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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.

Solar CellsI [Marty Hoffert] write to propose a high-level briefing, perhaps at the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Pre-Conference Workshop on March 1 at the Gaylord Convention Center in DC, on space-based solar power (SBSP); and, as a possible specific example, a near-term ARPA-E funded project to test it by laser beaming of solar energy collected in orbit from the International Space Station to collectors on Earth (see attached). Longer term, but soon, a laser SBSP demonstrator in geostationary orbit could be deployed. If successful, there are many plausible business plans for commercialization, at least as much as for terrestrial solar, with which space-based solar would logically can co-evolve. Even now, a California company, Solaren, has signed a proprietary agreement with Pacific Gas and Electric to deliver 200 megawatts of electricity from space to their grid by 2016. And whereas, for technical reasons relating to large space components needed for "first power," we don't think their microwave beaming approach is the way to go initially, the technology needs to be taken seriously.
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Venture capitalists, whose money provides fuel to technology start-ups, last year invested the lowest amount in such companies since 1997, according to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association released on Friday.

Many in the industry say this sharp decline is healthy. Some have even been calling for a return to the investment levels of the early 1990s, before dot-com mania lured new investors and billions of dollars to venture capital and drove down returns, Claire Cain Miller writes in The New York Times.

“There was too much money in the system,” said Jeff Fagnan, a partner at the investment firm Atlas Venture. “It would be healthier if we can return to the pace and kind of deals that were done in the 1990s.”
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dukeNo goofy lead-in or anecdote about my law-school professors here. Let’s get to the heart of it. The National Law Journal reports Friday that:

Duke Law School announced on Thursday that it will launch a new Law and Entrepreneurship LLM program next academic year, while the University of Colorado School of Law is awaiting approval of a Entrepreneurial Law LLM it hopes to debut in the fall.

Now, LBers, before you get all crazy on us and start posting comments about what a boondoggle this is; why law schools, given that college grads are flocking to them in droves as an antidote to their job-seeking miseries, need to take in more money; etc., etc., consider the following:
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Capital under management for community development funds (Community Development Venture Capital Alliance)The law of unintended consequences could apply to at least one aspect of the President Obama’s latest bank regulation plan.

Barring banks from investing in private equity funds, which presumably includes venture capital, would be a perhaps fatal blow to a group of funds aimed at creating jobs in low-income areas. These community development venture capital funds count banks as their largest group of investors, said Kerwin Tesdell, president of the Community Development Venture Capital Alliance.

Banks have provided a little over 30% of the capital for the 72 U.S. community development VC funds, which have $2 billion under management. “Right when we’re needed, we’re finding it extremely difficult to raise capital and if this were to go through, it would make it virtually impossible to raise new funds,” Tesdell said.
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Thank you Senator Ensign and Committee Chairman Stevens for holding this hearing to discuss building a new century of American prosperity by spurring a new wave of American innovation.

From the Franklin stove to the personal computer, Americans have a strong history of innovation. But we face new challenges. We live in a global age where competition can come as easily from across an ocean as across the street. We got a wake up call earlier this year about how tough today`s challenges are when the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) announced that China had overtaken the United States as the world`s largest exporter of high-tech products – shipping $180 billion worth of high-tech goods worldwide last year, versus $149 billion for the U.S.

If this continues, the global high-tech centers could shift from America to China, and with them the high-skill, high-paying jobs that are key to the innovation economy will be lost as well.
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wile-e-coyote-gravityNow that 2009 is over, we can add up the numbers on how much venture firms invested in startups during all of 2009 — and, well, it was a lot less than in the past. Over the course of the year, VCs invested a total of $17.7 billion in 2,795 deals, the lowest total since 1997, according to the MoneyTree Report from the National Venture Capital Association and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

On the bright side, the worst hit came from numbers that we’ve already reported on, since investments really plummeted during the first half of this year. Funding went up in the third quarter, and more-or-less held steady in the fourth. The amount invested went down from $5.1 billion in the third quarter to $5.0 billion in the fourth quarter, but the numbers of deals went up from 689 to 794. So VCs were making smaller bets, but they placed more fo them. Another reason for optimism: There were more seed and early-stage deals in Q4 than in any other quarter this year, so new ideas are still getting money.
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BloombergThe other week, two of my colleagues were engaged in a fierce debate about whether a particular business was or not in fact "disruptive." When they asked my opinion, I surprised them by answering, "I don't really care."

"But we're all about disruptive innovation aren't we?" one of them asked.

"Well yes," I replied, "but we're all even more about building successful, sustainable, scalable businesses."
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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut's economic development agency said Thursday that investments by the state's quasi-public venture capital firm in high-technology businesses has helped boost the state's economy, even in two downturns.

The Department of Economic and Community Development said Connecticut Innovations Inc. created an average of 1,610 jobs a year from 1995 through 2008. That included the recessions of 2001 and the current downturn that began in December 2007.

In addition, state economists say venture capital investments generated net state revenue of $209 million, which includes taxes paid by businesses and individuals and accounts for increased spending for state services.
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Lately there has been a lot of discussion in Florida about “economic gardening” The term refers to the success of Littleton, Colorado in growing their local economy by equipping, and accelerating the growth of “second stage” companies. Second stage companies have between 10 and 100 employees and usually are doing more than $1 million in sales. They are the companies that are expanding (adding jobs) and usually experience rapid growth. In Florida, that represents only about 10% of our companies, however, those companies produce almost the same number of jobs as the other 90% of the stage 1 businesses! So it makes good economic sense, if you want to create jobs quickly, (other than cutting taxes) invest in this group of companies, provide funding, get them what they need and then get out of their way!
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The University of Rochester has created a new position—vice-provost for Technology Transfer Policy—as part of a multi-year effort to increase the number of science and engineering discoveries that can be developed by entrepreneurs and turned into technologies for the benefit of society. The Office of Technology Transfer helps translate scientific progress into tangible products, while returning income both to the inventor and to the University to support further research and education.

Gail Norris, former director of the Office of Technology Transfer for the College of Arts, Sciences and Engineering, will become the new vice-provost, staying actively involved in technology commercialization.

Corine Farewell, former deputy director of the Office of Technology Transfer, has taken over as director of the office as Norris' technology transfer responsibilities broaden.
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OVERLAND PARK — Four Wichitans were among the 10 Kansans selected for the Pipeline technology entrepreneurship fellowship — the most since its inception.

The announcement of the 2010 Pipeline Innovators was made Thursday night at Pipeline's Innovator of the Year event at the Overland Park Sheraton, which drew about 400 people, organizers said.

Jason Tatge of Lenexa-based Farms Technology was named the 2009 Innovator of the Year.

The Wichitans named to the 2010 Pipeline class are: Tahir Ahmad, CEO and founder of PetroPower; Nate Gregory, CEO of MoJack Distributors; Jeremy Jones, president and CEO of Nitride Solutions; and Ben Tyson, president and CEO of Time Trails.
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Riccardo Pietrabissa: set up Italy’s tech transfer network.Riccardo Pietrabissa got into tech transfer the old-fashioned way: he made a deal. The bioengineering professor and vice rector at the Politecnico di Milano, Italy, started that university’s patent office when the payment for funding his experimental biomechanical laboratory came due.

“My transition to the tech transfer office started in 1998 when I was an assistant professor. I asked the rector for a grant to establish the lab,” said Pietrabissa, who is 53. “In 2001 the rector called and said he was happy with the lab, and reminded me I was in debt to him. He wanted to establish a patent office in the university, so I had to do that.”

That was a dramatic departure from his research on biomechanics to simulate parts of the human body such as portions of the cardiovascular system or a hip joint. But he embraced the challenge.
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