Praise From Abroad That Holds a Heady Challenge

Last week I received an editorial submission containing a statement by EU technology giant ABB’s Global CEO, Ulrich Spiesshfer that I found exhilarating, both in terms of its overt message as to the US status among nations as a technological leader, and what I perceive to be a reminder that the world needs us to raise our efforts to even higher levels.

The United States Is a Beacon for Entrepreneurship and Technological Innovation

Why engineering giant ABB is investing heavily in the United States—Ulrich Spiesshofer is the CEO of ABB

June 21, Washington, DC– As the US presidential election enters its final stages, there is much talk on both sides about the state of the US economy and how to position it in the future.

From my perspective, the United States still is a leading nation in the world when it comes to entrepreneurship and technological innovation. Whatever its current issues are and whoever wins the election, the United States remains a beacon for high-tech industry and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Why this is the case is often debated among other nations that seek to emulate its success, but to me it seems the United States benefits from its excellent academic institutions and their close ties to industry. This is best exemplified in Silicon Valley. Stanford University made about $200 million from its stock holdings when Google went public; it has spawned hundreds of successful startups. Traditional players can make use of the robust ecosystem—access to great ideas, capital and talent—that allows technology to flourish in the Valley. This is a major structural advantage. Analysts have estimated that as much as 15 percent of US GDP and almost 10 percent of private sector employment stems from companies out of Silicon Valley.

At ABB, we prize technological innovation, and we have long admired the United States as it offers a business environment and a market for advanced technologies that are second to none. The United States’ ability to produce transformational technologies and companies is truly remarkable, as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Airbnb and Uber demonstrate.

ABB traces its roots to its founding 125 years ago by two enterprising engineers who wanted to explore the potential of a promising new technology called electricity. Zurich back then was the Silicon Valley of the day, with excellent universities that drew the likes of Albert Einstein to study. Over the decades, ABB has always stayed in the forefront of technology. On June 1 this year, we demonstrated how far that original vision has come at the inauguration of the world’s longest rail tunnel—the 36-mile Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland—powered by ABB solutions. Over the years, we have continually stayed at the forefront of emerging technologies. To succeed in today’s global and competitive playing field, technology companies in particular have to be pioneers in new technologies constantly, accompanied by relentless execution.

Our largest market, not surprisingly, is the world’s largest economy, the United States, but size is only one reason why we have invested more than $10 billion here since 2010. Other reasons are access to talent and partners and a business-friendly environment, with clear rules and regulations and a level playing field.

Nowhere is this culture of innovation more evident than in the US’s ongoing shift towards renewable energy and industrial automation. The US provides an unrivalled innovation ecosystem as well as a market in which to develop, produce and provide technologies for the power grid and the factory of the future.

On the electricity side, the US is embracing advanced high-voltage transmission networks to transport large amounts of power from renewable sources to consumption centers as well as renewables-powered microgrids. Thanks in large part to US investment, renewable energy in places like Hawaii and California is now reaching parity with fossil fuels, further accelerating the shift towards alternative forms of energy.

Similar dynamics can be observed in US industry, which is automating rapidly, with many factories employing robots for dirty and dangerous jobs, focusing human talent on creative endeavors. ABB opened its first robot plant to take advantages of robotics to safe guard employment and prosperity. Today, our YuMi robot is the most advanced industrial robot in existence, capable of collaborating with human beings and matching the precision and dexterity of a Swiss watchmaker.

The world is currently undergoing a new industrial revolution, driven by digitalization, which is enabling ubiquitous connectivity. In this new digital era, differentiation will be software-led and success will depend on mastering the opportunities and challenges of the evolving Internet of Things, Services and People.

Sustainable energy, factory automation and the Internet of Things, Services and People will spawn tremendous creativity and entrepreneurship, which down the road will translate directly into jobs. As long as the United States keeps up with its tradition of fostering entrepreneurship and new technologies and pivoting its center of gravity towards the new digital future, it will continue to be a magnet for the best and brightest people and companies around the globe.

Dr. Ulrich Spiesshofer is President and Chief Executive Officer of ABB Ltd., a $36 billion company specializing in power and automation technologies that enable utility and industry customers to improve performance while lowering environmental impact. As part of its next-level strategy, the company is embracing digitalization and focusing on the power of the Internet of Things, services, and people. The ABB Group of companies operates in around 100 countries and employs about 135,000 people. The United States is ABB’s largest market, with $7.5 billion in annual sales and around 27,000 employees.

What do Dr. Spiesshofer’s remarks have to do with Energy Storage Solution’s realm of enquiry and reportage, you ask?  A whole lot I think, seeing within his message the belief that regardless of problems we have in the world and within our own borders, the United States remains that beacon—the bright shining light—upon which the hopes and aspirations of all peoples depend, particularly as we face the unprecedented growth and change in our global energy strategies and systems.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall signaling the presumptive end of the Cold War, we chose to let others do some of the heavy lifting for a while, but it’s not what the world expects or needs of us. The heart of our genius lies in our ability to use the marketplace rather than the desires of elites to determine how best to meet challenges that confront us.

You only have to look at the almost constant upheavals in energy activities to see that we’re back in the game and that it’s time for us to accept the mantle of leadership in a world embarking on cataclysmic change. 


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