Would Apple Inc. Have Innovated Without State-Funded Research?

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black lion head and cat on yellow background book coverOur review continues from Part One.

A whole chapter of Mariana Mazzucato’s intriguing book, “The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs Private Sector Myths,” is dedicated to the rise of Apple and explores how all the technologies that make the iPhone and iPad so innovative and groundbreaking are the result of state-funded and supported research.

What Apple has really been innovative in doing is taking those technologies, she contends, which it would never have developed on its own, and combining them into a commercial package.

Does it matter, you may ask, if private enterprise would rather buy back shares to raise its stock price than invest in cutting-edge R&D, if it would rather live parasite-like on the back of state-funded research rather than be willing to take the risks itself?

 

As Martin Wolf, reviewing the book in the FT, points out, yes it does, because many of us have over recent years come to believe that big government is bad and only small government is good, that the state should merely take care of the basics and leave private capital and enterprise to innovate and drive growth.

The reality is there are strict limits to the level of risk private enterprise is willing to take and cutting-edge R&D is often way beyond those limits. If as a society we talk ourselves out of believing the state has a role spending our taxpayer dollars on risky or unproven areas of research, no one else is going to take up the slack and our innovating culture will die.

All sound a bit heavy for a beach read? Take a look at the Look Inside peek of preview pages for the book on Amazon, or better still, indulge in that most sublime of pleasures – browse a copy in your local brick-and-mortat store, because it’s a surprisingly absorbing read.

A copy is already downloaded to my Kindle and will be getting sand between its toes – along with my kids – this summer.

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