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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.

Apple and China - Two Unstoppable Innovation LocomotivesIt is so fascinating that everywhere I go in China this week, people are trying to sell me the Chinese versions of iPhone, iPad and other iThings that Apple has yet invented. I was really interesting to get my hands on the Apple Skin, the nickname of a Chinese original (yes, original, patent cleared) add on device that turned an iTouch into an iPhone but unfortunately they were taken off the market, so I went for an iHaircut instead. Not bad at all, there is really no risk for me here, it is not like buying an iPhone here in China. You never know what you’ll get.

One guy showed me how it works; it was working really well when I used it to make a test call. That’s a real innovation that Apple missed. You can make calls and send text with this silicone rubber case with a SIM card slot and a dock connector. It is produced by a start-up Yosion Technology and was selling for RMB 388 (US$57) apiece. The gadget was invented by a 24-year-old Chinese graduate who felt it “inconvenient to have a mobile and an iPod Touch at the same time, and decided to solve the problem himself. We need more people like him.

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Technicians in front solar panel array (NREL)The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) selected five projects to build and strengthen what it calls “innovation ecosystems” designed to accelerate the movement of new energy technologies from university laboratories to the market. This is the first time DoE has funded this type of university-based commercialization.

The ecosystems will bring together universities, the private sector, the federal government and DoE’s national laboratories to identify and develop new clean energy technologies and help them succeed in the marketplace. The projects will receive a total of $5.3 million in federal funding over three years, which are expected to be supplemented with grantee investments, for a total of $9 million.

The innovation ecosystem awards are led by universities or nonprofits based in five states, and include a total of 80 project partners from across the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors. DoE says the projects listed below were selected to help nurture and mentor entrepreneurs, pursue intellectual property protection for technological innovations, engage surrounding businesses and venture capital investors, and integrate sustainable entrepreneurship and innovation across university schools and departments.

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BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP) approved the investment of $480,300 in regional companies. BFTP/NEP is an award-winning, state-funded economic development organization that links early-stage technology firms and established companies with experts, universities, funding, and other resources to help them prosper through innovation.

Since beginning operation, BFTP/NEP has helped to create 14,301 new jobs and retain 21,236 existing jobs, to start 408 new companies, and to develop 948 new products and processes. The Pennsylvania Ben Franklin program returns $3.50 to the state for every $1.00 invested.

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What does it mean to be an entrepreneur? I have heard far too many answers to this question. Everything from being a risk taker, inventor, a small business owner, to being just plain crazy or lucky. But none of these things have anything to do with entrepreneurialism, and frankly neither does much of what I have read in business books. Even the always insightful Malcolm Gladwell, in a recent New Yorker article on the subject, only got it half right.

Being an entrepreneur is something far different than what most people think. It is not about behavior (whether risk-prone or risk-averse); it is not about business type (you can run a small business, a public company, a division of a company, or be an investor); and it is not about title (you do not have to be a CEO to be an entrepreneur). Instead, I see it as a personality trait. There are plenty of small business owners and start-up founders who do exceptionally well — but are not what I would consider entrepreneurs. Just like in big business, you can be a successful general manager without being an entrepreneur or entrepreneurial.

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I believe the rise in angel investing is here to stay and the professionalization of this class (aka “super angels” or “micro VC”) is a good thing for the VC industry and for entrepreneurs. It is basically a return to the type of VC that was done 20 years ago long before the craziness of the Internet boom that skewed things so greatly.

But with its growth and success it will encourage many people to enter the market who will lack 5 critical success criteria for earning positive returns.

This is exactly what happened in the broader VC industry between 1999-2001 as many people without the requisite skills entered the industry. I believe that if you have 5 distinct skills you have a good chance at making great returns. I will publish what I believe the five are in a series of articles.

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Whу іѕ іt thаt ѕοmе business owners јυѕt сrеаtе a mediocre business whіlе οthеr саn develop multiple businesses thаt аll skyrocket tο success? Well іt’s simple really. Thеу hаνе one major bυt distinct dіffеrеnсе. It’s thеіr mindset.

Thе entrepreneurs thаt seem tο hаνе “Thе Midis Touch” аnd everything turns tο gold аnd thеіr businesses always seem tο јυѕt boom look аt life аnd look аt business іn a particular way. Thеу see things differently thаn thе masses οf people аnd οthеr entrepreneurs; thеу hаνе a trυе entrepreneurial mindset.

Now whу іѕ thаt? Wеrе thеу born wіth a сеrtаіn way οf looking аt life? Nο, thеу hаνе spent time аnd spent energy developing themselves tο hаνе a particular set οf beliefs аnd tο thіnk a сеrtаіn way. Thеу hаνе developed thіѕ mindset.

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Council chaired by Prime Minister to review progress of programmes implemented by the National Research Foundation and advise on the next phase of development.

The Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council (RIEC), chaired by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, will convene its 4th meeting in Singapore from 15 to 17 September 2010.

The theme of the 4th RIEC meeting is “Growing Singapore’s Economy through Research, Innovation and Enterprise.” The RIEC will review the progress of the range of initiatives implemented by the National Research Foundation (NRF) since the set up of the RIEC and NRF in 2006.

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I had coffee with an ex student earlier in the week that reminded me how startups burn through so many early VP’s – but still have a hard time articulating why. Here’s one possible explanation – Job titles in a startup mean something different than titles in a large company.

I hadn’t seen Rajiv in the two years since he started his second company. He had raised a seed round and then a Series A from a name brand Venture firm. I was glad to see him but it was clear over coffee that he was struggling with his first hiring failure.

“I’ve been running our company, cycling through Customer Discovery and Validation and the board suggested that I was running out of bandwidth and needed some help in closing our initial orders. They suggested I get a VP of Sales to help.”

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Consumers are flocking to smartphones and the downloadable software that runs on them as fervently as mobile-technology investors had hoped. But so far, iPhone, BlackBerry and Android users have shown a preference for applications that extend well-known Web properties, rather than apps that have appeared for mobile devices only.

Associated Press
Mobile application Shopkick, which allows consumers to check in with retail stores for coupons

In a recent report by The Pew Research Center and Nielsen Co., the most popular apps on all platforms are those made by Facebook Inc., the Weather Channel, Google Maps and Pandora Inc. – all mobile versions of well-traveled Web services and sites.

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slingshot_sept10.jpgAs promised, open source social network and Facebook alternative Diaspora released its source code yesterday. And while it's a developer release meant to be hacked on and is by no means a finished, there are already of plenty of predictions that Diaspora will fail - or at the least, that the project represents no threat to Facebook.

Diaspora is hardly unique as a startup that faces major challenges by entering into a market or an industry where big companies are well-established.

On a recent TechZing podcast, for example, hosts Jason Roberts and Justin Vincent asked Gabriel Weinberg, founder of the search engine DuckDuckGo if being in the same realm as Google "isn't that, like, crazy?" But as Weinberg points out, he's able to "do things that Google can't copy easily." For example, DuckDuckGo is able to delivery more satisfactory search results than Google, contends Weinberg, because he can actively address questions of spam without facing charges of censorship or anti-trust - something Google can't do because of its size.

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Yep. I’m going there again.

When I looked at the “Summer Davos” program, the panel I was most excited to attend was about the role of women in Asian workforces. The role of women in China is fascinating: Despite real problems of gender equality issues—not to mention the role karaoke bars play in business negotiations – women have also helped power China’s rise, migrating en masse to factories and aggressively learning new skills to climb their own socio-economic ladders.

And new research by the World Economic Forum shows that for the first time women and men are entering college at the same rate in China. And while only 20% of leadership roles in China are held by women, it does better than many Asian neighbors. In terms of professional equality, Japan lags far behind and India ranks as one of the worst. I was fascinated to talk about these differences, hoping maybe there was some sort of gender-equivalent of the “greenfield advantages” emerging markets face over the developed world.

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