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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.

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Making Business Plans EasyIs there anything more frightening to a business owner than this question:  Do you have a business plan?”

Well, not having enough money to pay your bills, or getting threatened by legal actions are also frightening.  But since I’m reviewing “The One Page Business Plan for Women in Business,” I’ll stick with the first example.

Let’s deal with the elephant in the room first.  If we’re not approaching someone for financing, do we really need a business plan?

The short answer is yes. Every business should have one.  And I would say, as would the authors of this book, that for most businesses, the one page business plan is sufficient.

I [Margie Zable Fisher] was sent this book by one of the authors, Tamara Monosoff, who has written several other great books for women business owners.  This time she teamed up with “One Page Business Plan” expert Jim Horan to create a book specifically for women in business.

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A few weeks ago, we highlighted many of the cool startups that have popped up in New York City in recent years.

And now we turn to Silicon Valley.

Over the past few weeks, we've asked VCs, angel investors, entrepreneurs, and other tech journalists about their favorite up-and-coming Valley startups. We've written about many of these companies before, obviously, and we'll be writing about many of them again.

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San Francisco — Clean technology venture capital investments in North America, Europe, China and India during the first quarter of 2010 totaled $1.9 billion — a record high — according to statistics just released by The Cleantech Group and the financial advisory and accounting firm Deloitte.

One hundred eighty companies in the clean technology and smart grid sectors obtained venture capital financing during the most recent quarter, with new transportation and energy efficiency being the largest two recipients of VC investment by sector, according to the report.

There were 13 initial public offerings of clean technology companies during the quarter, raising a total of $1.5 billion, which was a decrease from the $2.9 billion raised by clean technology firms in their initial public offerings during the fourth quarter of 2009. The largest single IPO of a clean technology business during the most recent quarter was that of Sensata Technologies, a Dutch producer of sensors and controls for solar panels and alternative fuel vehicles, which raised $569 million in its IPO on the New York Stock Exchange.

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For this Sunday's Globe column, I spoke with (and e-mailed with) about fifteen techies, designers, entrepreneurs, and executives around Boston. Rather than talking specifically about the way-too-ballyhooed iPad, I asked them what lessons — positive and negative — they've learned from Apple and Steve Jobs.

- Antonio Rodriguez, venture capitalist at Matrix Partners and founder of Tabblo

- Edward Boches, chief creative officer at Mullen, the Boston marketing agency

- Avid Technology founder Bill Warner

- Harvard Business School professor and author Rosabeth Moss Kanter

- Harry West and Ed Milano of the West Newton design firm Continuum

- OfficeDrop chief executive Prasad Thammineni

- Philip Greenspun, entrepreneur, MIT instructor, flight school owner

- Vijay Kailas, founder of the start-up Numote
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A lClick to Enlargeocal firm has developed a new type of scanner that can see through concrete and steel and save companies millions in lost operational days, and the company is getting set to commercialize its product.

“ We are going through an exciting time right now because we are trying to scale up to do a more commercialization effort , ” said John Bowles, vice-president of Inversa Systems Ltd.

Based at the University of New Brunswick campus, Inversa uses “deep backscatter tomography” technology to peer into the insides of all kinds of dense materials and create images of what it sees inside.

Bowles said the technology is a spinoff from one originally developed for medical use.

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I gave a short talk a week ago trying to address the question of how to become innovative. I tried to sum up and put in a few slides some very basic thoughts of mine out of my very limited experience thus far, and came up with a pretty rough -if not hasty- presentation. To some of you most of its contents may sound profound, however it seems to have hit a chord, so here I am providing more details, a short paragraph per slide.




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There’s nothing like a tough economy – and unemployment – to encourage people to take the plunge and open their own businesses. Some have more business experience than others. Some have more education than others. When I started my company, I went through a series of surprises and shocks and the occasional nightmare. With all of the recent interest in entrepreneurship, I thought I would highlight six warning signs that you are about to be broadsided by one of the classic and inevitable struggles of business ownership. If you hear yourself saying these words, take a step back and think about what you’re doing. My hope is that by being more aware you will be better prepared.

1. “Where’s all the business from our marketing launch?” Marketing can be very expensive, and it is difficult to know what will work. It can propel your company, or it can have minimal or no impact. There will be no shortage of people looking to take your money to help you with your advertising and marketing. The people who sell advertising are usually not marketing experts — they’re salespeople. It is their job to sell. It is your job to be discerning. If you can, test before you invest.

2. “The accountant must be wrong! We must be making money! We’re so busy I can hardly keep up.” You can’t just be a salesperson. You need to do the math. It’s about margins, cost accounting and discounting. It is about the bottom line, not the top line. Plenty of people are very busy right up until the day they run out money. Accounting can be exciting — exciting like finding out you are going broke, or exciting like driving a big profit.

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Man JumpingThis is part of a series that I’ve [Mark Suster] been working on called Understanding Venture Capital.

In one of the posts I spoke about how the size and vintage of funds might affect you when you’re raising money.   This led Roy Rodenstein (whose company Going.com was sold to AOL) and others to discuss, what happens when VC’s need to invest across multiple funds.  Specifically Roy commented

“your company may go long enough that its vintage fund gets cramped and you may get painted into a corner for followons. Even more complicated, VCs often invest from multiple funds or sub-funds into a single deal. So as an entrepreneur it’s hard to navigate those waters over time. As usual the rule is, if you’re doing well, they’ll find the money for your next round.”

Everything that Roy mentions is true.  And VC’s don’t like to invest across multiple funds.  I thought I’d do a quick post on why VC’s don’t like to cross funds so entrepreneurs can better understand the situation and how to talk with their investors about it.

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I [Author] am not convinced that blind innovation is categorically bad—if it’s a meaningful concept at all. Starting from scratch and trying to make a game that is unique is a great way for game designers to get out of their comfort zone and produce something that aggressively explores and opens up the space of possible game rule combinations.

The Naive View

Let’s assume that innovation and fun can be objectively defined and universally acknowledged. In this case, I see innovation through the improvement of existing systems as moving a particular genre of game forward towards “perfection.” A perfect game is one where the mechanics, if changed incrementally, cannot be made more fun. If you don’t fundamentally alter the rules of a perfect game, you cannot make it more fun. It has reached the end of its evolutionary development. Innovation for innovation’s sake is not moving forward, it is moving laterally. Different paths towards the perfect game are found by discarding what mechanics have come before and coming up with something entirely new. Discarding mechanics can happen at any level: you can discard really basic mechanics like the character being in one world; you can discard mechanics like character death upon reaching 0 HP; you can discard relatively superficial mechanics like instanced raids. Through discarding the old in favor of building the new from scratch, new passageways to perfect games can be opened and these new perfect games have the potential to be more fun than past perfect games.

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When Butler University defeated Kansas State to advance to the Final Four last month, thousands of students flooded the university's grassy mall and surrounded Bobby Fong, the university's president. A group of football players, concerned that the trim president would be knocked over by the boisterous crowd, promptly hoisted him into the air.

"Three players got behind me," Mr. Fong recalled in an interview. "A fourth said, 'On my shoulders, Dr. Fong,' and all of a sudden I was crowd-surfing. I call it my Peyton Manning moment. Somebody had my blind side."

Mr. Fong was covered that night. But in the nine days since then, Butler has been caught pleasantly off guard by the attention sparked by the success of its men's basketball team, the darling of this year's NCAA tournament. The university, with around 4,000 students, is among the smallest institutions ever to play for a national championship—and to suddenly be center stage, university officials and students have found, has been quite the surreal experience.

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Algae biofuels are often considered one of those technologies --- like hydrogen fuel cells --- that are always "ten years away." Well, one company says it might have just cracked the code and could be supplying lots of algae jet fuel and diesel in the coming years. In the race for algae biofuel commercialization, people usually compare open ponds with photobioreactors. Solazyme, however, bypasses photosynthesis (and conventional wisdom) by growing algae in dark fermentation tanks. Grow algae in dark tanks?! Isn't that like putting solar panels on the dark side of the moon?!

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