Foreign-born Inventors and Entrepreneurs: Making Significant Contributions to the Development of Their Second Home Country



Picture this: a young inventor from a small village in India has a breakthrough idea that could change the way we think about energy consumption. She packs her bags and moves to the United States to pursue her dream. There, she is welcomed by a community of like-minded individuals and institutions who support her vision and help her navigate the complex world of entrepreneurship. With hard work and determination, she turns her idea into a successful startup that creates jobs and drives economic growth.

This story is not unique. Foreign-born inventors and entrepreneurs have made significant contributions to various fields and industries, from Silicon Valley to Singapore. They bring with them new perspectives, fresh ideas, and a drive to succeed that propels economies forward.

Foreign-born inventors and entrepreneurs

Throughout history, foreign-born inventors and entrepreneurs have made noteworthy contributions to various fields and industries, significantly impacting the economies and societies of their second home countries. By leveraging their skills, networks, and innovation, foreign-born inventors and entrepreneurs have created jobs, driven economic growth, and advanced scientific and technological research.

In this article, we will examine the impact of foreign-born inventors and entrepreneurs on several innovative countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Singapore, Canada, Sweden, and the Netherlands. We will also discuss the importance of governmental leadership in strategically prioritizing the attraction of global talent to gain a competitive advantage and promote sustainable innovation, growth, and prosperity.

Foreign-born inventors and entrepreneurs have made significant contributions to the economic success of the United States. A study by the National Foundation for American Policy found that immigrants founded more than half (55%) of the country’s startup companies valued at $1 billion or more, creating over 760,000 jobs and generating over $248 billion in revenue. Additionally, immigrants and their children co-founded nearly two-thirds (64%) of all US billion-dollar companies (unicorns), with almost 80% of these privately-held, billion-dollar companies having an immigrant founder or an immigrant in a key leadership role like CEO or vice president of engineering. Notable game-changing innovations like Google, PayPal, and Tesla have also been attributed to foreign-born inventors and entrepreneurs in the US. The study, an update of previous NFAP research in 2016 and 2018, gathered and verified information on more than 580 unicorn companies tracked by CB Insights to reflect the growth in billion-dollar companies.

Similarly, the United Kingdom has also benefitted from the contributions of foreign-born inventors and entrepreneurs. According to a report by the Centre for Entrepreneurs, migrant entrepreneurs founded one of seven UK companies. These companies created over 1.5 million jobs and generated over £1 trillion in revenue. Foreign-born inventors and entrepreneurs have also made significant contributions to the UK’s science and technology sectors, including the discovery of the structure of DNA and the development of the World Wide Web.

Israel, known as the “Startup Nation,” has one of the most vibrant startup ecosystems in the world. This is due in part to the country’s welcoming attitude towards foreign-born inventors and entrepreneurs. According to the Israel Innovation Authority, foreign-born entrepreneurs founded over 30% of Israeli startups. These startups have created tens of thousands of jobs and generated billions of dollars in revenue.

Singapore, a small island nation, has also been successful in attracting foreign-born inventors and entrepreneurs. The country’s government has implemented policies and programs to attract and retain global talent. These efforts have resulted in the founding of numerous startups, including Grab and Razer, which have created thousands of jobs and contributed to the country’s economic growth.

Canada, known for its welcoming attitude towards immigrants, has also benefitted from the contributions of foreign-born inventors and entrepreneurs. According to a report by the Conference Board of Canada, immigrants founded 40% of the country’s Fortune 500 companies. These companies generated over $50 billion in revenue and created over 400,000 jobs. Foreign-born inventors and entrepreneurs have also made significant contributions to Canada’s science and technology sectors, including the development of the pacemaker and insulin.

Sweden, known for its innovation-friendly policies, has also attracted foreign-born inventors and entrepreneurs. According to a report by the Swedish Government, foreign-born entrepreneurs founded 19% of Swedish startups. These startups have created thousands of jobs and contributed to the country’s economic growth.

The Netherlands, known for its excellent infrastructure and favorable business climate, has also been successful in attracting foreign-born inventors and entrepreneurs. According to a report by the Dutch Government, foreign-born entrepreneurs founded 13% of Dutch startups. These startups have created thousands of jobs and generated billions of euros in revenue.



Some trailblazing governments around the world are taking notice and acknowledging that attracting global innovative talent is crucial to remain competitive and promoting sustainable innovation, growth, and prosperity. By prioritizing policies and programs that welcome and support foreign-born inventors and entrepreneurs, these governments can harness the full potential of these individuals and reap the benefits of their contributions to their second home countries.

This way of building an economy is more effective than relying solely on foreign-giant companies with remarkable incentives. By empowering innovative foreign-born individuals to pursue their dreams and create something new, governments can foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship that benefits everyone. So, which way is good for you? The answer is clear: prioritize policies that welcome and support foreign-born inventors and entrepreneurs, and watch as they help drive your economy forward.

Let us not forget the vital role that universities and entrepreneurial communities play in this process. These institutions serve as research centers, startup accelerators, scale-up professionals, and risk investors, providing crucial support and resources to foreign-born inventors and entrepreneurs. Even governments can act as key cheerleaders and pace runners to facilitate the growth and success of these individuals. Some smart governments have already taken this notice and are paving the way to that ensure their sustainable innovation, growth, and prosperity.

© Dr. Young D. Lee

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