An Interview with
Vice President, University Relations Worldwide, Hewlett-Packard Company
In his work at Hewlett-Packard, Wayne Johnson has focused his efforts on
creating and motivating productive industry-university collaborations, with a
view to building the knowledge networks that our future success will depend
upon. These knowledge supply chains, similar in kind to the material supply
chains that transformed twentieth century manufacturing, will enable a whole new
level of innovation and prosperity, helping to propel societal advancements at
an unprecedented pace.
Johnson's belief is that partnering at the right strategic levels holds the
key to the future. "We've done it once already," he says, "but we seem to have
lost the recipe in recent times. It's now time for us to step up, align our
efforts, and work to put into place the new ecosystem that our future will come
to depend upon."
What are the limitations of our current innovation ecosystem platform and why
is it important that we address them now?
Although it has served us well throughout the past decades, the current North
American innovation ecosystem (I call it "Innovation 2.0") is simply running out
of steam. All of us, including industry, academia, and government, continue to
make investments, create partnerships, build infrastructure, and add capability
in a fragmented and piecemeal way, without regard to what our collective actions
are doing at the overall system level. Our 2.0 ecosystem is strained, and is no
longer advancing and providing benefits in the ways that it should.
What has been happening in Innovation 2.0 and what have we learned?
We're now at a place where each program, whether a government, university, or
industry program, is narrowly focused and optimized around what it can get out
of the system, and how it serves local interests and stakeholders. Many of our
attempts at collaboration are increasingly bogging down and becoming mired in
complex issues like licensing, intellectual property rights, legislative
hurdles, institutional silos, and other economic barriers.
Quite simply, we are fragmented. While China and India are hard at work
aiming to leapfrog our current position, they are also in effect holding up a
"mirror" to us. We are learning that mere incremental advances and local
optimizations to our present system do not ensure leadership and a prosperous
future position. As Terry Heng (retired senior vice president and general
manager of Motorola and a former I/T member of the President's Council on
Competitiveness), a longtime thought leader in this area and proponent of
collaboration, puts it, "I believe we need to do the following—restructure the
government-industry-university research ecosystem to maximize the creation of
new wealth for the U.S. economy and increase the productivity of our scientific
and technical communities. The present system is nearly broken and must be fixed
immediately in order to allow the United States to maintain its leadership in
innovation." The time has come for us to broaden our focus and work together to
build an entirely new level of innovation ecosystem.
What is your vision for Innovation 3.0 and how can we achieve it?
In the past, we've enjoyed great success when all three
stakeholders—industry, government, and academia—have come together around a
common purpose, or to respond to a common threat. The three pillars that
underlie this coming together have been innovation, education, and
entrepreneurship. The post-Sputnik era that resulted from our previous virtuous
strategic partnership provided five decades of prosperity, a literal
renaissance, driven primarily through scientific and technological innovation.
We need to recreate that again, in a contemporary format for the modern
networked economy and the flat world.
My vision is simply this: the top fifty to one hundred companies and
entrepreneurs in America come together and join with government and universities
to create the next ecosystem platform: steer the investments, manage the
complexity, solve the problems and issues that arise, and work together to
create the next level of unbridled innovation and prosperity—I call it
"Innovation 3.0"—that will take this country into the next fifty years of its
wonderful future. We need to work together and partner at the right strategic
levels if we are to remain leaders and pathfinders well into the future.
What are the three most important agenda items that you are driving in
High on my priority list is to reach out and federate efforts with other
industry and entrepreneurial leaders, encouraging them to become co-architects
of Innovation 3.0. No single company or even a single industry can do this by
itself. We need to come together at a national level and invest in creating our
future. Next, we need to stop the craziness and collectively reexamine the role
of intellectual property rights. We need to move beyond funding small,
incremental activities, and focus on gaining the essential commitment and
continuity of action to build out the national innovation ecosystem
infrastructure. Finally, we need to act as both leaders within and for our own
industries, universities, and agencies, with a national/global view. By
operating within the larger context and taking a higher level of sponsorship and
action, we will stop exploiting the limitations of the current system and begin
the process of building something that is worthy of being passed on to the next
This essay is an excerpt from the Kauffman Thoughtbook 2007
. To view a table of contents for the 2009 edition, or to order a printed copy of the publication, please visit our 2009 Thoughtbook page