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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.

With the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf on the way, a new crop of electric cars is just about ready for America. But is America ready for them? We'll need places to charge them, right?

Well, residents of the Pacific Northwest will be in good shape. Washington state is planning to line a long stretch of Interstate 5 with seven-to-ten Level-3 fast-charging stations, which can juice up a Leaf in as little as 15 minutes. Early adopters will be able to travel from the Canadian border to the Oregon state line without depleting their batteries. It's being touted as America's first "electric highway."

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The U.S. Small Business Administration says it will be making more than $7 million available to regional development clusters to help create job growth and new small business formation.

“Clusters bring together many businesses and organizations in a region to maximize the economic strengths of that region, enhancing its ability to compete on a national and global scale,” SBA administrator Karen Mills said.

After evaluating the various proposals, the agency will award grants of up to $600,000 to as many as 15 projects nationwide. The SBA’s cluster program will contain two distinct programs: regional innovation clusters and a partnership with the Department of Defense to develop advanced defense technology clusters.

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Rick Friedman for The New York Times  An M.I.T. idea lab helped Prof. Douglas Hart bring this scanner to market. Other colleges are also hatching products. DOUGLAS P. HART, a professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who sold his last start-up for a tidy $95 million, is already on to his next big thing.

On Tuesday, he expects to lock up $1.5 million in funding for his new start-up, Lantos Technologies. The company has developed a 3-D scanner that it hopes will streamline the current generation of earphones and hearing aids by precisely fitting them to the dimensions of the ear canal, right up to the eardrum.

“We’re hoping people will be able to walk in the store and have their ears scanned like people get their ears pierced today,” he says. “That’ll lower the cost because they don’t have to go to a specialty doctor.”

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The 2010 Economic Gardening Conference was a great success. Some of the presenters have given us permission to post their PowerPoint slides. Stay tuned because we will also be adding some video content from the conference as well.

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Harvard Business School professor William Sahlman believes that the most talented start-up management teams with good ideas have no problem getting capital these days.

But to reattain the level of start-up creation America enjoyed in the 1990s, at least two things need to happen: A company like Facebook needs to have an initial public offering that rises in price, and a new technology -- something on the order of the Internet -- needs to emerge and attract business capital investment.

In an interview this past week, Sahlman expressed confidence that there is no shortage of capital available for top-tier entrepreneurs who can field strong teams to go after big markets with good ideas. For those companies, both venture-capital firms and so-called "angel" investors will appear.

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Don't Get Trapped: Working CapitalEvery company I speak with wants to grow. Growth is a sign of vitality and is or should be a source of profit. Perhaps, profitable growth is a better way to describe what everyone aspires to achieve.

If that is the goal, then what gets in the way more often than anything else? The answer is two-fold.

The first explanation involves “people working on the wrong things. Inadequate staffing in quality of quantity can stifle growth. But so can spending valuable people-time working on the wrong things—either customers or products that are not profitable or market segments that are unattractive (for a whole range of reasons)—or it could be just battling complexity caused by customer, product or market proliferation in the past.

The second (and most common) problem is shortages of working capital. Few small companies and a surprising number of larger ones overlook what I call the “working capital trap.” Here’s how companies fall into the working capital trap and what kind of damage it can do.

A New Product is Born

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Following up on the roll out of its first smart grid products last month, Cisco Systems announced today perhaps the most important component of any home energy management system: a consumer-facing interface.

The networking giant has been on a mission to establish its dominance in the smart grid market for over a year. But it has only recently been making good on all its talk, launching what it calls its lineup of “Connected Grid Solutions.” In May, it launched a substation router and switch designed to facilitate wireless communication between smart energy meters, utilities, and household devices, including energy management dashboards.

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It’s a different age. According to a study conducted by GOGII, maker of text messaging app textPlus, more and more workplace conversations are now happening via text message. Consider:

  • 11% of recently college graduates think it’s okay to ask for a raise by text
  • 32% say it’s okay to call in sick by text
  • 11% think it’s okay to quit a job by text

And they claim it’s getting worse, with younger people even more permissive of this kind of texting.

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New Jersey has passed new legislation to help set up offshore wind farms in its waters.

The Offshore Wind Economic Development Act will set up a program to provide a guaranteed income for companies that build offshore wind farms in the state.

State utilities would be required to buy a proportion of power from offshore wind projects to meet their state renewable energy targets, under an energy certificates program run by the Board of Public Utilities.

The new law also provides $100 million in tax credits to help offshore wind energy developers.

New Jersey is hoping to support at lease 1,100 megawatts of offshore wind capacity through the measures, with hopes of 3,000MW being developed by 2020.

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ecomagination wind turbine bladeClimate activism isn't just for nonprofits and idealistic individuals. Sometime, major corporations get on board in a big way--literally, in the case of GE, which recently sent a 131-foot wind turbine blade to Washington, D.C.'s Nationals Park for the 2010 Congressional Baseball Game. The blade, which is 75 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty, comes from a 1.5 MW turbine manufactured in South Dakota that provides enough energy for 400 homes.

GE company teamed up with the American Wind Energy Association to gather signatures on the blade as it traveled 4,000 miles to its final destination in DC. Vic Abate, vice president for renewables at GE Energy, explained in a statement:

"Manufactured in South Dakota, the wind turbine blade symbolizes how clean energy creates new U.S. manufacturing jobs in addition to providing clean power for America’s homes and factories. It’s clear from the more than 6,000 signatures on this traveling petition that Americans are calling on the president and Congress to act now on clean energy policies that will increase energy security, reduce dependence on foreign oil and build a more sustainable clean energy future."
Read more ...'s fledgling venture capital market has hit a ''trough'' and needs public money to stimulate its return to growth, according to the European Investment Fund – the EU's long-term investment body. EurActiv reports from the European Business Summit (EBS) in Brussels.

Richard Pelly, chief executive of the European Investment Bank, said that while some are predicting the death of venture capital in Europe, he sees great opportunities, provided that the right kind of backing is given.

Failure to develop a well-functioning venture capital system would scupper Europe's efforts to build an innovative SME-led knowledge economy, he added.

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