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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.

A great quote found Roger von Oech’s book, ““A Whack on the Side of the Head” reads as follows…

“Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else
and thinking something different.

The quote is attributed to the Nobel prize winning physician Albert Szent-Györgyi.

You’ve probably heard the expression, “There is no such thing as a new idea.” Discovery suggests, rather, that there are new ways to look at things.

But, how do you look at something different?

One method I recommend is to “SCAMPER.”

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Electric cars and biofuels seem to inhabit different universes these days. Nissan, General Motors, Toyota, Volkswagen, Honda, Ford, BMW, Tesla Motors, Fisker Automotive and Daimler, among others, have unfurled plans to release affordable electric cars over the next few years. Thousands of consumers have plunked down deposits on upcoming models and states have sought grants to pay for charging networks.

Meanwhile, biofuel startups, struggling for cash, have branched into jet fuel, chemicals and food additives as a way to get revenue to come in the door.

The liquid versus electrolyte debate, however, is not over, according to Britta Gross, the director of the energy systems group intelligence center at General Motors. Gross' job is to examine the costs/ benefits of the different propulsion systems for cars and the corresponding infrastructure. (Editor's Note: we spoke to her right before GM filed for its IPO.)

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Having never taken a business class in college I find that I read and listen to a lot of business books to round out my education. The books usually aren't "How to Manage Your Cash Flow" but rather get me to rethink the way I run my business, which--despite no business classes or diploma--continues to be in business 13 plus years after I started it.

In that time, here are 13 of the books that had the biggest impact on how I run my business (in no particular order):

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink: If you supervise anyone in your business, this book is a must read. It shows that what science knows about motivation, business isn't putting into practice. In fact, many of the incentives we create can actually de-motivate our employees. If you create an incentive program that provides financial rewards for work that your employees already enjoy, expect the results to be negative. You've just destroyed their internal motivation. Also important (and well documented within the book) is that internally motivated people succeed more often than externally motivated people; they last longer and do better work. Think about that when you're hiring your next employee.

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Technology transfer from universities and federal laboratories has evolved and matured over the last 30 years. Today, it is widely accepted that technology transfer must be able to encompass partnerships that go beyond licensing technologies flowing serendipitously out of federally funded scientific research. Across the academic and federal sectors, sponsored research and collaborative endeavors with industry have become expected. The Department of Energy’s national laboratories have long embraced this effort, working with small and large, and national and international companies and consortia to develop and move technologies closer to and into the marketplace.

A wonderful aspect of humanity is that we have the capability to choose to evolve, mature and improve our circumstances. And so, as we move into and beyond Web 2.0, Government 2.0 and other next-generation concepts, deeper into the 21st century, so too are we seeing a next generation of federal technology transfer begin to blossom. We are coming to understand and implement “innovation ecosystems” and “open innovation” models that recognize the importance of integrating disciplines and of bringing people together to exchange ideas—creating synergies and a more mature innovation pathway better able to address the larger problems of this new millennium.

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Germany-based Brand Science Institute,
a renowned think-tank focused on brand and consumer management, has carried out a fairly extensive study on corporate social media projects over the past 7 months.

Focal point of the research was a desire to understand why (most)
social media projects tend to be utter failures. BSI questioned 560+
marketers representing 52 brands from some of the largest companies
across 12 European countries, and poured the end results in a

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A reader asks: I have employees that are creating intellectual property that is essential to my business. How can I make sure that the company retains ownership of it?

Answer: In general, if you are dealing with employees, the answer is pretty straightforward — the IP will probably be owned by the company, not the employee. However, there are some gray areas, since this area of the law incorporates both intellectual property and employment law principles. So get a lawyer who understands the cross section of these areas involved to help you navigate these waters.

Typically, someone who creates work that is fixed in a tangible means of expression is considered the “author” of the copyrighted work. United States copyright law, however, has created an exception in which the company, not the person who created the work, is deemed to be the author. When used, this means all rights vest with the company, not the individual. There are numerous ways that someone can transfer the ownership of intellectual property to the company (generally through a written agreement). But about the only way for the company to “author” the work is to have a work for hire.

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google-goldfishAfter seeing hundreds of startup pitches for this year's Capital Factory program, I can tell you that the two most common errors in positioning a company against competition are, strangely, opposites:

1. Claiming you have no competition.
2. Defining your company's offering and positioning by combining "the best" traits of 6 competitors.

This isn't just a problem when pitching — it's a problem with you defining who your customers are, what they want, and your role in the marketplace.

Let's break down the ways these fallacies manifest and what you can do instead.

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At one point or another, you had to learn how to tie your shoes. Who doesn’t remember the ‘loop it and swoop it’ method, or the famous ‘bunny ears’ rhyme? But now that you’ve mastered the whole shoe-fastening thing, why not play around and have some fun with your shoelace style? These original techniques illustrate that when it comes to laces, there's a lot of room for creativity we aren't yet exploring.

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Marcelo Marzola, the 33-year-old co-founder of, is a perfect example of how hot Brazil's $1.6 trillion economy has become — and why its entrepreneurs are now getting their phone calls returned by venture capitalists after a decade of "You're from where?"

Marzola was invited to present his company's free online behavioral-targeting tool, BTBuckets, at the Google I/O Web-developer conference in San Francisco in May. To get ogled at the Google conference is the goal of any Web developer. Marzola earned rave reviews for creating what has become a de facto standard, used on more than 2,000 websites in 90 countries by such corporate titans as Pfizer, Motorola and Unilever. The product fills an overlooked niche in the industry by allowing websites to segment their users according to their online habits and then direct targeted content and advertising to them in real time. "It has turned the industry on its head, and it's gaining mass recognition," says Daniel Waisberg, an industry consultant and a former chair of marketing of the Web Analytics Association. (See the 50 best websites of 2009.)

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Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern PennsylvaniaPHILADELPHIA  - The Energy Commercialization Institute (ECI), the region’s first university-based energy commercialization partnership, has awarded $510K to five regional alternative and clean technology companies and three university-based research projects.

The funding is intended to jump-start promising technologies and help build Southeastern Pennsylvania’s alternative energy infrastructure.

The ECI, with funding from the Commonwealth’s Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority, was  created by Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/SEP),

Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania and Penn State University.  It supports the commercialization of energy-sector technology through translational research and sponsored research funding. 

The ECI’s first awards come from two separate funds:

  • The Energy Sponsored Research Agreement Fund (ESRA) provides matching funds for Sponsored Research Agreements to support institutional research for the advancement of a company’s
    existing technology.
  • The Energy Translational Research Fund (ETRF) provides funding directly to institutional researchers to support multi-institutional projects with a high degree of potential success.

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buoysAs the semester quickly approaches, I find myself trying to shift gears from summer-writing mode to semester-juggling mode. In the summer, I have the luxury of devoting the majority of my time and energy to my research agenda. There are no courses to prepare, no papers to grade, no committee meetings to attend, and no students to advise. The writing can take as long as it takes, which is often the better part of a day. During the semester, however, many of us aren't so lucky. We have to find a way to balance research with teaching and service, and that can be very difficult to do.

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There is a general consensus that web startups are being created at a faster rate than ever. The impact of accelerator programs like Y Combinator, Techstars, Seedcamp, and dozens more are one factor. The expanding pool of angel, seed, and super seed funds is another. And the most important factor is how cheap it is to build and launch a web service these days. You can bootstrap your way into existence.

I like to think of the venture capital business like parenting. When I invest in a company, I am committing to the care and feeding of the company until cash flow breakeven (the startup equivalent of adulthood). That care and feeding includes the decision to call it quits and give up on the project sometimes, but honestly that doesn't happen that much in our portfolios.

So when I look at this expanding birthrate, I think "who is going to house, feed, school, and send all these kids to college?"

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