Global Themes

On Globalization & Venture Capital

US, China & India: The Innovation Race

Chris Devonshire-Ellis has posted a great piece on his blog re. The US, China & Indian Innovation Race.

I am taking the liberty of reproducing it in full. Read on (emphasis mine):


A good friend of 2point6billion, Nick Polimeni, is an experienced QC engineer and conducts work in both China and India. He’s had some interesting comments to make recently to us about Engineering standards in these countries, and the potential competition with the US in technological innovation. I quote:

I’ve been working in China for the last 4 years, and have met more ‘engineers’ than I had met in the previous 30 years. Chinese students who graduate as engineers are not what we call engineers in the west. Chinese Engineers “specialize” in a given application. They’re more like technicians, by U.S. standards. They do not seem to be trained in basic engineering science, and are very deficient in such things. I have yet to meet a single one who has any familiarity for example, with the laws of thermodynamics. I’ve worked with a wide variety of them in various fields. The few who know enough to think with science, have acquired it after years of experience.

Here’s an illustration for a different field. Dentists are not trained as complete medical doctors; they’re just trained as teeth repair technicians. They are quite good at what they have been trained; but they’ve no rounded knowledge of medicine.

So, even the reported statistics, do not tell you what engineers look like.

I once gave a class on database design to a group of Indian engineers. I have to tell you, they had formulas for everything I only had generalized logic from experience. In fact, if you gave them a stringent academic test, they would all pass with flying colors, where I would most likely fail. Yet, I could design databases, and they came to me to learn it.

Now I’ve had Indian engineers sitting next to me in working environments, and I have to say that overall, they’ve been a notch above some of the American counterparts.

What is in the future? In my opinion, the Chinese will take a very long time to catch up, because there are cultural, and educational system barriers which produce a way of thinking that prevents Chinese engineers, bright as they truly are on a personal level, from competing in development with the west.

Indians are top notch when it comes to raw technology, so they are likely to catch up faster if they are not there with US engineers already.

U.S. Engineers possess something, however, which I don’t think either Indian nor Chinese has, which I believe is “educated out of them,” and that is, a thirst for going outside the box, and breaking the mold, and moving beyond the conventional.

Before counting engineers, we need to define what one is.

That is an interesting observation, and touches again on a subject that came up a few months here – political systems affecting development strategies. With the Communist system, all if for the greater good of the society, and individualism is discouraged. Yet in a democratic system, the individual is given rights and can prosper.

When we analysed this in Nobel Prize Winners between India and China, both nations ran up a total of six each. Yet tellingly, the Indian Nobel Prize winners had all been educated in India, while the Chinese had been educated overseas, primarily in the US, with one of them (for literature) having his works banned in the PRC.

This negative aspect of communism also seems to have spilled over into engineering development issues, and as Nick points out – it is India that is closing the gap with the US in terms of the development of innovative technologies, with China far behind.

Do also have a look at some of the comments on the 2point6billion blog.

Related Posts:

China, India and the “3D Advantage” and

Why India will* overtake China – II 

Happy Independence Day to all fellow Indians… Here’s a “cool” way to celebrate it!


August 15th, 2007 Posted by | China, India, USA and Asia | no comments

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