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innovation DAILY

Here we highlight selected innovation related articles from around the world on a daily basis.  These articles related to innovation and funding for innovative companies, and best practices for innovation based economic development.

I am exceptionally energized and inspired with hope by the conversations and experiences we’ve shared with Chinese colleagues here in Hangzhou this week. We have a great deal to learn together and from each other, as we both continue to explore a variety of issues and challenges. Among theses, the role of ICT in the learning process, and more generally the ways creativity and innovation can be supported within as well as outside of formal educational institutions, are critical issues. The respect with which the Chinese treat and regard educators in their society is a breath of fresh air in so many ways. These relationships of respect can pose challenges in the context of 21st century learning, however, as we encourage educational leaders to be co-learners and facilitators of learning with students. Just as teachers in the United States can have LOTS of problems letting go of their perceived CONTROL over the learning environment, the role of Chinese educators as the director of all activities in the classroom is supported culturally, institutionally, and politically. Our challenges in these conversations about 21st century learning and educational transformation are formidable. Fortunately, there are a LOT of very smart and courageous people involved in these conversations, and our continued work together is bound to bear abundant fruit.

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Here at SmallBiz, we spend a lot of time thinking about what drives an entrepreneur. The issue was at the heart of our special report earlier this year on social entrepreneurship, and our feature story on how entrepreneurs beat burnout and stay passionate about their business. We’ve asked several of our guest columnists to examine the subject, including Steven Berglas and Vivek Wadhwa.

In fact, you could say we’re obsessed.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing. After spending an evening listening to Robin Chase, co-founder of Zipcar and current CEO of GoLoco, dissect one of Carl Jung’s paintings at the Rubin Museum of Art last week, I’m convinced that obsession is the core of the entrepreneurial spirit. The Rubin has invited numerous artists, intellectuals, and executives to sit on stage with a Jungian analyst and respond to a painting from Jung’s legendary Red Book diary, which famously chronicles the psychologist’s descent into madness. Chase could have gone anywhere with the painting, which featured a deity-like man floating above an urban waterfront scene. Instead, she spent an hour discussing the potential tragedy of climate change if people don’t deal with excess capacity (share your cars!) and sprawl (infrastructure first!).

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A recent survey developed for the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy by researchers at New York University’s Stern School of Business and NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development suggests that successful entrepreneurs can be taught and aren’t merely born with a start-up gene, like Harvard dropouts Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook.

The study of 5,618 respondents finishing or holding business degrees from five Northeast US schools (unnamed because of confidentiality agreements) found that there is a correlation between taking classes on entrepreneurship and forming a company with original ideas, as defined by obtaining patents, copyrights, and creating new production techniques.

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Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
– Abe Lincoln

The latest gross domestic product numbers for the United States — showing 3.5 percent growth in the third quarter — are surely the light at the end of the recessionary tunnel.

Feel better?

Probably not.

You or somebody you know probably doesn’t have a job or health insurance. People are losing their houses or are up to their chins in debt and not spending much. Parts of our education system remain in tatters. Our environment could be cleaner, our politicians and business leaders more honest.

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WASHINGTON: Former US vice president Al Gore could become the world's first carbon billionaire following his investments in green energy companies.

Gore's venture capital company has been investing to develop energy-saving technologies. Last year, they had loaned Spring Networks, $75 million to produce products to improve electricity grid efficiency.

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Nov. 3 (Bloomberg) -- European venture capitalists may be wary of startup technology companies even after an economic recovery, according to the investment arm of Intel Corp., the world’s biggest computer-chip maker.

Venture funds stung by the recession are “moving away from the early stage” and toward less risky, later deals for young technology companies, Ashish Patel, Intel Capital managing director for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, said in an interview in London. Intel Capital has about $2 billion under management.

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SAN JOSE, Calif. -- In general, venture capital funding has dried up in the semiconductor industry. But In-Q-Tel, the venture capital arm of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), continues to invest in the semiconductor and related industries.

The CIA has invested in materials supplier Cambrios Technologies Corp. (Sunnyvale, Calif.). In fact, Cambrios has received investments totaling $14.5 million in a first closing of its Series D financing round.

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Innovators will strike out time and again. But baseball—and the World Series—remind us of the value of resilience

As World Series 2009 closes out this week, we will have seen more strikeouts than home runs. But despite all the swings and misses, baseball's popularity shouldn't be surprising. Baseball embodies the idea of resilience. And resilience is exactly what the global economy needs.

Given the recession and jobless recovery, baseball reminds us to take heart. "You just can't beat the person who never gives up," Babe Ruth once said. He would know. The Babe struck out 30 times in World Series games.

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An recent article from the Economist made me think about how companies could learn from the distributed innovation of open source to find the great ideas within. The article is about InnoCentive, which helps connect problems with solutions:
[Innocentive] is based on a simple idea: if a firm cannot solve a problem on its own, why not use the reach of the internet to see if someone else can come up with the answer? Companies, which InnoCentive calls “seekers”, post their challenges on the firm’s website. “Solvers”, who number almost 180,000, compete to win cash “prizes” offered by the seekers. Around 900 challenges have been posted so far by some 150 firms including big multinationals such as Procter & Gamble and Dow Chemicals. More than 400 have been solved. InnoCentive reckons the approach can work for innovations in all sorts of fields, from chemistry to business processes and even economic development. It has formed a partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, a charity, to help solve problems posted by non-profits working in poor countries, with some initial success.

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BEIJING, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Piracy, long a problem for foreign media companies in China, also stands to stifle innovation by the country's own dynamic Internet industry, the chief executive of one of China's oldest Web companies said on Monday. "China needs to clean up piracy on the Internet or face a lag in innovation," Charles Zhang, chief executive of Sohu.com (SOHU.O), said at one of China's biggest Internet conferences taking place this week in Beijing.

"The Internet in China has reached an intense and more developed stage," he said. "Protecting intellectual property is becoming even more important ... Solving piracy on the Internet will help the piracy situation in China."

Zhang is one of a small but increasingly vocal group of figures in China's fragmented media community calling for officials to address a problem previously considered a major thorn for foreign players trying to crack the China market.

 

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IN A RECENT article in The Chronicle Herald, Dalhousie University’s Jim McNiven discussed Nova Scotia’s need for more people to stay in the workplace in the coming years.

McNiven pointed out that as baby boomers retire, more jobs will go unfilled. The potential retirement of legions of boomers, combined with the lower birthrate across Canada, means the economy could be hobbled by a labour shortage.

McNiven is correct in his assessment. If baby boomers retire in droves, there will not be enough remaining workers to take up the slack. He expressed concern that many firms will lose business due to a lack of staff and will have to bypass good business opportunities because they will not be able to provide the goods or services needed.

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SAN FRANCISCO — Even amid the contraction of the venture capital industry, which fertilizes the seeds of new technology start-ups, some firms are expanding.

On Monday, Greylock Partners, which has backed Facebook and LinkedIn, announced that it had put together a new $575 million fund, one of the biggest to be created in the last year. It has also hired a new partner, Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn and an active investor in early-stage start-ups.

The venture industry has been pummeled in the last year by dismal conditions that have made it difficult for start-ups to go public or be acquired by bigger companies. Many have predicted that the number of venture firms could shrink by as much as half.

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DETROIT — While its crosstown rivals stumbled through bankruptcy this summer, the Ford Motor Company pressed its advantage, and delivered surprising news on Monday that its cost-cutting efforts and improving sales helped it earn nearly $1 billion in the third quarter.

But now it faces new challenges in maintaining that lead. Both General Motors and Chrysler, with the stigma of their bankruptcies receding, are moving ahead with their own comeback plans.

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SALT LAKE CITY, Nov. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- The Utah Fund of Funds (Utah FoF), an innovative program created by the Utah State Legislature to foster entrepreneurship by increasing the amount and diversity of capital available to Utah's established, growth and emerging companies, today announced that the program's economic development effectiveness is far greater than that of the federal stimulus money.

Thus far, Utah's stimulus aid of just under $520 million spent as of the end of September had resulted in retaining or creating 4,164 jobs--approximately eight jobs per million dollars spent. In contrast, the Utah Fund of Funds program has resulted in 2,047 jobs, based on the $60 million deployed as of September 30 by the Fund of Funds program of its $100 million first fund. The Fund of Funds investment has thus far resulted in more than 34 jobs per million dollars spent, approximately 4.26 times the level of job creation provided by the federal stimulus money.

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Thinking of raising some angel capital for your new business? The New York Times has compiled a list of the new rule of angel investors that you should read. The most important rule is:
“Entrepreneurs should find ways to finance their own growth: working without salary, moonlighting, seeking grants, running lean operations and focusing on an aspect of the business that can generate revenue.”

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In a speech last week to the City Club of San Diego, John Lechleiter, chairman and chief executive officer of Eli Lilly, offered very candid remarks about the state of innovation in the pharmaceutical industry, saying that the engine of biopharmaceutical innovation is “broken.” His comments may be a bitter pill to swallow in light of escalating investment in research and development (R&D), but his frankness may just be the remedy the industry needs to reinvent itself.

“At a time when world desperately needs more new medicines—for everything from H1N1 to Alzheimer’s disease—we are taking too long, spending too much, and producing far too little,” said Lechleiter. “Repowering pharmaceutical innovation is an urgent need not only for our company and our industry but for our nation—and for communities like San Diego and Indianapolis [the headquarters of Eli Lilly] that have a huge stake in the life sciences. We remain dependent on a society that welcomes and values new ideas, and public policy that enables innovation to be rewarded for the value it creates. But we also know that we need to change.”

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Imagine if you will, somewhere in the distant recesses of our existence, a group of cavemen huddled around a fire. The wiseman of the group gathers the tribe around the fire and regales them with stories of their ancestors - how they fought the neighboring tribes, how they found the food necessary to survive. The shaman passes on the wisdom of the tribe, and teaches in the process.

Stories are the best way to learn, and the best way to communicate. For some reason, we've lost the sense of story in business. Rather than use stories we opt for hard and fast "facts" that often miss the root causes or issues. There's no story telling class in an MBA program, yet most of the best leaders understand the importance of storytelling, and they lead others by telling and retelling stories. Some of those stories are myths, meant to reinforce the culture. Some of those stories are true, meant to teach and instruct.

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When I was a child the innovations of the day included black-and-white televisions, copy machines and the first satellite, Sputnik. Truly groundbreaking innovation came once a year or even less frequently. But more recently, technological innovation has moved at the speed of light. In recent years I have witnessed the birth of the Internet, DVR, HDTV, Blu-ray, satellite radio and MP3, to name just a few.

The slow pace of innovation of my childhood is particularly stark to me given that I get to enjoy amazing new technological advances through the eyes of my own one-year-old child. Advances that took years in my youth will take weeks in his. My son's childhood will be filled with e-books, 3-D, GPS and more. I can't even imagine what astonishing technologies will be part of his life. But my fear is that his future won't include the rapid pace of innovation that we have enjoyed in recent years. What if decades roll by and innovation stands still?

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Federal Technology Watch

A study released by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) last week offers data on the importance of university/industry r&d partnerships to the US economy.

The Economic Impact of Licensed Commercialized Inventions Originating in University Research, 1996-2007, finds a $187-billion positive impact on the US Gross National Product (GNP) and a $457-billion addition to gross industrial output, using very conservative models.

 

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