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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.

My PhotoIndustryWeek (Giffi, Vice Chairman, Deloitte LLP) - CEOs around the world say that the U.S. is no longer the most competitive location for manufacturing, says Deloitte. Working with the Council on Competitiveness, we are concluding a multi-year survey on global competitiveness in manufacturing to learn how CEOs and other senior leaders view manufacturing industry competitiveness around the world. While we won't have the final survey results until the spring, and more CEOs are responding each day, our work has already revealed findings that should cause us all to pause, take stock, and formulate a new path forward.

While this type of research will continue throughout the year, including a number of face-to-face discussions with senior manufacturing executives around the world, I can already outline several characteristics that I believe will be inherent to the leading manufacturing organizations of the future. Chief among these are:

  • Global Orientation: Successful, sustainable manufacturers will be global, even if they never manufacture products outside their home nation. They will open their business processes to benefit from collaboration with partners around the world. They will pursue their markets and their customers in every corner of the world.
  • Innovators and Champions of "the New": Innovation of products, processes, services, and sales will be the most important competitive differentiator of leading manufacturers around the world. The development of new products and services for new markets, as well as new products for existing customers, will be a recurring theme for best-in-class performers. 
  • Intersection Conductors: Innovation will occur at the intersection of ideas (intellectual capital), investment (financial capital), talent (human capital) and infrastructure (physical capital) -- and winners will outpace their rivals developing and deploying their capital through superior leadership, collaboration and technology diffusion, as well as product and service commercialization capabilities.
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EurActiv LogoThe EU's new growth strategy, due to be rubber-stamped by the new Barroso Commission on Wednesday (3 March), includes a blueprint for transforming Europe into an 'Innovation Union' by 2020.

A leaked draft of the 'Europe 2020' strategy ties together research, education, finance and intellectual property as part of a holistic approach likely to be reflected in the European Commission's forthcoming innovation action plan.

Several of the proposed reforms are long-standing goals but officials say there is now unprecedented political impetus to fix old problems.

The 'Innovation Union' plan, one of nine "flagship initiatives," commits Brussels to boosting investment in research and making Europe an attractive place to develop new products.

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A man surfs the Internet in Beijing, June 15, 2009.China is pressuring foreign makers of high-tech products for sensitive information at a time of growing concern over computer hacking, experts say.

The manufacturers must meet a May 1 deadline to register their communication products and comply with Chinese standards or face exclusion from government purchasing, the Financial Times reported on Feb. 21.

Some makers of products like secure routers and firewalls face the choice of providing source codes and opening possible "back doors" to information or losing market access, industry officials said.

John Neuffer, vice president for global policy at the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), told the paper that U.S. companies "are feeling less welcome" in China, although they want to keep doing business there.

The Washington-based group represents over 40 U.S. suppliers of computer and communications technology.

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The laser, a device used in everything from astrophysics to biology, was invented 50 years ago.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the laser, a device used in applications from performing precise surgical procedures to measuring gravitational waves. In 1917, Albert Einstein proposed that a photon hitting an atom in a high energy state would cause the atom to release a second photon identical in frequency and direction to the first. In the 1950s, scientists searched for a way to achieve this stimulated emission and amplify it so that a group of excited atoms would release photons in a chain reaction. In 1959, American physicist Gordon Gould publicly used the term “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation” for the first time. A year later, scientists demonstrated the first working optical laser.

The first laser, demonstrated by Theodore Maiman at the Hughes Research Laboratories, was a ruby crystal rod with mirrored ends, resting in the center of a coiled quartz flash tube. The tube lamp flashed an intense white light, which energized chromium atoms in the ruby. As the atoms lost energy, released photons bounced between the mirrors, stimulating more atoms, before finally escaping out of one end of the rod in short pulses of red light.

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ICVA-Chair-Regina.pngIrish companies raised €288m in 2009, up 18.6% on the previous year according to the Irish Venture Capital Association (IVCA) Venture Pulse Survey.

The VenturePulse survey measures money raised from domestic and international venture capital funds, from the AIB and Bank of Ireland seed capital funds; as well as from Enterprise Ireland and from private angel investors.

But Irelands venture capitalists are concerned that Future Early Stage Funding through bodies like Enterprise Ireland could suffer in government cutbacks, as a result of last year's strong figures for tech funding holding up so well during a tough recession.

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Community Colleges Build Innovative Programs That Fit Immigrants' Needs 1It's 7 a.m. and the hiring hall here is buzzing. Day laborers file in, pick up a small numbered ball, and write their name and number on a large whiteboard. The ball then goes in a jug for the day's job lottery.

Soon about 40 men, mostly immigrants from Guatemala, crowd a large room at the job and social-services center, run by Neighbors Link, a local nonprofit group. The room doubles as a waiting room and classroom for the daily "Job English" class run by Westchester Community College.

The men chat, drinking coffee while they wait for area contractors and homeowners to hire them. The crowd thins as employers arrive and lottery balls are drawn. After a couple of hours, those who are left settle in for the three-hour English class led by an instructor from Westchester's main campus, in Valhalla, N.Y.

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altRon Conway, the angel investor known as the “Godfather of Silicon Valley” due to his prolific backing of web startups, is raising a new $10 million fund. This is the first outside capital Conway has brought into his SV Angel fund.

The news was first reported in TechCrunch, and Conway confirmed the story in an email.

Last year, Conway split off the SV Angel fund from his existing investment vehicle, Baseline Ventures. At the time, he told us SV Angel would focus on real-time startups, a market he predicted would reach at least $1 billion in three years. Conway was an early backer of Google, and his real-time investments include Twitter, bit.ly, CoTweet, TwitVid, Kyte.tv, Factery, and many others.

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http://images.businessweek.com/mz/10/10/600/1010_mz_39google.jpgThe search giant's former employees are seeding tech startups—and shaping another wave of innovation

During the holidays last year, Aydin Senkut and Elad Gil gathered 50 of their friends at a health-food restaurant in Palo Alto. Over turkey burgers and tofu wraps, they talked about tech trends and how to get rich. Or, more precisely, how to get richer.

Senkut, Gil, and their dining circle are alumni of Google (GOOG), one of the greatest engines of wealth creation the U.S. has ever known. Since going public six years ago, Google has generated more than $170 billion for its employees and investors. Many of the millionaires the company has produced are young, wired into the latest developments in tech, and at ease with risk. Which explains why so many Google alums—including many of those at Senkut and Gil's gatherings—are active angel investors, attempting to add another zero to their bank accounts and another innovative company to their list of accomplishments. "I feel like we have such a strong network, it's almost like we've recreated Google outside of the Google walls," says Andrea Zurek, a 39-year-old backer of 26 startups.

More than 40 ex-Googlers have invested in about 200 fledgling companies since 2005, according to the research firm YouNoodle and reporting by Bloomberg BusinessWeek. At least a half dozen current Google executives, including CEO Eric Schmidt and co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, are also financing young companies. Numerous angel-watchers say the Google group has more in common than just pedigree. Unlike many venture capitalists, the Googlers like to swap investment ideas and back startups together. They're also willing to take big chances. "[They're getting into] very risky deals that can be extremely rewarding," says Jeff Clavier, a veteran venture capitalist who founded Palo Alto-based SoftTech VC in 2004. "They have been very active as a group over the past two to three years."

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aaron w carI was going to save this post for a while but the “Patzer Problem” meme has forced my hand.  I, for one, am with Rob Hayes of First Round Capital on this one.

“If we are doing things right and our company founders are successful, then over the long run we should be successful. If we get to the point where our founders are successful but we can’t be, we should be rethinking our business.”

I have a philosophy. A thesis. An entrepreneur thesis. I’m not talk about the age old debate amongst investors whether you back entrepreneurs, markets or products (or as many people like to hedge – product / market fit). I’m unequivocal on that topic. It’s entrepreneurs I back. I’m on the record as saying I’m 70% management, 30% market. We’ll have that debate another day, I promise.

Today’s post is about my investment thesis.  It’s what I call the “entrepreneur thesis.”  My investment philosophy is to back the best possible entrepreneurs I can and to stick by them through the growth (or sale) of the company.  I’ve outlined already what I believe makes a great entrepreneur and I’ve stated unequivocally that this is a subjective view of what it takes.  But when I’m looking to invest the dollars that my Limited Partners have entrusted my firm with I’m going with my view.


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White House Fund Wants More "Local" Social InnovationWanted: more "local" problem-solving pitches from social enterprises, social innovators and nonprofit activists to help Americans in need, says Sonal Shah, the chief of President Obama's new $50 million Social Innovation Fund.

Speaking yesterday at Harvard's Social Enterprise Conference, Shah told attendees in a keynote address that the Fund has been getting many pitches recently, but mostly for problem-solving initiatives geared to the developing world. Meanwhile, there haven't been many pitches about solving problems in America, she said, and her team wants to see more ideas that can be replicated across the United States. Social entrepreneurs looking at (and working in) the developing world "need also to apply their ideas to the poor in America," she said.

The remarks were welcomed by many attendees. One, New Orleans-based blogger Nathan Rothstein, wrote today in True/Slant that ever since Hurricane Katrina exposed extreme poverty in the United States, cause activists, social innovators and policymakers in America have been forced to confront tough questions, including: "What does it say about us as Americans if we let fellow citizens suffer like this?" and "Do we have the right to tell other countries how to solve their poverty problem when we have not figure it our for ourselves?" Those questions remain, Rothstein says, but many social problem-solvers have "moved on."

Said Shah:"We can't forget that the United States is a market for solutions."

In other highlights of Shah's talk:

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Financial TimesGovernment cuts to science funding would damage UK competitiveness by stifling innovation, university bodies have warned.

The broadside, from Universities UK and the Russell Group of research-led universities, sets the scene for a post-election battle over funding the research that business relies on for lucrative new technologies.

Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, said: "Cuts and uncertainty in research funding risk disrupting the intellectual ecosystem and harming the prospects for spin-out companies and other commercial exploitation." According to a recent survey, companies spun out from the 20 Russell Group universities generate yearly turnover of more than £700m.

Universities UK said senior academics were worried that the UK's £3.1bn government-funded science research budget would be hit as an incoming government struggled to contain the £178bn deficit. "We are gravely concerned about the prospect of substantial cuts," said the body, which represents all UK universities. "If we want to keep our seat at the table of the top economies, we need to have better ideas than other countries."

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Can Canada capitalise on its Olympics achievement?Canada has an image problem. It’s too good. The country is too beautiful, the people too polite and friendly, the society too cohesive, the institutions too effective. It’s a nice problem to have!

I witnessed this as a guest of the Canadian government, when I presented them with my suggested ‘postcard’ for Canada — a lovely vista of snow capped mountains, with the catchy slogan, “May the moose be with you.” It all went down well in the commercial cities of Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, but boy did I upset them in the federal capital, Ottawa. The civil servants there told me: “We’re trying to get away from the stereotypes of Moose, Mounties and Mountains. We want them to know that Canada is edgy, sophisticated, economically diverse, etc.”

I replied: “You know, people think Aussies are kangaroos, koalas and beaches but it’s good to have a brand. Austria has to give out t-shirts saying ‘No we don’t have kangaroos, just to differentiate themselves from Australia’.”

Furthermore, Brand Canada is pretty successful. According to the global expert on country brands, Simon Anholt, Canada regularly is top of the charts and often pips Australia on a number of scores. And as Anholt points out, a minority of the world’s population will never get to see Canada, or Australia, but when a country hosts the Olympics, everyone with a TV set will be thinking about the host country. So like it not, everyone will be thinking and talking about Canada right now, as Vancouver hosts the Winter Olympics, just like Australia was ‘on display’ during the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

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