EurActiv - Letters to the Editor


Regarding ‘Regional ‘stars’ rewarded for innovative projects‘:

The EU’s integrated ‘innovation chain’ has never been complete and therefore will never work. For if we have a broken link in any connected chain or necklace, it will always inextricably fall to the ground. The only way to fix that link is to connect the two unconnected ends together: likewise for Europe’s innovation strategy, which is currently missing its vital link of ‘independent’ invention and ideas – the prerequisite of economic dynamism in the 21st Century.

Unfortunately, EU politicians and their commissioners do not read or understand what the history of science and technology tells them. If they did, they would understand that over 75% of all the ‘fundamental thinking’ that underpinned the inventions that have made the modern world what it is today did not emanate from our university laboratories or advanced corporate R&D centres, but from the minds of ‘independent’ inventors and innovators.

For example, the late Jack Kilby invented the Integrated Circuit (IC) in his own spare time and was not asked by Texas Instruments or his university to invent it. No, he did so out of sheer interest and basically it became his private hobby. This single invention is now, according to Texas Instruments, underpinning a global annual industry worth trillions of dollars.

Without it, this global industry just simply would not exist – the IC is therefore the greatest wealth creator ever invented and enjoys the equivalent in annual economic turnover to that of India, Russia or Canada.

Wouldn’t it be great if the EU were to come up with several equivalents to the IC, transforming Europe’s economic fortunes overnight? But this will never happen, as EU’s ‘independent’ inventors are not considered to be a part of the EU’s innovation and economic strategy.

That is how backward our politicians, commissioners and policymakers really are; for they have not as yet grasped the vital importance of the contribution that our independent inventors could provide.

Indeed, if they had a clue, they would firstly set up a network where these very special people within an European innovation chain should come first before all others. For we have to have the fundamental thinking first and not our universities or corporate R&D centres first as we have today. Overall if we created the innovative infrastructure for these people to flourish, the EU’s innovation chain could be completed.

This is truly the missing link in the EU’s thinking and until our policymakers understand this pre-eminent European economic deficit, Europe will always stagnate in economic terms against the backdrop of the continual emerging creative might of South-East Asia. For in another 25 years, the EU will be the poor man of the world unless it grasps now the crucial importance of our Independent innovators and puts in place the mechanism that they need to release their unique thinking.

Presently, we have the cart before the horse and to stop the EU’s eventual socio-economic meltdown, we have to reverse these positions for our own good in the long term.

Dr. David Hill
Executive Director
World Innovation Foundation Charity
Bern, Switzerland

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  1. The example given by Dr. Hill reinforces the importance–not irrelevance–of university-based inventors. It was the scientific curiosity of Jack Kilby and his university’s supportive infrastructure that underpinned his “hobby”, which is exactly the same for many, perhaps most, scientific disclosures or discoveries. He surely was “not asked by Texas Instruments or his university to invent it”, which is nearly always the case for inventions produced by university scientists. Nor are such scientists “independent” as Dr. Hill suggests: rather, they are highly dependent upon the infrastructure, networks, colleagues and students that comprise our best research universities to help nurture and incubate their seminal ideas.

    To suggest otherwise is to draw attention away from the need for vitally important support and encouragement of Europe’s best scientists, precisely those who have the most to contribute to economic and social innovations.

  2. Edward Bergman

    Like so many you have not read the fundamentals of the history and science and technology. I was in communication with Jack Kilby just three months before his passing. His university did not help him in any way whatsoever and even Texas Instruments at the time were not interested. It was during a two-week shut down at TI as a new recruit that he was given the opportunity to create his invention on his own, no help from any others, that he produced his prototype. When TI came back from their holidays they were not even interested in what Jack had done. It took TI several years to determine what a hot potato that they were sitting on.

    Ray Tomlinson was the same at a division of Verizon. He was stalled at having to walk literally miles every day to his colleagues in a large h.t. plant. So he decided not Verizon to invent something that would make life easy for himself. That was the email. It took Verizon 5-years to determine again what a world beating piece of kit that they were sat on.

    Tim Berners-Lee was the same and was only on a 6 month commission to work for the CERN. It was not the CERN that said please invent the WWW but Berners-Lee who finalised his private work whilst at CERN. No help there either other than that he had a job at CERN.

    The above examples of countless is why people are so naive and do not even realise that the fundamental thinking was in the sole domain of certain minds and not forced through by either universities or advanced corporate R&D centres. I just wish people would read the real stories of how our greatest inventions were created instead of having this false belief that our illustrious universities and corporations are the enlightened ones. Nothing could be further away from the truth. For they take over when the fundamental thinking by others has been released and not before.

    Baird and the TV is another fine example and where university or corporate laboratory had nothing to do with the fundamental invention of the television. Frank Whittle and the jet engine where no one would listen to him for 10 years until WW” was inevitable. The list simply goes on and on and on and on….with no end if people will simply read and research into the real truth !

    Please do some reading all those who believe in elitism for that is not where enlightenment occurs.

    Dr David Hill
    Executive Director
    World Innovation Foundation Charity
    Bern, Switzerland

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