Some people believe that breakthrough products like the light bulb, steam engine and mobile phone were not so much invented as stumbled upon. Fostering innovation and the circumstances in which it thrives today has never been more relevant or mysterious. COVID-19 has provided a compelling reason to revisit how innovation occurs and who are the responsible parties. Understanding the inventive process is not much clearer today than it was when the framers drafted the United States Constitution more than two centuries ago. A new and provocative book by a National Academy of Sciences award-winning writer, entrepreneur and member of the House of Lords, Matt Ridley, suggests that innovation is an iterative process of trial-and-error that should be attributed to groups of inventors, not individuals, and that patents impede. Ridley believes that policy and investment can do little to influence innovation and that “Innovators need to be freed from the shackles that hold them back.”  

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