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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.

corporate social responsibility csr best practicesIn today’s competitive market, companies that incorporate social and green policies can leave a lasting impression on the consumer. As Sofia Ribeiro pointed out in her post Using Community Involvement as Part of Your Green Marketing and CSR Strategy, a Cone Inc. survey revealed that 83% of people will trust a company more if it is socially/environmentally responsible. With this in mind, how do companies go about communicating their best initiatives?

Recently, Perry Goldschein took the podium at Sustainable Brands 2010 to talk about the seven best practices of corporate social responsibility (CSR). As the founding partner of SDialogue LLC, a strategic sustainability communications firm, Perry provided insights on how to engage your consumers and stakeholders. Follow this recap with CSR’s Seven Best Practices to learn how to put your organization’s best social and environmental practices in the spotlight:

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Talk, talk, talk—but the White House is pushing appliance makers and technology companies for a Kumbaya moment

It takes time to hammer out an agreement, but progress is occurring.

That's the word from John McDonald, the general manager of the transmission and distribution business at General Electric and the chair of the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel Governing Board at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Last September, NIST announced plans to establish 77 smart grid standards over the next few years and finalize 14 priority standards in 2010 alone. A few months later, the number of standards to be set for 2010 jumped to 16, including a standard for communication protocols for household appliances. Setting that many standards in a relatively short time is unprecedented in the technology world: often it can take several years -- and the opinion of the marketplace -- to achieve even one standard.

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You Need an Innovation ProstheticAn innovation tool is a cognitive prosthetic that helps individuals and groups overcome their human limitations to innovate more capably. Just as an artificial limb or hearing aid compensates and augments a missing or impaired part of the body, a thinking tool does the same – it compensates and augments for a variety of cognitive deficiencies in all humans.

Yet there is an aversion to using a structured tool to be creative:

  • The Arts: Musicians, poets, and graphic artists shun the idea of using a standard tool or template because it makes them appear less creative to their fans and the public. But consider Paul McCartney who sold more albums in the U.S. than anyone. In his biography, he confided: “As usual, for these co-written things, John often had just the first verse, which was always enough: it was the direction, it was the signpost and it was the inspiration for the whole song. I hate the word but it was the template.” Listen carefully to artist, Jackson Pollock, describe his approach:
Read more ... like people in a bar or other noisy location, North American right whales increase the volume of their calls as environmental noise increases; and just like humans, at a certain point, it may become too costly to continue to shout, according to marine and acoustic scientists.

“The impacts of increases in ocean noise from human activities are a concern for the conservation of marine animals like right whales,” said Susan Parks, assistant professor of acoustics and research associate, Applied Research Laboratory, Penn State. “The ability to change vocalizations to compensate for environmental noise is critical for successful communication in an increasingly noisy ocean.”

Right whales are large baleen whales that often approach close to shore. They may have been given the name because they were the right whales to hunt as they are rich in blubber, slow swimming and remain afloat after death. Consequently, whalers nearly hunted these whales to extinction. Currently right whales are monitored to determine the health and size of the population. The northern and southern right whales are on the endangered species list.

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In the era of Skype, web conferencing tools and collaboration software conventional wisdom says that distributed startup teams can be just as effective as those that are in person.

Conventional wisdom is wrong. Or more precisely the people espousing the benefits of distributed startups teams are often distributed and therefore self rationalizing it. Been there.

The reality is that a certain magic that happens when you’re in person is critical in a startup. You attend five customer meetings together over a two-week period and after each meeting you replay the results in the office about what it meant. The CEO weighs in with his perspectives, the head of product management disputes his conclusions and the marketing VP has a different take.

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IF THE private sector continues to save hard even as governments try to borrow less, the risks of a double-dip recession rise. A long period of high household saving seems assured in rich countries whose consumers lived off credit and have heavy debt burdens to show for it. But much of the recent increase in private-sector savings comes not from consumers but from businesses. Profits have been more than enough to cover corporate spending in many parts of the rich world, leaving an excess of funds for firms to squirrel away. A lot depends on whether this continues.

If cautious firms pile up more savings, the prospects for recovery are poor. Economies will be stuck in the current—and odd—configuration where corporate surpluses fund government deficits. If firms loosen their purse-strings to hire workers and to invest, that will allow governments to scale back their borrowing.

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Business-plan competitions have fostered a "contest economy" that promotes start-up activity and much-needed innovation.

Puneet Mehta, Archana Patchirajan, and Sonpreet Bhatia all had lucrative day jobs as technologists at big Wall Street firms when they learned about the NYC BigApps competition last October. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was calling on software developers to create mobile apps based on newly released city data. The two-month deadline gave the three Indian-born developers the incentive to build out an idea they had only talked about before. After 40 days, they had a one-stop application called NYC Way, which puts a compendium of city information at users' fingertips.

Their efforts were rewarded with $5,500 in cash prizes, a meeting with the mayor, and an overwhelmingly positive public reception for their product, which has become a popular download through Apple's App Store. Encouraged, the three partners quit their jobs and co-founded a business called MyCityWay, which now markets similar apps for seven additional cities and multiple platforms, earning revenue through partnerships. In April, the company received $300,000 in seed money from the NYC Entrepreneurial Fund, a new city fund set up to invest in start-ups. The company expects to make its first hires this summer.

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CODE OF ETHICS Two California colleges will analyze student DNA in new controversial projects. Heated debate surrounds the ethics of the universities' decisions to analyze student DNA

This week, the University of California, Berkeley will mail saliva sample kits to every incoming freshman and transfer student. Students can choose to use the kits to submit their DNA for genetic analysis, as part of an orientation program on the topic of personalized medicine. But U.C. Berkeley isn't the only university offering its students genetic testing. Stanford University's summer session started two weeks ago, including a class on personal genomics that gives medical and graduate students the chance to sequence their genotypes and study the results.

The idea behind the two novel projects is that students will learn about optimizing treatment based on one's genetic profile most effectively if they are studying their own DNA—an idea that has met with both praise for educational innovation and criticism centering on potential ethical issues.

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Entrepreneur Lars HinrichsEarly-stage investing has long been the problem child of European venture capital, with too few investors willing to finance untried technologies. Without government intervention, not much would get done in this area.

Now German serial entrepreneur Lars Hinrichs - founder of the business social networking site Xing, who sold his company to Burda Media last year for an estimated €48.3 million - is stepping into the gap with his own twist on the incubator concept. He recently launched Hamburg-based Hackfwd, a pre-seed investment company that will target European software entrepreneurs.

Although many of the ideas put forward by Hinrichs are not unlike those of a standard incubator - equity in exchange for advice and coaching to help speed the process of starting a company - Hackfwd does have a new take on finding people to back. Its tenet is to, “put geeks first”. It does this by seeking out software coders who perhaps aren’t even looking to start a company. Using the extensive network Hinrichs built up while at Xing, the company will track down entrepreneurs before they have even have a business plan or a prototype.

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Canadian University Graduates Are Going Back to the Classroom for Vocational Training 1Abdullah Muhaseen has an academic pedigree that would be the envy of many. He graduated from one of Canada's top universities, earning bachelor's degrees in both neuroscience and psychology.

A professional career in medical research or graduate studies seemed to be in his future, but Mr. Muhaseen choose a different path: He enrolled in a public college to become a paramedic.

The University of Toronto graduate is part of a growing trend in Canadian higher education. Driven in part by the slouching job market, the country's colleges are seeing a rise in applications from people who have already received degrees from leading universities.

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There are several stages of grief and they are well documented. It comes down to this: someone gives you some bad news. Depending on how bad it is you go through the following stages pretty quickly, or over a period of a few months:

1. Denial and Isolation.
2. Anger.
3. Bargaining.
4. Depression.
5. Acceptance.

I’m noticing a similar set of stages when it comes to innovative ideas. Nobody just accepts them. Most people actually start with rejecting anything thats new. That isn’t unreasonable either: most ‘new’ stuff fails. Hundreds of thousands of new things are tried out all the time and most don’t go anywhere. If you just react negative to most of it and declare “That won’t work” you will be right most of the time.

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A coalition of San Diego County business organizations is forging a new business cluster, focused on robotics, unmanned aerial vehicles, interoperability and cyber technologies.

The nascent Southwest Regional Innovation Cluster will compete for a total of $300 million in FY 2011 federal funding to be divvied up among 15 regional innovation clusters, said Gary Knight, CEO of the San Diego North Regional Economic Development Council. The first step, though, is to submit a funding proposal to the Small Business Administration, to get up to $600,000 to design the RIC.

The council and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International–San Diego, is helping the group to get organized, and recruit leaders.

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