New breed of engineers pulling ahead [pg. 18]

As India and China's arsenal of talent and innovation begins to threaten US leadership, politicians and businessmen across the industry are seeking ways to combat the threat of competition. According to an information paper published recently by Forrester Research that discussed ways to reinvent R&D for global competitiveness, CEOs across the spectrum, including Intel chairman Craig Barrett, have expressed their concerns over the fact that India and China have 10 times more engineer graduates than the US. As a result of this development and the decline in US competitiveness, American CEOs and politicians have been calling for the US to produce more engineers and scientists to help sustain US firms' global lead in innovation. At the same time, politicians have been demanding more science and technology education funding to attract the young generation into the engineering and scientific fields. The Forrester report, however, argues that the way to win over emerging global innovations systems was not by increasing the quantity of engineers but reinventing their quality and skill. Studies by the McKinsey Global Institute and the Duke University School of Engineering found that only 10 percent of the 600,000 engineers graduating in China are of comparable quality to the 70,000 engineers in the US. However, in a global world of today, no one company or region has a monopoly on ideas. "The US needs better, not more, engineers - that is a new breed of multidisciplinary engineers to win in global innovation networks. Size does not matter, the skills base is the bigger issue," said Navi Radjou of Forrester Research. "US firms must hone engineering skills that complement, not compete with their Indian and Chinese partners." As such, to stay competitive, US engineers and scientists need to be able to do more than invent products. According to the Forrester discussion, they need to be multitalented by, for one, acquiring marketing and business development skills, so they can snatch inventions from around the globe and translate them into marketable products and services. Furthermore, what is needed are engineers and scientists with financial skills, who can identify growth opportunities worldwide. Lastly, the industry needs a new breed of multidisciplinary engineers to act as brokers, preferably with an international background, to bring together inventors, transformers and financiers and ease interaction between them, the research said.