U.S. President Donald Trump has been trying to ban immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries, six of which are Arab. While it remains unclear whether his efforts will ultimately be successful, one thing is very clear: it would likely hurt American innovation.
A new study by Harvard Business Review has revealed that Arab inventors disproportionately – in a positive way – contribute to innovation in the U.S. Between 2009 and 2013, 8,786 U.S. patent applications had at least one Arab inventor attached to them.
This means 3.4 percent of all patents were associated with Arab inventors, despite the fact that they only represent 0.3 percent of the total population. That's quite a disproportionately large contribution, when put in perspective.
American tech firms and universities seem to understand this quite clearly. Some 100 top U.S. companies, including Google, Facebook, Twitter and Apple, filed a joint legal brief opposing Trump's attempted ban. Top U.S. universities, including Harvard, Yale and Standford, took similar action.
The U.S. is a major hub for Arab inventors
Comparatively, the U.S. has more Arab inventors than any other Western nation.
Compared to the nearly 9,000 patent applications in the U.S., the European Union's 28 nations only saw 1,424 patent applications from Arabs. Looking specifically at countries, France follows far behind the U.S., with only 513 patent applications in the five year period. Canada had 361 and Germany had 342. The United Kingdom only had 273.
Leading American innovators and scientists are Arab immigrants
Most famously, the innovative genius behind Apple, Steve Jobs, was the son of a Syrian immigrant. Imagine if Trump's ban had blocked his father (Abdul Fattah Jandali) from entering the U.S.?
No iPhones. No Mac Books. No iPads. You may have not been able to read this article.
But beyond Jobs, there are Hassan Kamel Al-Sabbah, a Lebanese-born American serial inventor, Ahmed Zewail, the Egyptian-American 1999 Nobel laureate in chemistry, George Helou, a Lebanese astronomer whose work proved instrumental in NASA's latest discovery of 7 Earth-sized planets (TRAPPIST-1), and Farouk El-Baz, an Egyptian-American NASA and MIT scientist who helped plan the Apollo landing.
And these are just a few of the most prominent examples. So, while Trump insists his travel ban is all about safety – although statistically there is no evidence to support that claim – he may actually just hurt future American innovation.