Lilly CEO Addresses America's Innovation Crisis

Detroit Economic Club speech reflects on innovation as part of American DNA and actions necessary to continue that legacy

DETROIT, June 9 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- In remarks to the Detroit Economic Club today, John C. Lechleiter, Ph.D., chairman, president and CEO of Eli Lilly and Company, warned that America's greatest competitive advantage—its "genius for innovation"—is in jeopardy. His speech focused on America's historic leadership in innovation and the policies necessary to ensure America does not fall behind as other countries gain momentum in the life sciences.

Calling the U.S. the "inventing nation" and citing our country's history of great innovators and life-changing inventions, Lechleiter highlighted advances in medicine.  "Medical innovation in the 20th century alone transformed the basic expectations of human life that had prevailed since the dawn of civilization," he said.

While the "U.S. is the undisputed leader in medical advances," Lechleiter warned of the "danger that we are losing what has been America's greatest competitive advantage:  our genius for innovation."  He also cautioned that "despite all this progress, despite all these gains, the evidence is mounting that we are facing today nothing short of an innovation crisis in America's life-sciences sector."

The U.S. is currently a leader in the biosciences, employing some 1.3 million people directly and supporting a total of 7.5 million jobs, Lechleiter said.  He added that bioscience jobs in Michigan have grown faster than the U.S. average and generate more than $9 billion in economic output.

However, the threat to U.S. innovation isn't just felt in the biosciences.

"While I've been focusing on the industry I know best, the threat to America's leadership in innovation should concern every one of us in this room," noted Lechleiter.

He cited a study that ranked the U.S. sixth among the top 40 industrialized nations in innovative competitiveness – but last, 40th of 40, in measures of what industrialized countries are doing to become more innovative in the future.  The study was published last year by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

Lechleiter called attention to four policies necessary to allow innovation to continue to thrive in the U.S.:

  • Broad improvement in science and math education in our grade schools and high schools so that "young people across our society have an opportunity to participate in the high-tech economy of the future";
  • Immigration laws that allow and encourage top scientists to choose to work in the U.S. and ensure that "we do not drive away talented people who want to work here and contribute";
  • A well-funded basic research infrastructure within academic and government labs; and
  • Tax policy that fosters innovation. Here Lechleiter called for making the federal R&D tax credit permanent; a federal investment tax credit to provide early-stage financing of innovation-based companies; and the adoption of tax and economic incentives to boost manufacturing and export-related job growth.

Lechleiter concluded his speech with a call for public policies that "unleash America's true genius for innovation."  He said that, with the right choices, "what might seem unimaginable today will be commonplace tomorrow."  

About Eli Lilly and Company

Lilly, a leading innovation-driven corporation, is developing a growing portfolio of pharmaceutical products by applying the latest research from its own worldwide laboratories and from collaborations with eminent scientific organizations. Headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind., Lilly provides answers – through medicines and information -- for some of the world's most urgent medical needs. Additional information about Lilly is available at C-LLY  

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SOURCE Eli Lilly and Company