Creating the Environment for Awe-Inspiring Innovation
At a staggering height of 2,722 feet and over 200 stories high, Burj Khalifa, a skyscraper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, holds the record as the tallest manmade structure in the world. Construction on the architectural phenomenon began in September 2004, and a reported twenty-two million man hours later, Burj Khalifa opened in January 2010.
I’ve seen the awe-inspiring tower twice—in October 2009 while it was in its last phase of construction, and most recently in November when I traveled to Dubai as a member of the U.S. delegation for the annual Global Innovation Summit organized by the Global Federation of Competitiveness Councils (GFCC). Over the years Dubai has increasingly gained business sophistication. Its government’s forward-looking strategy to transform the area into a regional transportation and knowledge hub, seems to be working. Burj Khalifa reminded me of the spirit of innovation because of its extraordinary presence, its cutting edge design, and the collaboration required between architects, engineers, financial capital and policy support—a cross-country public/private partnership.
This same partnership has been a driving force behind discoveries and innovations during past industrial revolutions. Consider the steam engine, the internal combustion engine, electricity, indoor plumbing and municipal waterworks, molecule works in energy, plastic and pharmaceutical areas, lasers, computers and digitization, as well as the current frontiers in information, bio, neuro, and nano technologies and their interactions.
Emerging markets continue to benefit from the innovations of past industrial revolutions. This was made possible by their open policy and by the efforts of western enterprises, educators and institutions to expand under a modern enterprise-based global operating system—a contrast to “arms length” trade in the old days. The lift from knowledge infusion will propel emerging market growth for many years to come. At some point, when their markets are mature enough and policy environment becomes stable and transparent, they will start to transform from accessing and anchoring knowledge toward absorbing and ultimately advancing knowledge.
When I see the modern architectural wonders in Dubai, Shanghai and in other emerging markets, I see global efforts in collaboration of labor, capital, knowledge, and policies. I see the benefit of market-based open policy and tolerance. I am glad that institutions like GFCC are promoting such multicultural understanding for growth sustainability and prosperity of the mankind.