The Globalization of Innovation

On May 4, 2016, Asia Society Northern California hosted “Innovation and Progress: New Ideas for a New World” at Zendesk headquarters in San Francisco. The event was headlined by energy expert Eric Heitz, CEO and co-founder of the Energy Foundation; technology professional Kaiser Kuo, formerly Director of International Communications at Baidu and now of Sinica; and Vivek Wadhwa, Fellow at the Arthur & Toni Rembe Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University. Orville Schell, the Arthur Ross Director of Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations, served as moderator. Both Heitz and Kuo were honored at that evening’s “Innovation Beyond Borders: Bridging the U.S. and Asia,” Asia Society Northern California’s 13th Annual Dinner.

In front of a large and varied audience including ASNC members and Zendesk employees, the panelists discussed the new trends in innovation, noting emerging new applications of mobile phones; the widespread availability of information; and the increasing globalization of innovation. Indeed, the globalization of innovation was a continued theme through the session. Panelists noted that the United States no longer has a monopoly on creating new ideas and new technologies—innovation comes from all directions. That said, there are certain areas that are predisposed to innovation, whether it be from the availability to capital to concentrations of talent. In some regions, corruption and bureaucracy remain a formidable obstacle to innovation. The rush to market also spurs technological advancements: for example, China has become a leader in photovoltaics. The panelists concluded by answering a number of questions from the audience.