Among the vulnerabilities potentially jeopardizing U.S. dominance in the global medical device market is a “large and growing talent and development gap,” according to a recent industry analysis on Qmed’s sister site, MD+DI. But is there really a 'human talent' deficit in the U.S., or has talent just been displaced?
In a recent industry analysis titled, “The U.S. Medical Device Industry in 2012: Challenges at Home and Abroad,” Yair Holtzman, director at WTP Advisors, called out the country's increasing dearth of 'human talent' as a distinct weakness of the domestic market. "China has nearly the same number of research professionals as the United States [does] and twice the number as Japan. If China were as productive per researcher as other countries, it could produce the second-largest number of medical technology patents," Holtzman states.
"Furthermore, the United States continues to face increasing competition for innovative talent, resources, and output. Israel and Japan lead in filing medical technology patent applications on a per capita basis, while China’s R&D expenditures as a percentage of GDP will approach U.S. levels within 10 years. As the quality of non-U.S. educational and research institutions improves, R&D funding outside the country will increase, and other developing nations’ innovative output will match and surpass that of the developed countries," he added.
Declining interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields in the U.S. has been the subject of various initiatives and much concern in regards to its potential impact on U.S. economics and leadership. Earlier this year, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development revealed that the U.S. ranked below average in the number of 25- to 34-year-old workers with degrees in STEM fields, for example. And that's not the only study illustrating how the U.S. is trailing other nations in these critical areas.
Such statistics don't bode well for the future of STEM fields, including the medical device industry. But is Holtzman mischaracterizing the problem? Reader Paul Stein thinks so.
"[The author states that] 'today, the United States is struggling with a large and growing talent and development gap.' Really? After the recent thousands of layoffs by some of the biggest companies? I'm sorry, but this makes no sense, especially after these same people produced the best products in the world and created the current global dominance. Just by graduating more scientists and engineers does not make the 'Human Talent' scene any more worthy in one country or region than another. Just look at all of the unemployment in recent science graduates here in the United States, and one will realize that throwing more bodies with degrees at a problem does not create a solution," Stein wrote in the comments section of the article. "The real 'Human Talent' weakness is at the corporate level—not knowing what to do with the technical human capital in-house, not allowing creativity to flourish in R&D projects, always treating employees as liabilities in the innovation 'balance sheet,' seeking the next technological breakthrough by way of hyperexpensive acquisitions, and the list goes on and on."
Stein also accuses the author of the article of failing to address or offer up solutions for the stated 'human talent' deficit. But there may not be a simple solution. Do you agree with Stein's criticism of the 'human talent' weakness? And how should it be tackled? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. --Shana Leonard