Keeping up with market transformation

Your business success is central to national economic competitiveness

In a July 20 Akron Roundtable talk entitled “The Global Competitiveness Imperative in an Age of Turbulence, Transition and Transformation,” the president and CEO of the Council on Competitiveness, Deborah Wince-Smith, masterfully reminded us of the disruptive technological forces now shaping the next generation of business success here and abroad.

Her powerful message serves to remind us that the climate for business is ever-changing and that if we fail to keep abreast of emerging economic drivers, we are sure to lose business competitiveness and even to be put out of business. Think Kodak, a company that invented the digital camera, but could not imagine that digital image capture could ever replace film. Think Xerox, failing to capitalize on key innovations that Steve Jobs incorporated into the first Mac. Think what 3-D printing is now doing to traditional manufacturing.

Ongoing transformation

Indeed, as Ms. Wince-Smith told the audience, the emerging convergence between sensors, networks and data analytics is affecting every conceivable industry in unexpected and uncertain ways. And the speed and degree by which this is happening is astounding. Just think of how the iPhone has transformed much of what we do around the world.

And there is more on the horizon: New discoveries and applications in biotechnology, nanotechnology and autonomous systems are giving us unprecedented capabilities that may be even more disruptive from a business/economic perspective. The enthusiasm we see today about self-driving vehicles is already spilling over into other industries as advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning make their way into other products and services.

The nanotechnology industry, one that is not yet widely recognized, already is nearing $1 trillion in economic activity through products ranging from coatings to self-healing materials to nanoscale machines.

In biotechnology, the new tools for gene mapping and gene editing are enabling advances in personalized medicine and giving disease-preventing capabilities never before thought possible. And think of the companies that now offer you the ability to know your genetic makeup and lineage for less than $100.

Region in transition

Now, it just so happens that Ms. Wince-Smith is originally from Akron, so her message, and her knowledge of our regional economy, should not be lost to us. We know we are a region in transition, with many bright spots, but also some legacy industries and practices that cry out for transformation. Our successes are being celebrated in books and other publications, yet we have not fully participated in the key technologies that are driving economic growth elsewhere.

In case you missed it, you can access her talk through her profile on the Akron Roundtable website.

And, if you want to learn more about economic competitiveness and what our communities and nation can do, then go to the website for the Council on Competitiveness. Apply what you learn there in your companies or business. And, equally as important, share all that you learn with community leaders and our state and congressional representatives.

Luis M. Proenza serves as a Distinguished Fellow at the U.S. Council on Competitiveness and co-chairs the Innovation Policy Forum as a member of the Science, Technology and Economic Policy Board (STEP) of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine.