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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.

Front End of Innovation
Two weeks ago, I attended the Front End Innovation Europe Conference (FEI Europe) held in Amsterdam. One of the highlights was seeing the car in the picture above in person. Yes, they drove it into a large conference room inside the Hilton Hotel. It is the 2010 BMW Vision EfficientDynamics Concept car, and it is even more cool in person than in the photo. It's BMW's answer to the green car revolution. Though perhaps a little late to the game, I suspect it will eventually prove to be a huge success as they continue to do engineering with more style than most other car makers. In addition to seeing the car, we got to hear directly from Adrian van Hooydonk, the Director of Design of BMW Group and mastermind behind the group that developed the car. They clearly rose to the challenge of eloquently working Future Sustainability into their brand of the Joy of Mobility in a record amount of time.


We also received a lesson from Josephine Green, a well-known leader in trends and strategy from Philips Design, on Engaging with the Future Differently. It was a real eye opener for many. We also heard fantastic examples of innovation in conjunction with universities from Sigvald Harryson with Copenhagen Business School that left us all realizing the vastness of the untapped resources lurking around our universities. The event concluded with a superb presentation from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and an interactive session that literally no one wanted to leave. All in all... a huge success! If you missed FEI Europe, don't miss FEI USA 2010 in Boston this coming May (see editor's note for 20% off). I suspect it to be equally as tantalizing.

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Egged on by more than 160 venture capitalists, including several Indian Americans, US Senators John F Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and Richard Lugar, Indiana Republican, have introduced a legislation to create jobs in America and increasing America's global competitiveness by helping immigrant entrepreneurs obtain visas to the United States.

The bill by Kerry and Lugar, chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, titled The StartUp Visa Act of 2010, will allow an immigrant entrepreneur to receive a two-year visa if he or she can show that a qualified US investor is willing to dedicate a significant sum -- a minimum of $250,000 -- to the immigrant's startup venture.

The legislation would amend immigration law to create a new EB-6 category for immigrant entrepreneurs, drawing from existing visas under the EB-5 category, which permits foreign nationals who invest at least $1 million into the US, and thereby create 10 jobs, to obtain a green card.

Under Kerry and Lugar's bill, after proving that he or she has secured initial investment capital and if, after two years, the immigrant entrepreneur can show that he or she has generated at least five full-time jobs in the United States, attracted $1 million in additional investment capital or achieved $ 1 million in revenue, then he or she would receive permanent legal resident status.

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How To Kill Innovation With Just Two WordsSharing his thoughts in the Harvard Business Review, author Scott Anthony believes that content questioning is the real enemy of innovation.

Anthony says that “What About…” questions – the ones which endlessly ponder every possible scenario and variable surrounding an idea or plan are what stops real innovation in its tracks.

And what’s the solution?

Action.

He explains:

So what’s the alternative? Substitute early action for never-ending analysis. Figure out the quickest, cheapest way to do something market-facing to start the iterative process that so frequently typifies innovation. Be prepared to make quick decisions, but have the driver of the decision be in-market data, not conceptual analysis. In other words, go small and learn. Pitch (or even sell) your idea to colleagues. Open up a kiosk in a shopping mall for a week. Create a quick-and-dirty website describing your idea. Be prepared to make quick decisions.
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uncle sam 4x3Forget Monster, CareerBuilder, or Craigslist. In this super-competitive job market, employers have to go beyond just posting on job boards to make sure they're reaching top candidates.

If you want to avoid sifting through a huge stack of poor-fit resumes, you might want to consider embracing creative recruiting.

From adding interactive group interviews to the recruiting process to actively looking for talent in unusual places, we've created a list of ways companies are innovating the hiring process.

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Dr. Janice Presser, CEO, The Gabriel Institute

Here Today, Team TomorrowA few months ago, the experts at Right Management surveyed more than 900 workers in North America, asking a seemingly innocuous question: "Do you plan to pursue new job opportunities as the economy improves in 2010?"

These were the responses

  • 60% said they intend to leave in 2010
  • 21% said they might, so they're networking
  • 6% said it wasn't likely, but they have an updated resume
  • And only 13% stated their intention is to stay in their present job

You can look at this data in two contexts.

First, you can think of what it means on the employee level and glean some pretty useful plans.  You can 'do the math' and realize you might be needing to replace up to 87% of your workforce.  You can hire another recruiter - or ten.  You can change your comp and incentive plans to try to keep your mission-critical people.  You can even start cross training, internship, mentoring, engagement, and similar programs.

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Fresh data about the health of the greater Boston tech job market today, from Natalie Robb at WaveLength Market Analytics, a Virginia firm.

Robb has been tracking the demand for six types of tech jobs since last October: application developers, network engineers, technology sales, technology marketing, technology product management, and technology product marketing, using publicly-available postings on employment sites like Indeed and Monster.com.

In February, Robb noticed a big uptick in openings in the Boston area: 30 percent across those six categories.

The chart below shows where the hiring has been happening over the last three months or so: the biggest gains were in tech product marketing, and hiring in tech sales started to perk up only recently.

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Over 30 years ago, the personnel profession began to speak of an emerging age -- an era when it would add real business value and "have a seat at the table."

Over the past decades in virtually every professional conference and journal, presenters regale audiences with tales of the future. So how is the "transformed" profession doing?

In 2006, The Economist's "CEO Briefing," a survey of 555 senior executives across the world, rated HR as the poorest performing of eleven corporate functions. The same executives rated HR as tied for the least important function and second to last (only logistics was worse) as the business function most important for achieving corporate strategic objectives over the next three years.

At the same time, the respondents rated talent, global teaming and the like as the most important business issues for that same three years. The most important thing to get right is managed by the least important and poorest performing corporate function.

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The slumbering market for initial public offerings shows signs of awakening, but experts can’t predict how long the grogginess will linger. Just two Washington companies have completed initial public offerings in the past 24 months: Seattle biotech Omeros and Bellevue insurance firm Symetra Financial.

The IPO drought in Washington state actually has been going on for some time. Over the past nine years, only 12 venture-backed companies have completed IPOs. That compares to 1999 — the peak of the dot-com bubble — when 14 companies went public. Most of the IPOs in the state occurred between 1995 and 2000 when a total of 49 companies completed public offerings.

Nationally, the outlook has been equally grim.

Since the beginning of 2008, 119 companies have conducted IPOs, according to Renaissance Capital's IPOHome.com. That compares to 272 companies that went public in 2007 alone.

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Locals Care, a program to entice local consumers to shop at homegrown businesses, was growing fast in mid-2008.

Independent Business Network Services LLC launched the program in Santa Fe in 2006 to help merchants increase sales with reward cards that allowed patrons to rack up points by shopping at participating local businesses.

By September 2008, the company had 100 merchants and 15,000 patrons enrolled. Its success attracted a $100,000 investment from Flywheel Ventures to expand the program to Albuquerque.

Then Wall Street collapsed, ushering in a capital crunch that brought IBNS to its knees, said Colt Brown, former vice president for merchant relations and sales. Equity sources dried up and the company ran out of cash, forcing it to close down in November.

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Who pays for innovation? Around the world, the leader is the United States. And within the United States, the leader is private industry.

That’s one of the takeaways from a new report published by the National Science Foundation, titled “Science and Engineering Indicators: 2010.” It is full of smart graphs and data on innovation around the world.

First, let’s take a look at trends within the United States. One highlight was this chart, which shows what portion of research and development spending has been financed by which parts of the economy over the last half-century:

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While some may rail against Big Pharma or other massive multinational companies that seem to dominate the intersection of technology and health care, others are watching as the little guy gains ground.

Small- and medium-sized life science companies are actually a strong driving force when it comes to new products and solutions, say those who work in the biotech industry. While they may not have the financial clout of large companies or have the widespread reach of multinational manufacturing and distribution setups, they have innovative talent and the focus to succeed.

Patrick Balthrop, CEO of Austin-based biotech company Luminex, explained how his company has a global reach even though it only has about 400 employees. He was the guest of honor at the Tandy Executive Speaker Series, presented by the Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University, on Feb. 16.

By licensing out its xMAP Technology, a biological testing technology system, to larger companies, Luminex has extended its reach, Balthrop said. Luminex earns royalties from this arrangement, and licensing out technology or products can give smaller biotech companies a steady revenue stream that’s important for the life of the company, said Fred Patterson, business coach for the Center for Innovation at Arlington.

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Baidu raises $50M to exploit China’s online video explosionThe online video business in China is seeing explosive growth, as Chinese consumers learn how to capture and watch video and as Chinese advertisers seek to boost their branding. Several several emerging Chinese companies are scrambling to exploit it — so far, few U.S. companies are there.

Baidu, the leading Chinese search engine company, said today it has raised $50 million from private equity firm Providence Equity Partners to pump into Baidu’s new online video unit. The unit, a separate corporate entity called Qiyi, is licensing premium video content and running ads beside it online. Baidu will maintain majority ownership of the company. Baidu is hoping to use its search engine prowess to drive traffic to the new company, much like Google has featured links to the videos hosted by its video company, YouTube.

It comes at a time when China’s leading online video company Youku is boasting impressive growth with its own premium video advertising business. The company’s chief executive, Victor Koo, visited the U.S. this week to meet with bankers as he begins to prepare the groundwork for a possible initial public offering over the next few years. Youku generated about 28 million in gross revenue last year, he said. This comes mostly from advertising on its premium content videos (you subtract about 20 percent of that for agency rebates, leaving about $22 million in net revenue). He expects revenue to at least double this year, and then to double again in 2011.

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