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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 U.S. Small Business Administration and Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence (CMI) launched a cooperative Strategic Alliance Memorandum to promote opportunities for women entrepreneurs through education, training and counseling. The launch, held in Washington, D.C. at SBA’s headquarters, also recognized Women’s Small Business Month.

The alliance between SBA and CMI will help to strengthen and expand small business development opportunities, particularly those to women entrepreneurs. The alliance is intended to promote collaboration on the development of resources and information to benefit the needs of the small business community, and of women-owned small businesses. SBA and CMI will develop a joint podcast on business start-up and financing, as well as a Web chat on small business issues affecting women entrepreneurs.

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Fundraising by U.S. venture capital firms continues to lag. A survey released overnight by Dow Jones Private Equity Analyst shows that 26 VC funds raised about $3.5 billion during the three months that ended September 30—down about 51 percent from the same quarter last year.

The findings nevertheless represented an improvement over the previous quarter, when VC fundraising was down by almost two-thirds compared with the second quarter of 2008. While fundraising was down for all types of VC firms over the past three months, those that invest in late-stage startups were hit hardest.

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In the September issue of Harvard Business Review, authors Ram Nidumolu, C.K. Prahalad, and M.R. Rangaswami provide a framework for adopting sustainable practices to bring about technological and organizational innovations that will ultimately yield top-line and bottom-line returns, providing a competitive advantage when the recession ends. They feel that sustainable companies will emerge from the recession ahead of their competitors, who will face difficulties trying to catch up.

The authors argue that sustainability is not the drag on the bottom line that many executives perceive it to be, and that it can actually lower costs, and increase revenues. This is an indicator that business leaders will have to rethink business models, processes, technologies, and products.

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Nanotechnology has surprising applications in mundane materials like sunscreen and esoteric items like high-tech body armor for soldiers. But some fear scarier scenarios worthy of a science fiction novel.

At Florida State University, engineers are creating new body armor for American troops. It's more durable, more bulletproof and light enough that it can cover arms and legs as well as torsos.

``It's definitely more flexible and more comfortable,'' says Frank Allen, operations director for FSU's High Performance Materials Institute.

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This week saw a lot of coverage of new technology in televisions and displays, mostly centered around Ceatac, the big consumer electronics show in Tokyo. Most of the technology - ranging from 3D to very high-end processors for TVs - has been discussed before, but it remains quite fascinating. However, these features aren't likely to impact the TVs the vast majority of us are going to buy any time soon.

The most coverage went to 3D, with Panasonic in particular making a big push for their upcoming 3D plasma screens. Sony is also committed to shipping a 3D with high-speed LCD sets, and Toshiba, Hitachi and Sharp also showing 3D sets I wrote about a lot of the 3D technology here.

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The Swearer Center’s Social Innovation Initiative is creating a new blog aimed at promoting social innovation and entrepreneurship at Brown.

Although students and others have already written online material describing their individual experiences and sharing tips, the improved version will feature a new crop of student authors who research and write about salient social innovation issues in the University community and the world at large.

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When General Motors discontinued America’s oldest automobile maker, Oldsmobile, in 2004, it ended a grand tradition of technical achievement.

Oldsmobile was created by Ransom Eli Olds, born in 1864 in Geneva, Ohio. His father, Pliny F. Olds, moved the family to Lansing, Mich. in 1880 and established an engine-building and machinery repair company. Ransom joined the firm in 1883. He completed a crude steam car in 1887, followed by an improved version in 1891 that was featured in Scientific American. He built his first gasoline-powered vehicle in 1896 and founded the Olds Motor Works on Aug. 21, 1897.

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Following quickly on the heels of its $43 million grant to the Teacher Quality Partnership program, the U.S. Department of Education announced this week the launch of a $650-million innovation competition aimed at closing the achievement gap in the U.S. educational system.

The competition, called the Investing in Innovation fund (i3), falls under the $5 billion investment in school reform from the America’s Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

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While these are challenging times for the global economy, the energy industry is thriving as federal agencies and investors seek out technologies and opportunities with promising futures. In the coming decades, the five pillars of clean energy — solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal and biomass technologies — are intended to form the cornerstone of many U.S. economies.

Highlighting renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies, the 2009 National SBIR/STTR Conference will bring together federal agencies — U.S. Department of Defense, Health and Human Services, Department of Energy, Department of Commerce, Department of Education, Department of Transportation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Small Business Administration (SBA), Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Agriculture — as well as venture capital and angel investors, large companies, small businesses, lenders, researchers, university and federal laboratory representatives and other experts who provide assistance to or are interested in doing business with early-stage and advanced-stage ventures.

For more information, visit the conference website.

RA Mashelkar, former head of India's CSIR [see IPBiz post Dr. R.A.Mashelkar of CSIR ] is now working on an innovation team of Ambani's Reliance Industries directed to "extreme innovation." Mr. Ambani notes: "What's needed is extreme innovation. Twenty years from now, people will not talk about garages in Silicon Valley, but projects in Indian villages and rural areas that will be scaled up."

Inmelt of General Electric pushes "reverse innovation"—the flow of knowledge and products from the developing world to the developed world. Inmelt also noted: ''The next generation of BPO jobs should be in the US,'' he said, and asked Indian businesses to see the world "from (US President Barack) Obama's eyes." Emphasising the importance of ensuring that politicians come on board, he said, "If globalisation is put to vote today in the US, it will lose 70:30."

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In an industry often vilified for putting profits before patients, Daniel Vasella, chairman and chief executive officer of Novartis, the $40 billion pharmaceutical company headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, sits in a special spotlight. A physician grounded in science and clinical practice, Vasella is determined to put medical advancement before short-term shareholder returns. Rather than following the more traditional model of channeling R&D budgets into searches for new blockbuster drugs, he focuses instead on drugs that will treat patients with rarer ailments. If those drugs later prove to cure other diseases as well, thereby enlarging their commercial footprint, then so much the better. But potential market size is not what drives him, he says; using science to improve the lives of patients is.

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George Lucas, the film-maker behind such hits as the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, shared some uplifting thoughts on artistic passion and technological invention at the World Business Forum in New York on October 6. Tracing his career to its beginnings, he modestly said that it was the pursuit of art, not profit or invention, which fueled the many innovations he can be credited for, from early movie-merchandise strategies to the realistic computer-generated effects pioneered by Lucasfilm and featured in movies such as Jurassic Park.

Art is about communicating emotion via technology, he said. So it fuels creative thinking not only in terms of content, but also execution. It’s been the case since early cave paintings and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes. To achieve stunning effects, an artist often needs to push the boundaries of current technologies, and then discover a new way of doing things. And that very artistic process can lead to tech that can be highly monetized; in other words, innovation.


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