Japan ranked first worldwide in ‘Capacity for innovation’ on the World Economic Forum’s 2012 Global Competitiveness Report, and second in terms of Company Spending on R&D. Is this reflected in real ongoing innovation in Japan?
According to the "Global Innovation Barometer" survey by General Electric Co. released in March, Japan's self-assessments were the lowest among the surveyed countries. Does this surprise you in light of the WEF competitiveness report? What is causing the dissonance in these views of Japanese competitiveness and innovation?
SiliconEdge (James Santagata):
For decades Japan has been churning out innovation after innovation, some of which are both very visible and "sexy", such as today's automobiles or when Japan dominated the video entertainment and portable audio player market. Many other innovations, such as those by Toray composites, are critical albeit invisible as they are industrially rather than consumer focused. Nevertheless, this innovation continues today.
Paradoxically, while rest of the world recognizes Japanese prowess in regards to innovation, the Japanese themselves are much less impressed by their innovations. Partly this can be explained by Japanese tendencies towards humility and introspection. Beyond this, however, much more can be attributed to the perceived (from the Japanese perspective) if not actual lack of visible let alone "sexy" innovations, primarily in the consumer space.