There Is Sunshine Above the Clouds (Part 3)

Part 3: New Challenges for the Global Economy.

In addition to the ever-increasing sums spent on education and innovation by the established and emerging nations, there are also new sources of funding from very wealthy patrons, who, with their substantial assets and, often with the use of a professional foundation, can decisively address pressing human issues.

The following reasons convert what used to be strictly local issues into cross-border challenges:

(i) Today, many concerns either transcend borders quite quickly (consider the eruption and subsequent disruption by the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajoekull) or can only be addressed by large cross-national efforts which are needed to effectively track large scale problems (think of global warming or pollution control).

(ii) Dominant issues often have in common that they cannot be solved effectively by a single nation or even a single region. Real progress requires sufficient reach and resources which can only be achieved by strategic alliances across national boundaries.

(iii) Changes and challenges are increasingly discontinuous and non-linear. Rather than experiencing a  gradual evolution of issues, a key characteristic of new concerns is their sudden discovery due to system shocks and structural breaks. Therefore, just as in the Nicene creed, we need to be attentive both to things seen and unseen.

(iv) The major global challenges cannot be solved by simple continuation of existing patterns of thinking. Solutions to the challenges of the 21st Century require aggressive cross sectional best research and innovation practices.

These approaches apply to issues of such great variety as the depletion of resources, the threats of pandemics, pollution and climate change, the need for sustainability, and the overcoming of terrorism. Prerequisite are effective innovations that are understood and supported because they are useful and compatible with individual values.

In consequence, universities are not only challenged to keep their approaches to science, technology, legal, and socioeconomics up-to-date. Research and development efforts in universities also need to react to the emergence of new growth areas and great challenges of our time concerning the environment, health, safety and demography.

Furthermore, globalization and the information revolution also result in considerable pressure for change, both for the people in the workplace as well as those in the lecture halls and laboratories.

Networking and flexible organizational forms have taken on a growing importance in the development and communication of best knowledge and practices. The outsourcing of sub-processes to low cost locations offers new activities and previously unimagined division of labor. At the same time, projects such as research on fusion, supercomputing, or on artificial matter require so much know-how and investment that they can only be brought to fruition through the collaboration of multiple universities and nations.

This post is part of a series by Michael Czinkota of Georgetown University and Andreas Pinkwart of Handelshochschule Leipzig on international business research and the new role of universities. Find Part 2 here

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