It takes invention to innovate. Innovation is invention monetized or commercialized. it takes research and development activity to invent. Both individuals and companies must measure and maintain the activities of research and new product development to maintain growth through innovation.

At we usually focus on the individual or small groups when it comes to guiding the invention creation process. However, occasionally taking a look at bigger pictures gives us inspiration or encouragement to enhance our work as inventors.

America became the world economic leader by continuous innovation beginning with the first settlers up to modern day. Today with talk of self-driving cars, artificial intelligence, living on Mars in the not too distant future, and new machines that can create customized life saving medicines from stored molecules at patients bedsides, we have to believe that inventing and innovation is alive and well.

On the other hand as a country we may be slipping in our overall leadership.The Boston Consulting Group (a leader in innovation research) claims that as recently as 2004 the money spent on R&D in the U.S. was four times what China spent. However, according to a article in U.S Today authored by Paul Davidson (@Pdavidsonusat) he states that in the past decade “development” R&D has been growing 20% a year in China vs. 5% in the USA.

The BCG report provides evidence of a scarier assessment to me. The U.S. still outspends China in total R&D but with a heavy investment in basic and applied development projects, which result in early discoveries, breakthroughs and refinements. The Chinese (and other countries) are outspending the U.S. in late stage R&D (China twice as much as the U.S.), which is the stage where efforts are put into turning invention discoveries into innovation or commercial products. Economic growth and strength from R&D comes from commercialization. Much of the commercialization in China (and other countries) is built on early stage R&D done in this country. The BCG report ( states that this differential in late stage spending has cost the U.S. Economy tens of billions of dollars a year in manufacturing output and hundreds of thousands of factory jobs over the past decade or so.

The message for our individual inventing activities is to begin and end our efforts with commercialization in mind. A great invention idea is worthless unless it is converted into its monetized version through manufacturing and selling, licensing, or partnering with a commercial entity to truly innovate with your discoveries.