Thursday, December 29, 2005

Engineering our Future...

Here are a list of some key engineers from China, all of whom have two things in common:

  • Hu Jintao - Hydrolics Engineering
  • Wu Bangguo - Radio and Electronics Engineering
  • Wen Jiabao - Geomechanics/Engineering
  • Jia Qinglin - Electrical Engineering
  • Zeng Qinghong - Control Systems Engineering
  • Huang Ju - Electrical Engineering
  • Wu Guanzheng - Thermal Engineering
  • Li Changchun - Electrical Engineering
  • Luo Gan - Machine Casting Mining and Metallurgy - Senior Engineer
- the two things these people have in common are: (a) they are all skilled engineers; and (b) they constitute the politburo running China. That is, engineers are planning China's future. In Canada, our leaders are largely lawyers, accountants and small business owners.

In this last year, China graduated some 600,000 engineers - the US and Canada between them graduates less than 70,000. By 2010, China plans to graduate 1,000,000 engineers each year.

One of the key metrics Alan Cornford has identified in terms of understanding the innovation supply chain is the need for qualified scientists and technologists to be significantly present in the workforce - around 10% triggers significant adoption of innovation. China understands this, and is working towards this very fast indeed. Canada is "stuck" at around 6.5% of the workforce with and S backgorund.

Some 300,000,000 chineese are now middle class - around the total population of the US. What's more, wages in China grow on average at 6% each year and have done so for the last 20 years. This leads some, notably Harvard's Richard Freeman, to suggest that wages in China will surpass those of the US by 2035-2040 (the wages of India will surpass those of the UK at roughly the same time).

Many dismiss these developments since they see them as China growing through a focus on low cost manufacturing. Its a mistake to do so. China, as is India, is moving up the value chain and focusing on biotechnologies, energy and life-sciences. For example, China will likely be the country that finds the cleanest use for coal and will sell its technology to Canada. India received some $5b in inward investment in ICT from Micorosoft, Cisco and Intel for advanced R

What is shifting here is not manufacturing, but the innovation agenda. Look to China and India for new thinking about what this agenda will become.

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