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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 Spring finally shows signs of taking hold in the northern hemisphere, there are lots of great events coming up. There’s one that I’ve personally been working very hard on – the Small Business Summit on March 16th. I’ve got a few free tickets for readers of this column, so if you’ll be in the NYC area next Tuesday click here quick to register before they’re gone.

This list of events, conferences and webinars for growing small businesses and entrepreneurs is brought to you twice a month as a community service by Small Business Trends and

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Most EU Member States until 2008 were steadily improving their innovation performance. The economic crisis may, however, be hampering this progress, according to the 2009 European Innovation Scoreboard (EIS) published today. Early indications show that the worst hit are Member States with lower levels of innovation performance, potentially reversing the convergence process witnessed over recent years. Meanwhile, the latest statistics show that the EU is having difficulty in catching up with the US in innovation performance, although it maintains a clear lead over the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China, despite rapid improvements in China.

"This scoreboard provides invaluable evidence on trends in innovation performance. The overall picture is positive, there are however some worrying signs and we will have to take this very seriously in developing the measures to accomplish what we just laid out in our Europe 2020 strategy. Increasing investment in research and innovation is the key to moving from crisis to sustainable prosperity. That is why the Commission is maintaining the 3% of GDP target for R&D investment in Europe and proposing realistic national targets with robust monitoring.” emphasised Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Entrepreneurship and Industry, and Research Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, who is leading a cross-cutting approach to innovation in the new Commission.

The EIS 2009 includes 29 innovation-related indicators with publicly available data from 2007/2008 and trend analyses for the EU27 Member States, as well as for Croatia, Serbia, Turkey, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. The 29 indicators are grouped around three categories: enablers (human resources, finance and support), firm activities (firm investments, linkages & entrepreneurship, throughputs) and outputs (innovators, economic effects). It does not capture yet the full effects of the recent economic and financial crises.

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How Science Sparked DemocracyThe founders of the United States of America were all well acquainted with the experimental nature of science, and they applied the same methods to their new political enterprise. “They always described the formation of the country itself as an experiment,” says Timothy Ferris, “And what isn’t widely understood is that the way that democracies work is by constant experiment.” Each election, each passage of a new law is, after all, a procedure designed to test a hypothesis about how to make constant improvements to a government.

The Christian Science Monitor called Ferris “the best popular science writer in the English language today,” and his new book is The Science of Liberty. In it, he tells the story of the intimate connections between the scientific advances that expanded the frontiers of human knowledge and the democratic experiments that expanded the frontiers of human liberty. He recently joined Science Progress editor-in-chief Jonathan Moreno for a podcast interview to discuss how science rescued generations of humanity from subsistence living and brought freedom to nations around the world.

In the opening pages, Ferris lays down his bold claim: “The democratic revolution was sparked—caused is perhaps not too strong a word—by the scientific revolution, and that science continues to empower democratic freedom today.” Dissatisfied with existing histories of the Enlightenment, he set out to ascertain more specifically what exactly was new about the period bookended by the English Revolution of 1688 and the French Revolution of 1789. It wasn’t simply the embrace of reason, Ferris said, because after all, individuals can reason their way into all sorts of conclusions that don’t have anything to do with the nature of reality.

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Chances are, you're already familiar with the concept of the Air Sandwich, if not the term itself. An Air Sandwich is what happens when the leadership within an organization issues orders from 80,000 feet and lobs them down to the folks at 20,000 feet. Without the benefit of feedback, questions, or even a reality check from below, this strategy isn't destined for blazing success.

When I witnessed it firsthand, I was working at Autodesk (ADSK), the third-largest software company in the world, where I managed revenues for the Americas region.

It started innocently enough. My boss stopped by my office, excited, with big news: The company had decided to introduce six new product lines within the coming 18 months.

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A robust silicon economy and innovation ecosystem is taking root in Europe, just as the global microelectronics industry is coming out of the recession.

Europe's emerging free-trade zone of innovation is being created by an elite community of leaders linked to silicon and its derivative technologies, including nanotechnology and smart energy technology.

Innovation and technology development thrive in an environment of creative intellectual energy that offers a networked economy, proximity to research institutions and universities, unique intellectual property development, a diverse base of high-tech talent, access to investment capital and infrastructure. This economic alchemy is no longer the exclusive preserve of Silicon Valley.

However, from a competitiveness perspective, historically, Europe has always struggled to hold its own in the global semiconductor business where it has long ranked behind the Americas, Japan and Asia Pacific in absolute terms of total market share.

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In this time of economic uncertainty, the person who has a fabulous idea to build a better mouse trap and build it successfully may find it difficult to procure the necessary funds to get a business off the ground. But if that person lives in Maine, there's one venture capital source that might well be of help.

The Small Enterprise Growth Fund was formed by an act of the Maine Legislature in 1995 and seeded with a $5 million bond approved in statewide voting two years later. A venture capital fund, its goal is to invest exclusively in promising growth companies based in Maine. As of now, there is roughly $9 million in the fund.

Fund manager John Burns said the fund acts in many ways as a typical venture capital investor, coming in after funding from what he called "the four 'f's'" have been exhausted: the founder, the founder's family, the founder's friends and "foolhardy" strangers.

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 Ocean/Tidal/Stream Power: The Road to Commercialization The idea of harnessing the vast power of Earth's oceans has fascinated and tantalized humans for centuries. Today, we may be on the cusp of realizing this potential.

Ocean, tidal and stream energy are renewable resources that we should seriously consider as an addition to our global portfolio of energy supply alternatives. Here's why:

  • The wave and tidal/stream hydrokinetic energy resource available to be converted to electricity is significant;
  • The technology to convert those resources to electricity is emerging and is ready for testing in natural waters;
  • Wave and tidal/stream hydrokinetic energy can be cost competitive with other renewable technologies; and
  • We can overcome the significant challenges that remain to finding the pathway to commercialization of wave and tidal/stream energy technologies. 
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EurActiv LogoThe EU commissioners for innovation and regional policy, meeting in Spain this week, have called for an end to duplication and misuse of EU funding between their vast policy machines and pledged to work better together.

Research and Innovation Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn and Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn outlined ways their departments could work together to improve the innovation output of Europe's regions and reduce overlap between their services.

Speaking at the launch of the Week of Innovative Regions in Europe (WIRE), held in Granada as part of the Spanish EU Presidency, they stressed that more "synergies" were required "to avoid any further multiplication and fragmentation of Community funding".

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From an economic development standpoint, research and development involves developing new knowledge about products, processes, and services, and then applying that knowledge to create new and improved products, processes, and services for the market.

This process often involves partnering between a research-oriented university and a more commercially focused business enterprise.

In Oklahoma, the commercialization of technology receives support from state-funded groups that encourage and solicit commercialization as a means to continuously fill the state's pipeline of evolving industries.

These organizations may award seed capital for especially promising projects that meet their guidelines. This money can be used for initial investment in a project or startup company, for proof-of-concept, market research or initial product development.

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U.S. life sciences companies secured $1.9 billion in venture capital financing in the fourth quarter, according to a new report from online venture capital database VentureDeal.

The $1.9 billion represents almost no change compared with the third quarter and continues a stable trend of financing for companies in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical-devices fields.

Biotechnology received the most money — $871 million among 69 companies. Medical devices followed, with 78 companies raising $572 million during the quarter. Forty-five pharmaceutical companies raised $460 million.

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Indian innovators driving the country forward Bangalore: Innovative ideas are not a new thing for Indians, especially with India's premiere institute like IITs churning out batches of sharpest minds around. Many innovators have been trying to simplify some process or change something traditional with the help of latest technology. One such example can be taken of Pradip Sharmah who has collaborated with IIT Guwahati to design lighter, larger and more stable rickshaws, about 5000 of which are currently plying on the roads in Assam and other states.

Sharmah has also worked with the Centre for Rural Development to approach insurance companies and banks to provide rickshaw pullers with social security and financing options. "We provide them with a comprehensive package that includes the newly designed rickshaw, the insurance, two sets of uniforms, a license from the municipal corporation, a photo ID and a pair of Hawaii chappals (slippers)," he said to Live Mint. "The best part is we are not doing this as charity. Nothing is given free. These rickshaw pullers pay us Rs. 25 a day as rent, but this leads him to become an owner of that asset in 15-18 months time."

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Building on the ideas expressed in last month's newsletter about trend spotting, cross pollination and lateral thinking, it's interesting to learn that the internet is moving in a direction that will support all web pages and sites to function in a more relational way. This evolution could make it easier for more people to find the information they are looking for, while at the same time being able to see that information within different contexts and being able to drill down deeper to make more detailed connections.

For most of us using the internet is something we just do without much thought or care about the underlying structures or processes that allow for near instantaneous access to billions of web pages. The limitations present in first generation web pages (which were static 'pages' ) were innovatively removed by standards which allowed interaction and user generated content. These second generation web pages evolved to support social networking and various connections between human beings.

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