BCG Henderson Institute

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This report is the first in a series that explores the innovative potential arising from the global movement of skilled workers and examines the implications for CEOs and policymakers.

We’re often led to believe migration is a drain on the country’s resources, but Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian migrant. Apple… only exists because they allowed in a young man from Homs.
– Banksy

Apple’s iPhones, Tesla’s cars, and Pfizer’s RNA-based COVID-19 vaccines are some of the everyday innovations that change our lives for the better. But they carry a greater significance as well. Each one was conceived by a small team of boundary-breaking inventors who share something in common: these innovations were driven by immigrant founders—people who had crossed physical borders before advancing the boundaries of what’s possible for all of us.

Of course, the migration of creative geniuses has been a global phenomenon for centuries. Inventor Galileo Galilei and composer Frédéric Chopin, for instance, moved to Florence during the Renaissance and fin de siècle Paris (respectively) not only because those cities were hubs of commerce but because they were also melting pots of people with bold ideas.

Humans cross borders, and humans create boundary-breaking innovations. Could it be that those two events are intricately linked and generate opportunities—in terms of both economic value and human values? We think the answer is yes, which raises the next questions: What if we could develop strategies to tap into and share these opportunities? Which legitimate concerns would we need to address? And which long-held beliefs would we need to reconsider before starting the journey?

Sources & Notes