The United States faces a growing threat to its global lead in innovation and research and development, according to a by researchers at Duke and Harvard universities

“The world is changing faster than people think,” said Vivek Wadhwa, a serial entrepreneur who is a fellow at Harvard Law School and executive in residence at Duke University. He helped lead the study titled “The Globalization of Innovation.”

Unlike conclusions reached in a Wadhwa and the research team believe other countries pose a clear and present danger to U.S. leadership.

“We see new opportunities and competitive threats for the U.S. from abroad – the U.S. can still win and benefit, but it has to be aware and adapt,” Wadhwa said. “The NAS study seems to suggest that the threat is like what the U.S. has faced before – in the ’60s/’70s and the ’80s/’90s. They seem to believe that U.S. industry is simply sending low-level work abroad and keeping innovation close to home. Their paper on pharma, for example dismissed India as a significant player and did not even discuss China.”

Wadhwa has also been very active in research done with the Kauffman Foundation. That work has called for changes in U.S. immigration law so more foreign-born scientists and researchers can come to the U.S. to work and live.

In the first of a promised series of reports about globalization, Wadhwa and fellow researchers Ben Rissing, Gary Gereffi and John Trumpbour focused on the pharmaceutical industry. The Kauffman Foundation helped underwrite the costs of the report.

“Big Pharma is increasingly partnering with [India and China] for drug research, and scientists in these countries are rapidly developing the ability to create their own intellectual property and innovations,” Wadhwa said.

Pharma is bot alone, he added. “In a nutshell, we’ve found similar changes in other industries,” Wadhwa said.

In a , Wadhwa said that the NAS study does not present “the full picture” about the challenges the U.S. faces.

“To hear the National Academy of Sciences tell it, the U.S. faces little risk of losing its technology dominance. In a new study, the NAS says industries such as software, semiconductors, pharmaceuticals and biotech have adapted well to the opportunities presented by globalization and have kept innovation close to home,” he wrote.

“After analyzing patent filings, economic data and prior academic research, NAS researchers report that work being done in India and China is mainly low-level, confined to such tasks as manufacturing and clinical trials. The U.S., the study concludes, will maintain its global lead in research and development if it keeps investing in its research infrastructure. This would be great news for the U.S. – if it presented the full picture.

“Our research at Duke and Harvard shows that the reality on the ground is much different. Indian and Chinese companies are performing the most advanced types of R&D for multinational corporations. As a result, scientists from those corporations are rapidly developing the ability to innovate and create their own intellectual property. Our take is that the global technology landscape has changed dramatically over the last decade and that we’re at the beginning of a new wave of globalization.

“The U.S. can continue to lead, but we need to be clear about our means and the enormity of our challenges,” he added. “Industries are changing at an unprecedented rate, and we must take the rise of India and China seriously. We also must understand our new competition and work hard to stay ahead – or risk losing dominance in key industries.”

Also Engardio and Rissing said “Big Pharma” firms are doing increasing amounts of business in China and India.

“Each month, it seems, a big, Western pharmaceutical company announces a strategic tie-up with a company or research institute in China or India,” they said. “In most cases, the multinationals are sharing technologies and biological insights that would have remained under lock and key a decade ago.”