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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.

The ranks of temporary help workers have increased for the past five months in a row, according to recently released Department of Labor figures. The Wall Street Journal reports that the number of Americans employed in temporary jobs rose 47,500 in February to 2 million—but at the same time, overall employment declined.

While staffing firms nationwide are reporting increased business as firms prepare for economic recovery, they say hiring is still nowhere near pre-recession levels.

In past recessions, temporary hires have been a leading indicator that companies are getting ready to hire permanent employees. The Associated Press reports that after the recession of 1990-1991, for example, temporary hiring picked up in August 1991 and permanent hiring increased almost immediately after that. After the recession of 2001, temporary hiring increased for three straight months in summer 2003, and permanent hiring began in the fall.

But things may be different this time around. At least right now, it doesn’t appear that many temporary employees have a chance of becoming permanent hires.”I think temporary hiring is less useful a signal than it used to be,” John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo, told the AP. “Companies aren’t testing the waters by turning to temporary firms. They just want part-time workers.”

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Manhattan New York SkylineThe New York digital scene has had a major renaissance in recent years.

We've written a lot about this, as well as the differences between New York and the Valley and the reasons many entrepreneurs have foregone the west coast and instead launched their startups here.

And now it's time to focus on the companies themselves.

In the past few weeks, we've consulted with New York VCs, entrepreneurs, and tech journalists, and compiled a list of NYC's current rising stars.

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President Barack Obama’s new space policy puts a lot of emphasis on the development of “game changing” technology that will allow us to explore and settle the cosmos.

The approach will get an early test run next month during the 2010 Rice Business Plan Competition in House. NASA’s Johnson Space Center recently announced the addition of a $50,000 “Game Changer” Commercial Space Innovation Prize to the contest.

“The new $50,000 NASA ‘Game Changer’ Commercial Space Innovation Prize will recognize the team’s business plan with the best idea related to commercial space innovation,” said David Leestma, director of the Advanced Planning Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “The award encourages the identification and development of new breakthrough technologies and business models in the commercial space market or market creation to realize this value.”

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A prospective client asked “what do you charge by the hour?”. My response…”I don’t”. The prospect then asked “then how do you determine how much to charge me?”. My response “By the value you desire me to deliver using my knowledge”.

Knowledge needed to ring up sales at a cash register is different than knowledge needed to engage more customer that will ring the cash register or reduce lost productivity which improves business efficiency. Which has more value?

If your business is wasting time, effort and energy “producing things” and causing customers to waste time, effort and energy to interact with your business then you are wasting money. If someone had the knowledge required to help you reduce the waste and improve productivity how much would it be worth?

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MOSCOW — When the Soviet Union introduced its Alfa class submarine — at the time, the world’s fastest — the subs were the bane of American sailors. Now, the reactors that powered those submarines are being marketed as the next innovation in green power.

Environmentalists say the technology is outdated and potentially dangerous, and marketing it as green energy is an abuse of nuclear power’s good green name.

The Russians are not alone in pushing the idea that the next generation of nuclear reactors should have more in common with the small power plants on submarines than the sprawling installations of today.

The kinds of marine reactors the Russians are promoting, though, also happen to create a byproduct — used fuel — that no one knows how to handle. Right now, that spent fuel is being stored at naval yards in the Russian Arctic.

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Institutional barriers still inhibit China despite tremendous growth in science and technology.

China has witnessed tremendous growth in science and technology (S&T) inputs in terms of university students, research and development (R&D) investments and S&T workforce:

University students. On the input side, investment by the state in higher education led to an approximate tenfold increase from 2 million in 1991 to 19 million by 2007. Gross enrollment rates of 18-22 year olds rose within around 15 years from 3.5% early in the 1990s to 22%. The 15-year (2006-2020) Medium-to-Long-term Plan for the Development of S&T (MLP) aims to increase gross enrollment rates to 25% by 2020. Half of China's university students major in science and engineering subjects.

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homeFull press release with more details is here.  We will be selecting 10 startup companies to participate.  There is no cost but you must physically be based in or move to Los Angeles for the 6 months of the program.  Applications are due April 6th, 2010, the form is on the website and the Twitter address is @launchpadlad

When I kicked off Launchpad LA a year ago I had a few objectives:

  • Create an ecosystem where all Southern California VC’s had the chance to work together more actively outside of the boards on which we mutually sit
  • Find the best and brightest next generation of entrepreneurs and help them to be more successful
  • Encourage the most successful LA tech entrepreneurs who had previously started companies to get involved as mentors, instructors or just informal advisors
  • Help these companies get funded and let them know that if they stayed in LA there was an ecosystem to support them

It was inspired somewhat by a comment that Matt Coffin (founder of LowerMyBills) made at a technology event hosted by Jason Nazar.  He spoke about his experiences in the dot com crash of the early part of the century where no VC’s would give him money.  He had a pile of debt and covenants that made him vulnerable if the debt holders wanted to play rough.  He was able to speak with a successful entrepreneur who told him how to restructure the debt (essentially by increasing their warrant coverage) and that was enough to seal the deal.  The rest is history.  He was able to raise money from a VC in Minneapolis called Split Rock, grow the business to over $200 million in sales and sell to Experian for nearly $380 million.  I hope he’s OK with my telling this wonderful story as he told it publicly.

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Excessive weight on things not designed to carry lots of weight collapse. The same is true about current uses of social media and all things supporting its use, it may collapse.

Why am I saying this? It is simple, most of the people on Twitter don’t use Twitter regularly. Twitter growth is slowing down. Only 30% of the members actually do it. Advertising on Twitter gets the same dismal response rates as everywhere else, 3% or less.

While the stats show usage growth of other sites like Facebook and Linkedin the corresponding click through rates on ads placed on these sites is static or decreasing. Most of the people using search don’t click on the ads. Advertising has been the foundation holding up all things social and sooner or later it will collapse.

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MADISON – The debate over how to create more jobs in Wisconsin will be virtually non-stop during the 2010 election year, as candidates for governor, the Legislature and other statewide offices trade ideas – and a few jabs – about what works.
 
An opening salvo was fired recently when Republican candidate for governor Scott Walker promised to create 250,000 jobs and 10,000 businesses by 2015, the end of the four-year term for whoever is elected Wisconsin’s next chief executive.
 
Democratic candidate Tom Barrett called Walker’s goal a “random” number but offered an estimate of his own – 180,000 jobs over three years. Not to be outdone, Republican candidate Mark Neumann made a light-hearted guess when asked about Walker’s goal: “I’ll bid 350,000.”
 

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Today in Biofuels Opinion: “The fuel of the future is going to come from that sumach out by the road.”

Henry Ford – 1925: “The fuel of the future is going to come from that sumach out by the road, or from apples, weeds, sawdust — almost anything. There is fuel in every bit of vegetable matter that can be fermented. There’s enough alcohol in one year’s yield of an acre of potatoes to drive the machinery necessary to cultivate the fields for a hundred years.”

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AOL Inc. (NYSE:AOL) today announced a significant expansion of its focus on local content that will complement its hyper-local offerings with the relaunch of City’s Best to major U.S. metro areas.

PatchAOL’s 2010 plan to digitize towns across America includes an aggressive expansion of Patch, the growing hyper-local news and information platform already available in nearly 40 communities. The company also intends to relaunch its City’s Best properties in 25 cities later this year and add high-quality, city-specific content to its “best of” entertainment options for each of these metro audiences.

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Philly Startup Leaders has thrown down the gauntlet for a gigabit.

The group voted at a meeting Wednesday night to take all of its money not committed to its upcoming Entrepreneur Expo and put it toward a prize to award to the person with the best idea for an application of a super-high bandwidth network.

The impetus for that was Google Inc.’s announcement last month that it plans to build a super-high bandwidth network in one or more locations to test new network deployment technologies and see what applications will be inspired by the network’s speeds, which will top one gigabit per second.

Google gave places interested in hosting the network until March 26 to submit online responses saying why they would be a good host site.

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