The crisis of innovation: Dude, where's my flying car?

Saturday 19 October, 10.30am until 12.00pm, Frobisher Auditorium 1 Battle for technological progress

The 20th century saw great leaps forward in technology and innovation - from the mass production of cars to nuclear power to moon landings - and ended on something of a high with the internet. Can we expect even more from this century or have we reached a technological plateau? Were those breakthroughs just ‘low hanging-fruit’, as economist Tyler Cowen has argued, and are we going to have to work a lot harder to get ahead from now on? Certainly we have been waiting a good twenty years for long-heralded leaps forward in growth and productivity. Are there prototype innovations that just don’t reach a mass market because the costs are prohibitive? Would innovation be liberated if it was freed from the necessity of making a profit or, conversely, do we need the discipline of the market to weed out the mad inventors and pipe-dreamers and reward the genuine entrepreneur? Is the state be standing in the way of innovation, suffocating it with too much red tape and regulation and stifling dynamism with rules about health and safety or minimum wages? Do we need to free the market before it can deliver the goods?

Conversely, is the state failing to invest enough in long-term basic research? Was it always naïve to imagine that privatised innovation could do the business? Don’t we need scientists organised into research squads to a central plan? Do scientists even know what to look for, or have they become so specialised they can’t see the big picture? Do we need some real external stimulus to put us to work? A Cold War-style arms race or a threat of planetary annihilation? Or have we just fallen out of love with the science fiction dreams of yesterday like personal jetpacks? Do they feel like hubris now? What is the future for technology and innovation?

Andrew Graves
professorial fellow in technology management and chair for technology management, School of Management, University of Bath

Tony Harper
head, Research and Advanced Systems Engineering, Jaguar Land Rover

Vicky Pryce
board member, Centre for Economics and Business Research; economic advisor, British Chamber of Commerce

Dale Russell
director, Russell Studio; visiting professor, Innovation Design Engineering, Royal College of Art; emeritus visiting professor, Central Saint Martins, UAL

Dr Nikos Sotirakopoulos
lecturer in sociology, University of Loughborough; author, The Rise of Lifestyle Activism: From New Left to Occupy

Phil Mullan
economist and business manager; author, Creative Destruction: How to start an economic renaissance

Produced by
Martyn Perks digital business consultant and writer; co-author, Big Potatoes: the London manifesto for innovation
Dr Nikos Sotirakopoulos lecturer in sociology, University of Loughborough; author, The Rise of Lifestyle Activism: From New Left to Occupy
Recommended readings
Innovation is back in vogue

It may seem that innovation was written off by the recession but many companies are finding original ways to extend and promote their products

Helen Burnett-Nichols, Fund Strategy, 26 June 2013

Google says tighter EU search regulations would ‘hurt’ innovation

Proposed regulations on Google’s search engine will slow innovation

Richard Waters, Financial Times, 24 June 2013

Beyond the Politics: Space Exploration Is Imperative to Innovation and Inspiration

Space exploration is remarkably compelling for most Americans, a challenging pursuit that distinguishes the United States as a global leader, while ensuring a steady stream of innovative technologies that strengthen the economy and, just as importantly, inspiring our youth to dream big.

Eileen M. Collins & Nick Lampson, Huffington Post, 13 June 2013

The great innovation debate

Fears that innovation is slowing are exaggerated, but governments need to help it along

Economist, 12 June 2013

UK needs to take the long view with innovation

The Government must think what it can do today to stay competitive in 10 years' time, says the chief executive of Imagination Technologies.

Christopher Williams, Telegraph, 8 June 2013

Complying with Regulations Doesn’t Have to Slow Down Your Startup

These are exciting times for innovators. Arguably never before have the right opportunities, circumstances, and technologies come together as they have today to create such a fertile ground for the creation of new products and services. Yet one of the biggest obstacles along the way is the increasing burden of regulations. And the ones who suffer the most are startups.

Shellye Archambeau, Xconomy, 25 March 2013

The energy challenge: can we keep the lights on?

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