused on distance learning. This benefits millions of people who would not otherwise have access to advanced learning, but as a learning tool it is rather poor.

There is something else. The world was surprised when the IBM computer Deep Blue beat Russian grandmaster Garry Kasparov in the world chess championships in 1997. Technology has moved on since then. Watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLR1byL0U8M to see a new IBM computer, Watson, beat two champions in the American quiz show Jeopardy! in 2011. This not only does away with the notion that computers cannot engage in associative thinking, it also shows that the phenomenal data base on which Watson relies can be accessed in record time. Still, Watson only has a RAM memory of just 16 TB (Wikipedia). Watson was not connected to the Internet, relying instead on a large database including many encyclopaedias. Our point here is: how long will it take to get a Watson-type app into a PC or even a cell phone? Once this is possible, we will have the R2-D2 of Star Wars in our pockets. How is this going to affect learning?

The widening gap between rising cost of teaching and the increase in the number of students versus the need of most governments to make savings can only be met by innovation in education. Children nowadays spend much time on advanced computer / internet games. They are also active on social media and they are often better at teaching each other than their official teachers. If we could turn game technology into interactive game learning and combine it with social networking (to stimulate peer learning) and Watson-type applications, we would not only enhance the quality of learning and the motivation to learn, but also decrease the costs.