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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.

altThe Minister of Infrastructure, Science and Technology, Johnny Swartz, this week rebutted suggestions the newly adopted Botswana Innovation Hub would sideline Batswana inhabiting in the rural areas, arguing the move to design the institution was premised to create employment and development of skills, which would play a pivotal role to the livelihood of Batswana, including those in the rural areas.

Endorsed in the previous sitting last November, the Hub is expected to accelerate economic diversification as well as create more employment opportunities to increase productivity but there remained suspicions the initiative would discriminate, affording opportunities to the Batswana living in urban areas while those living in the rural areas would be left in the lurch.

However, answering a question in parliament Tuesday, Swartz discarded such assertions, insisting that the government, through the initiative, anticipates “employment and skills development would be the major outcomes which would benefit our people”.

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"As countless studies have demonstrated, the key to unlocking the innovation economy is talented, driven and risk favorable people. Motivation, inspiration, and the capacity to dream and to act on those dreams are the greatest assets in the global innovation competition."

These two sentences begin the Public Policy Institute's new report entitled "Transcending the Hamster Cage, Unfettering New York's Static Innovation Economy." If you have not yet read this report, I encourage you to do so. The report’s findings are directly applicable to the Quebec-New York Corridor.

Within the last week, we have seen that Quebec has done extremely well in attracting venture capital investment, an accomplishment that speaks of the culture of innovation that is being driven north of the border. In New York State, we are all too often the hamster on the wheel, expending incredible amounts of energy and resources but going nowhere.

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Defending the University Tech Transfer System Arundeep S. Pradhan urges policymakers to keep intact the Bayh-Dole Act and support the current system used to commercialize federally-funded academic research

In 1980, Congress passed the Bayh-Dole Act, named for the two Senators who sponsored it—Indiana Democrat Birch Bayh and Kanasas Republican Bob Dole—to allow universities to own and license to the private sector intellectual property based on their discoveries made with federal funding. The primary purpose of the act was to energize the U.S. economy. Few may have realized at the time how great an effect Bayh-Dole would have in the following 30 years. In fact, the impact has been so positive that in a December 2002 issue of The Economist, the Act was referred to as "Innovation's Golden Goose."

According to a recent study by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the economic benefits of university patent licensing from 1996 to 2007 were staggering: a $187 billion impact on U.S. gross domestic product, a $457 billion impact on U.S. gross industrial output, and 279,000 new jobs created as a result of university inventions. Just as important, however, are the stories behind those numbers. Innovations originating in university labs and transferred to industry for development and distribution have improved the quality of life for people across the U.S. and around the world. Examples include the hepatitis B vaccine, the prostate-specific antigen test, Google (GOOG), the Honeycrisp apple, and FluMist.

One would think the combination of public benefit and the productive, job-creating effects of the Bayh-Dole Act would be a winner in every sense—a model to retain in challenging economic times. Not according to a small cadre of critics such as the Kauffman Foundation. In a November editorial in The Wall Street Journal and in a January article in the Harvard Business Review, Kauffman leadership opined on alleged weaknesses of the Bayh-Dole Act and of academic technology transfer in general, offering thoughts on how to produce more rapid commercialization of government-funded research at universities. As president of the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM), I would like to provide an informed perspective on the development and commercialization of academic discoveries and the benefits on the Bayh-Dole Act.

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Do Tax Credits for Angel Investors Boost Innovation? While it is relatively cheap to get a web startup off the ground these days, other industries aren't as lucky. Take green-tech or medical technology for instance; at TED this year Bill Gates said that the minimum investment the world needs to create sustainable eco-friendly renewable energy is "only" in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars - and that's just to get started. It's industries like these that require Angel and VC investments at the early-stage level to get significant innovations off the ground, and a government tax credit proposed for angels in Minnestoa could encourage them to dole out more cash for high-tech ventures.

Earlier this month in St. Paul, "witness after witness" spoke in support of a bill that would create $32 million in tax credits available to angel investors, writes Thomas Lee of MedCity News. "Entrepreneurs, investors, university officials, industry groups warned lawmakers that the lack of early stage capital meant innovative start-ups in Minnesota would either die or move to another state," Lee adds.

With a growing community of medical innovation, Minnesota is attempting to play catch-up with its neighbor state Wisconsin whose similar tax credit has provided rocket fuel for innovation. Lee quotes a report from the Wisconsin Angel Network which says that angel investments and number of deals tripled in the first three years of the state's program. He adds that three bio-tech spin-offs from the University of Wisconsin were bought for more money in the last three years than in the last 25 years of Minnesota-based university spin-offs.

"VitalMedix Inc., a promising drug company from the University of Minnesota, recently moved to Hudson, [Wisconsin]" Lee says. Hudson is just across the Minnesota/Wisconsin border less than 20 miles from St. Paul. "Miromatrix Inc., based on the work of Dr. Doris Taylor, warn they will leave the state if they can't find angel financing."


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Born InnovatorsThese days, innovation and creativity are in high demand in the work world, making them something that a lot of people would like to have.

The reality is that some people are more creative and innovative than others, which begs the question: why? As the voluminous list of books and articles on the topic testifies, many factors influence human creativity and innovativeness.

But the one that intrigues me the most is genetics. Some people are innately predisposed to be more creative and innovative than others. In fact, as much 55 percent of the difference between people on standard tests of creative temperament is accounted for by our genes. In one study conducted by University of Minnesota psychologist Tom Bouchard and his colleagues, half of a sample of identical twins raised in separate households, often many miles away from one another, had the same scores on measures of creative temperament, while fraternal twins raised together only had the same scores 12 percent of the time.

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I read this week’s Wall Street Journal article “Fleeting Youth, Fading Creativity” (WSJ, Feb 20, 1010, p. W3) with fascination…

The article, by Jonah Lehrer, suggests the following:

  • Scientific & technical revolutions are often led by younger minds (think Newton, Watson, Einstein, Madame Curie, Jobs, Andreessen)
  • Certain fields lend themselves to innovation by younger minds, including Physics, Math & Poetry, Chess
  • There seems to be an inverted U-curve that describes human capacity for creative thought, with the top of the u-curve coming somewhere between the ages of 25 and 50.
  • The disciplines of  Biology, History, Novel-writing, and Philosophy might not peak until their late 40’s
  • Many individuals have increased their creativity later in life by switching fields of study (thus potentially applying learnings from one field to another in a “intersectional” manner (see my prior blog post on this called “Intersectional Creativity& Mash-ups”)

One key part of this argument I do buy is this: when we are young, we are likely to take more risks and we are likely to be less encumbered by rules bestowed upon us by marriage, work, community, church, etc. In other words the YOUNGER MIND, in general, does have the advantage of being FREE to make key connections that the older mind has to work harder to achieve amidst a cadre of society-driven rules which have been enforced for a longer period of time.

While I don’t disagree with the premise that certain professions require young/fresh minds to attack them, the author neglected to mention the wide variety of creative careers that have taken off for LATE BLOOMERS in many fields.

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This observation about the necessity of freedom seems obvious - and yet it is remarkable how often this truth is overlooked. I believe the connection between freedom and innovation is ignored in both capitalist and communist economies. Innovation can be squelched by the demand for short-term profits, or it can be smothered by central planners.

I think of this connection after reading an excellent column by Georgy Satarov. He picks apart a recent interview by a high government official, a government official describing in detail how the Putin-Medvedev administration is going to create some sort of engine for economic development and innovation. It won't happen. I have no idea about what is the future for Russia at this point, but it does not look very bright. The people running the country seem determined to close any possible space for democratic opposition. Without democratic opposition, there can be no peaceful change. And Russia vitally needs change. It plods on, its extractive industries subsidizing its maddening and oppressive inefficiencies.

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I’d like to share with you 10 young entrepreneur themed blogs that you should definitely be following. Feel free to leave suggestions… Enjoy!


Under30CEO is a great blog for “Leading Gen Y to stop doing sh*t they hate.”  Read start-up advice, start-up profiles, interviews with entrepreneurs and more.

Quick Sproutalt

Quick Sprout is one of the best young entrepreneur blogs out there. Neil Patel, the blogger, has founded many companies and will teach you a ton, while accommodating a vibrant community.

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Venture capital deals rebounding amid new optimismFor Silicon Valley, 2008 and 2009 were years of reckoning and transformation. The financial turmoil that seized the global economy hammered the venture capital industry, bringing a sharp decline in dollars and deals.

But after a steep drop in the first half of 2009, venture deals rebounded modestly in the second half and featured an encouraging resurgence in early stage investments. The pattern underscored recent surveys of venture capitalists that suggest the industry is approaching a new sense of equilibrium and confidence.

Nationwide, venture investments totaled $17.7 billion in 2009, the lowest since 1997 and down from $28 billion in 2008 and $30.5 billion in 2007. The MoneyTree Report, a quarterly review

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Google last week said it plans to build an experimental fiber-to-the-home network that would deliver speeds of up to 1 Gbps. And this week FCC chairman Julius Genachowski outlined a goal of delivering 100 Mbps broadband to 100 million homes as part a “2020 vision” associated with the National Broadband Plan. However, amid what many perceive as good news for the wired broadband industry, the Telecommunications Industry Association and United States Telecom Association said they would not produce Supercomm, an industry trade show, due to “financial projections.” Translation: Wired broadband is in trouble. And it’s the fault of ISPs and Silicon Valley.

Despite a rollout of faster technology from some cable providers, and Verizon’s continued fiber-to-the-home buildout, the wired broadband world isn’t looking terribly exciting outside Google’s testbed project. A close inspection of the long-range FCC plan doesn’t have me overly inspired, especially as other areas of the world invest in 1 Gbps networks today.

Meanwhile, in the same time two-week period as all of this wired broadband news, the mobile industry’s largest trade show, Mobile World Congress, took place. It was chock-full of the usual mobile players as well as a who’s who of anyone in the tech scene. And issues associated with mobile broadband, from new networks to spectrum shortages (GigaOM Pro, sub req’d) and how to build applications for mobile handsets (GigaOM Pro),were all anyone could talk about.

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The story of downtown Rochester's revival goes through Nashville, San Antonio, and Pittsburgh:

Pittsburgh joins such cities as Nashville, Tenn., and San Antonio as examples of downtown revival. But in Pittsburgh, the work is ongoing and retail remains the city's Achilles' heel, [Mike Edwards (CEO of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership)] said.

"We don't have a defined retail district, which is one of our objectives this year. But, as most experts will tell you, retail follows rooftops."

And in that area, Pittsburgh lags other cities its size, with only 5,000 downtown residents. The strong market is office space, with 45 million square feet downtown, 92 percent of it occupied, and a work force of 140,000.

Once again, Pittsburgh is a model for urban redevelopment. I think it is a good one for Rochester to follow. That city also seems to be on the rise, in relatively good position as we make the turn upwards from the bottom of the Great Recession.

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There was a leap in the pace of launching new technology companies in the second quarter of 2009, CONNECT’s newly released Second Quarter 2009 Innovation Report shows.    Start-ups were up 53% with 102 companies launched. In the first quarter of 2009 only 66 compa- nies were created. The increase over second quarter last year was 34% with 76 companies launched in the second quarter of 2008.

The CONNECT Innovation Report (CIR) is the first to provide an economic indicator of the strength and impact of the innovation economy in San Diego. Published each quarter by CONNECT, San Diego’s technology and life sciences accelerator, the Report includes:

  • New innovation start-ups
  • Venture capital investment
  • Mergers and acquisition activity
  • New patent applications and patents granted
  • Research grants
  • Research employment and wage

Overall, San Diego accounted for 14% of new technology businesses started in California, in the second quarter of 2009, ranking third after Los Angeles (LA) and Santa Clara counties. LA had 140 start-ups and Santa Clara had 117.

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