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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.

There is no doubt that these are tough economic times. Unemployment is high and credit is tight. Key indicates show that is the worse economy in a generation. Many technology transfer offices have seen potential business partners reduce their innovation portfolios and expenditures. This coupled with a reduction in funding sources, from grants and investors to university sources are blowing the technology transfer research commercialization efforts into the perfect storm.

There are difficulties and challenges, but these times also create opportunities. Here are seven tips to help your technology transfer office succeed in these tough economic times.

1. Maintain a list of problems that are relevant to the research and technologies in the pipeline.

Technology transfer offices typically get involved in research commercialization efforts late in the research and testing process. Get involved earlier in the process and start developing a list of problems of which the research can be applied.

This is really an early brainstorming exercise. Don’t just talk to the researchers. Get business input from those who are not involved with the research or the research teams. Independent ideas can be worth their weight in gold.

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Now Hiring GorillaFor entrepreneurs trying to form a startup, one of the first challenges they face that persists throughout the businesses life is how to find and keep talented partners and employees. From finding that first co-founder to finding the prolific programmers to fill your ranks later down the line, talent acquisition is always a major step in any business. Just look at some of the deals that have gone down in the Valley; Facebook didn't buy FriendFeed for their technology, that deal was mostly about getting FriendFeed's talented employees on the Facebook team.

A new book from author David Russo, 17 Rules Successful Companies Use to Attract and Keep Top Talent: Why Engaged Employees Are Your Greatest Sustainable Advantage, seeks to make this process more clear for businesses. Russo

altRusso is the CEO of Eno River Associates, Inc., which is a consulting service that helps business executives build better team relationships. Their portfolio of clients includes American Express, Johnson & Johnson, and the CIA. With his new book, Russo outlines the key strategies he has learned over the years as a consultant and human resources executive that has helped him and others create winning teams.

17 Rules CoverThe book doesn't waste any time getting into its 17 rules; after a brief introduction the entirety of the book consists of one chapter per rule. The rules cover a broad base of topics, including the more straightforward rule #4, "Provide Ample and Appropriate Resources," to the more abstract rule #12, "Understand Human Capital." One of the key rules that sticks out to me is #3, "Cultivate Leadership, Not Management, and Know the Difference!"

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Baby cryingOne of the questions I’m most often asked is, “what’s it like being a VC?”  I’ve been a VC for nearly 3 years now.  Since I answer this all the time anyway I thought it might make an interesting blog post.  I always start my answer to this question with, “you’d have to be a pretty big baby to complain about being a VC.” That’s true.  Here’s why:

1. I get paid (well) for interesting people to come in and tell me how they want to change the world – Being an entrepreneur is like having blinders on.  At least for the best entrepreneurs.  Some people do the conference circuit too much, get involved in lots of side projects and attend every entrepreneur dinner.  For me that’s always a bad sign.  When I was running startups I felt like a horse with blinders on because I was super focused on the content management market and ignored many other markets.

One of the things that I’m loving about this side of the people is that it really satisfies my intellectual curiosity. People come into my office several times per week and tell my about their plans for changing the world. They outline the problems that exist in markets, their approach to the solutions, they update me on competitors and they show me their economic models. We have debates about how the industries will change / evolve. It is the equivalent of going to a coffee shop every day and having intellectual debates. In fact, I often take meetings in coffee shops. I LOVE this part of my job.

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Reauthorizing the American COMPETES Act provides an opportunity to continue policies the U.S. needs to compete in the innovation-based global economy, but more can and should be done. In this report, ITIF President Rob Atkinson outlines eight ideas to improve the U.S. innovation system by leveraging non-federal resources and spurring education, technology commercialization, and institutional reforms at the federal level.

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WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday approved a $15 billion measure intended to spur job creation by granting tax breaks to businesses that hire workers, as Democrats, bracing for new jobless figures, tried to show that Congress was doing something about stubborn unemployment.

Democrats pushed through the measure on a mainly party-line vote of 217 to 201. They characterized the measure, which also funneled an extra $20 billion into road and bridge construction, as just the first step in a broad legislative push to bolster the economy and encourage hiring.

Representative Bob Etheridge, Democrat of North Carolina, said the bill was “really all about our three most important priorities in this Congress: jobs, jobs, jobs.” He estimated that the measure could create one million jobs.

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I have stated before that, while I don’t know the guy and have never met him, Marc Andreessen is probably the entrepreneur of my generation that I most admire.

Today I came across a post on TechCrunch where Marc is quoted as saying that Old Media needs to burn the boats. I love this type of bold strategies. When Cortes came to Mexico he burnt the boats so they had no choice but to conquer, Marc says media companies need to do the same thing. The post is short and well worth your read but here’s my favorite quotes.

We got to talking about how media companies are handling the digital disruption of the Internet when he brought up the Cortes analogy. “You gotta burn the boats,” he told me, “you gotta commit.” His point is that if traditional media companies don’t burn their own boats, somebody else will.
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Venture Capital Market Warming Up in CanadaThe venture capital business hasn’t exactly been setting the house on fire in Canada in recent years. The number of successful exits has been tiny, and some funds have all but dried up or stopped making new investments. According to a recent survey released by the Canadian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association, investment levels in 2009 were the lowest they’ve been in over a decade. That said, there have been some encouraging signs that money is starting to flow — or may soon begin to flow — into smaller-stage companies: A new $20 million investment fund called Mantella Venture Partners launched this week, and the Quebec government also announced that it’s selected three seed-capital venture funds to receive a total of C$100 million ($96.82 million) in provincial funding.

Mantella Venture Partners is a collaboration between Mantella Corp. — a family-owned real estate development firm based in Toronto — and Basecamp Labs, a technology fund run by Robin Axon and Duncan Hill. Both Axon and Hill were formerly at Vancouver-based Ventures West, and left to set up Basecamp Labs, which they describe as an “accelerator” for early-stage companies. The fund provides financing for startups, but also gets involved in hands-on support, including business development, marketing and team development. Hill says that he feels that the “more passive investment model that is common in Silicon Valley” works there because the Valley has a strong ecosystem of repeat entrepreneurs, but that a more hands-on approach works better in a market like Toronto, where most startups are run by first-timers.

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A new report from Harvard asks "Why are some metropolitan areas so much more entrepreneurial than others? Silicon Valley seems almost magically entrepreneurial with a new startup on every street corner, but in declining Rust Belt cities such startups are far and few between."

The report notes a close correlation with regional economic growth.

The new Policy Brief published by Harvard’s Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, which is sponsoring a series of talks on geography and entrepreneurship, economists Edward Glaeser and William Kerr report that high levels of entrepreneurship are closely correlated with regional economic growth, which means that local policy makers who are looking for ways to rev the economic engines of their cities often are interested in policies that can generate more entrepreneurship. Read more.

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DeLene BeelandRALEIGH — You may be familiar with the idea that American businesses – especially those tied to technology and engineering – fret that our country is losing its innovative edge on the global stage. And because innovation drives technological advancement and economic growth – one might even say, hegemony – it’s a looming threat that many in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields are scrambling to address.

But STEM fields are facing a crisis of their own – fewer graduates in the jobs pipeline compared to industry demands, and companies hiring foreigners for STEM jobs because they are better qualified.

Friday morning in Raleigh, a group of engineers from industry, academia and even government met to discuss the threat of America losing its global lead in innovation. The panel discussion was part of a Summit on the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges sponsored by N.C. State and Duke universities. (To learn more about the NAE Grand Challenges, go here.) Titled “American Innovation and Competitiveness,” the panel was chaired by Lynn Soby, vice president of innovation and commercialization at RTI International in Research Triangle Park. It was one of seven sessions spanning March 4-5.

Three panelists representing public and private industry and government emphasized that the problem could not be fully addressed unless the nation’s secondary education system is revolutionized.

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A recent article in Strategy+ Business on The Promise and Perils of Open Collaboration presented seven strategies you can use to make your open collaboration a success that are worth repeating.

  1. Craft a Leadership Message
    The best CEOs articulate a leadership message that is both universal and of immediate relevance to a company's strategic needs. Open collaboration is a social process that needs to extend beyond R&D and penetrate the entire organization. For that to happen, a clear message of support needs to come from the top.
  2. Collaborate with Your Customers
    Keeping abreast of the changing needs of consumers in a global marketplace is a tall order. Open collaboration provides new ways to incorporate customers' ideas and in some verticals, you'll find that lead users can generate more than half of your innovations.
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