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Saturday, January 9, 2010

2000, the year where Europe stopped innovating ....

After the year 2000, nothing was the same ever in Europe. Most companies decided at that time to stop investing in research and innovation in Europe. Of course, not officially, but in reality; decline of Europe began at that time.

Companies began by suppressing or externalizing their research center. Then then continued by destroying their development center. Alcatel is a very good example of that vision. Orange (and France Telecom) has exactly the same approach. When I was a student, being able to work at the research center in Lannion was like the impossible dream. Now, who would like to go there?

Research and innovation is a difficult topic. In a financially governed world, it is impossible to predict success or ROI. So, in order to contain it, companies decided to invest in buying start-up or other companies, in fact to buy a portfolio of patents. At that time, innovation networks was also launched as the ultimate way to innovate. Build an ecosystem with university, SMB and your company and you will succeed.

In order to have enough cash to buy external innovations or to make partnerships, the finnace guys decided to invest each year part of the research and innovation budget in the stock exchange. It even the case in the public sector ...

What is the result of all this? Well, in Europe students are not interested anymore to do engineering and research. Europe is still living on its old assets and can let people think that we are still innovating. But it's too late things have changed forever. The first wave of  outsourcing research and innovation is now replaced by a second permanent one: real external sourcing. The private research and innovation will be done massively in Asia and in the USA (at least for some time since the USA are still considered as the center of innovation in some fields).

As usual, in France, people asked money to the government to solve this issue. As usual, the private sector will get most of this money fund "innovations" or build projects:
  • that will serve their interests in France leading to new monopolistic business (the cable plan was a perfect example, and is still considered as important by France).
  • that they will imagine in France and develop outside the countr.
  • that will fund some Universities or Schools programs that will not provide more results than research papers and deliverables built in workshop.
In the future, research and innovation in France will be done mainly in the public sector by people having a job for life.The best engineers and innovators will have to work in other countries or to stay in France but by collaborating in the virtual globalized world. They will innovate and create new or aggregated services that everybody could use using a pay per use model. The era of Micro-innovation or aggregated innovation is coming (as we can see it every day in the Web 2.0 world).

All the other, will have to work either in the public sector (even if the budget does not permit it) or to work in a local and real world. More and more people will try to limit their movement and will try to work as nearly as possible from their house. Why, simply because buying a house in big cities is more and more difficult for middle class people. So they will continue to leave in the suburbs, but their will try also to work there. The cost of energy will become a major obstacle for companies trying to hire people.
So, the world will be divided in three groups:
  • Experts and highly innovative people working in the virtual hyper connceted world (ProNetarian);
  • People working in the public sector, highly protected socially, and resistant to any change of their existing privileges;
  • All the other working locally, in the real world and taking care of the last retail mile.
It is the end of the middle class ... The Pyramid is beginning an hourglass ... Depending on your study you will be on the top or at the bottom, no more in the middle. By the way, nothing is in the middle anyway. People are looking for top notch goods or low cost ones. Intermediary quality goods are no more a solution in the current "flat" mass market. Ipod and Iphone are the best example of high quality, Dascia Logan is the best example of low cost ...  France will anyway stay a good country for tourists (Eurodisney, eiffel Tower, etc.) and for meeting ... We will keep our good lifestyle ... and our cheeses (for the wine, it is may be too late).

In order to be ready for this big change we need to change completely the way we train and teach people. We must train our students to work in the "virtual world" and today, let's say that we are not doing it very well. Nevertheless French developers contributing to open source are not negligible. As I already stated in a previous blog, we need to have Teaching dedicated cloud. That is the least expensive way to train massivelly people, following their own pace and on lots of different subjects. This will also eneble people to collaborate between them within their business domain.

We should not neglect the link between generations. Let's begin by training all the young people unemployed (in France especially), and when possible by using older unemployed experienced people in the fields also (50 years old and more) for mentoring them.

So, the idea here is to ask private companies to finance unemployed people by hiring them and letting them be trained in the domain needed. The main difference with was exist today is that the contract should not be a temporary one and should come before the training. The company should "invest" in a person. This will be a great way to motivate people. That's also where regions could help a lot by locally creating all the needed training workforce needed by the companies.

If a person is taking some of its time to mentor this new kind of "junior" employee, then, it should be possible for him to get a tax discount from the region or the state. Teachers and know how are everywhere, they should be rewarded everywhere. Of course, if the employee is not playing then game, then its revenue will be minimum. University can be used to validate the cursus done with state exams every quarter.

France is absolutely not prepared to accept such a change. So I suppose that we will have to wait until the situation become catastrophic or until a new revolution come from the young people asking not for bread (like some years ago with our kings) but for a job ...