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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.

As a person who works with a number of firms attempting to improve innovation capabilities, I [Jeffrey Phillips] am constantly astonished by the disconnect between what senior executives say they want and what actually gets done in most businesses, at least within the context of innovation. As they say in government, the president proposes and Congress disposes. Most executives I interact with say they want innovation, but the force of their desire and the clarity of their vision doesn't translate down to the people who will actually do the work. I think there are at least three reasons for this.

First, most senior executives aren't innovators themselves. Most senior executives grew through the organization and moved up by being effective stewards of the company's funds, resource and culture. Most of them were respectful of the history of the company and the brands. They progressed by doing things well, and doing things efficiently. Few senior executives in most organizations got to their posts by being demonstrably different. In fact we create celebrities of the CEOs like Jobs from Apple or Branson from Virgin who are really different CEOs, who shook up an industry or market. Since most senior executives weren't innovators and didn't obtain their jobs because of innovation, they don't really understand what's required when they say they want "innovation". If your CEO or senior executive team is asking for innovation from the organization and you believe they haven't defined what they really want, stop waiting for the definition. Like pornography they'll know it when they see it and not before, and will probably struggle giving you a definition. If you decide to respond, simply write down your objectives and how you think that aligns to corporate strategy and start innovating. Most likely your model will be adopted.

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Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn) recently introduced sweeping legislation that aims to rein in the excesses that led large financial institutions to become “too big to fail.” Somewhat ironically, it also has the potential, as one commentator put it, to make startups “too small to succeed.” In the rush to prevent future problems, we risk taking resources away from our entrepreneurs who are the economic engines that create jobs and help grow GDP.

Two Problems for Entrepreneurs

There are two small and seemingly innocuous provisions buried in the over 1,300 pages of this bill that almost certainly will hurt startups, particularly those at the earliest stages. Both have been opposed by the Angel Capital Association and the National Venture Capital Association. The first (sections 412 and 413) would change the definition of “accredited investor.” The second (section 926) would delegate at least part of the oversight for private placement filings—known as Regulation D—from the federal level to states.

These may be small provisions, but they will have no small effect. According to a study last year by the Kauffman Foundation, so-called “gazelle” firms (ages three to five years) comprise less than 1 percent of all companies, yet generate roughly 10 percent of new jobs in any given year. Even more to the point, remove startups from the job creation totals, and only six years from 1977-2005 saw net positive job creation. In the other 28 years of this span, without startups there would have been net job losses. The jobs attributed to startups reflect both the innovation entrepreneurs bring and the net growth to GDP that’s been heavily documented by both the Kauffman Foundation and NVCA.

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Electronic wastePublic-health problems and environmental degradation caused by recycling of old computer equipment could skyrocket in the next two decades, as increasingly wealthy consumers in countries such as India and China ditch their obsolete hardware.

Within six to eight years, developing countries will be disposing of more old computers than the developed world, suggests a study published today in Environmental Science & Technology1. And by 2030, these nations will be disposing of two to three times as many computers as the developed world, perhaps resulting in up to 1 billion computers being dumped worldwide every year — up from a global total of around 180 million units per year now.

What this means, says study author Eric Williams, an environmental engineer at Arizona State University, Tempe, is that even if the flow of obsolete computers exported from the developed world for recycling is completely shut off, the developing world will still have to cope with a massive amount of domestic electronic waste.

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Here's a video from Tom Peters, the author of The Little Big Things, in which he discusses that companies need innovation in all parts of an organization--not just research and development. What are some examples of companies that have innovated throughout different departments? Take a look at the 2 min clip below.

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Technology company CEOs will be in Washington on Wednesday to meet with senior Obama officials and congressional leaders to talk up the importance of innovation to the economy's recovery and job growth.

The CEOs are members of TechNet, which represents firms such as Cisco, Apple and Microsoft. They plan to advocate for a three-pronged approach to innovation policy:

  • improving the nation's education system and support
  • fostering a globally competitive business climate
  • driving investment for clean technology and "21st century energy solutions"
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GM EN-VToo tipsy or tired to drive yourself home? GM's Electric Networked Vehicle (EN-V) can help. The concept vehicle platform, an extension of the Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility (P.U.M.A.) prototype that was developed by Segway last year, is like a personal form of public transportation.

GM explains:

EN-V, which is short for Electric Networked-Vehicle, maintains the core principle of personal mobility -– freedom –- while helping remove the motor vehicle from the environmental debate and redefining design leadership. EN-V is a two-seat electric vehicle that was designed to alleviate concerns surrounding traffic congestion, parking availability, air quality and affordability for tomorrow's cities. "EN-V reinvents the automobile by creating a new vehicle DNA through the convergence of electrification and connectivity. It provides an ideal solution for urban mobility that enables future driving to be free from petroleum and emissions, free from congestion and accidents, and more fun and fashionable than ever before," said Kevin Wale, President and Managing Director of the GM China Group.
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Nine local projects designed to expand the state’s “knowledge economy,” a cluster of high-tech, biotechnology and design enterprises, were awarded $150,000 in grants from the federal government and the city of Providence Wednesday.

Six of the projects will be funded with $100,000 from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration and three with $50,000 from the Providence Economic Development Partnership.

Many of the projects are designed to link researchers and entrepreneurs in the hopes of developing new business ventures. They were selected by the Innovation Providence Implementation Council (IPIC) set up by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce.

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The UK government has sounded out plans to set up an exclusive group of technology and innovation centres across the country.

They will focus on developing technology and methods that will help Britain commercialise its world-renowned academic research in order to derive economic benefits.

The announcement was made by UK Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, who was attending a presentation which was being given by technology entrepreneur Hermann Hauser.

The latter outlined the benefits of commercialising innovation centres and gave examples of similar technology groups run by countries around the world.

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Robotic op: The latest version of the da Vinci robot, a $2.5 million technology, allows two surgeons to operate together. Credit: Emily Singer/Technology ReviewAn eight-year-old girl lies in an operating room in Children's Hospital Boston, propped up on one side, ready for surgery. She had been complaining of pains in her side, and a scan revealed a blockage in her left kidney.

In most hospitals, she'd get a six-inch slice down her abdominal wall, giving surgeons access to her kidney during open surgery, and would then spend four to five days recovering in the hospital. But this Monday morning she is about to undergo a robotic surgical procedure. In about three hours, she'll leave the operating room with a one-inch incision covered by a regular Band-Aid. She'll most likely return home the next day.

Surgeon Hiep Nguyen, a specialist in pediatric urology and robotic surgery, says the da Vinci robot has greatly expanded the complexity of the minimally invasive surgeries he can perform. It offers three-dimensional vision and articulated tips on the surgical tools that go inside the patient, which allows for smaller, finer movements than traditional laparoscopy. At a recent talk in Boston, Nguyen described complex reconstructive surgeries--fashioning a urethra from an appendix, for example--that just a few years ago would have required open surgery.

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Thirty years ago the "Japan Inc." partnership between government and industry created an economic powerhouse. Today, those same players are actively blocking innovators in Japan from creating similar success in the fast-growing, new digital economy.

According to allegations in a case to be decided March 30, 2010 by the Tokyo District Court, government bureaucrats have engaged in seemingly corrupt practices to keep up-and-coming ecommerce companies from challenging fossilized brick-and-mortar incumbents.

In June 2009, Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor & Welfare imposed new regulations on the sale of non-prescription pharmaceutical products commonly known as "Over-The-Counter" products. (In Japan OTC are those products needing no prescription such as mild pain relievers, cold remedies and items like pregnancy tests). The suit by and Wellnet Corp., two Japanese online drugstores, alleges that Health ministry bureaucrats colluded with brick-and-mortar chain drug stores to ban online sales of OTC products.

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graphYou already know the about the state of the venture capital industry in 2009: venture investing down (32%), exits down (14%; slowest exit year for VC backed companies since 1995), fundraising down (56%),IPO’s almost non-existent (8 venture backed IPOs in 2009). It’s a bleak picture for the industry overall, even if there’s a group of us that continue to believe this is a great market in which to be investing (and it clearly is). These stats got me thinking about the future of the venture industry and I thought I’d offer up some thoughts on where we might be headed.

First, let me frame the conversation by stating that I agree with Fred Wilson’s assumption that somewhere around $15Bn is the right “steady state” investment pace for the venture industry as an asset class. At this investment level the return profile of the industry maps to a reasonable expectation of inputs and outputs (the money invested in start-ups as compared to the exit activity). By that measure, we actually still have a ways to go to reach that equilibrium in the venture markets.

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Digital Media WireSan Francisco - Mike Maples, whose investment vehicle Maples Investments has over the past five years backed firms including Twitter, Digg, Smule and Gowalla, announced on Wednesday the launch of a full-fledged venture capital firm, dubbed Floodgate, TechCrunch reported.

Maples said that Ann Miura-Ko will be brought in as his first full-time partner and co-founder of Floodgate.

Maples calls his investment strategy the "Super Angel" model, seeking out potentially "disruptive" technologies at early stages.

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