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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.

BELLEVUE, Wash. — Nathan Myhrvold wants to shake up the marketplace for ideas. His mission and the activities of the company he heads, Intellectual Ventures, a secretive $5 billion investment firm that has scooped up 30,000 patents, inspire admiration and angst.

Admirers of Mr. Myhrvold, the scientist who led Microsoft’s technology development in the 1990s, see an innovator seeking to elevate the economic role and financial rewards for inventors whose patented ideas are often used without compensation by big technology companies. His detractors see a cynical operator deploying his bulging patent trove as a powerful bargaining chip, along with the implied threat of costly litigation, to prod high-tech companies to pay him lucrative fees. They call his company “Intellectual Vultures.”

White hat or black hat, Intellectual Ventures is growing rapidly and becoming a major force in the marketplace for intellectual capital. Its rise comes as Congress is considering legislation, championed by large technology companies, that would make it more difficult for patent holders to win large damage awards in court — changes that Mr. Myhrvold has opposed in Congressional testimony and that his company has lobbied against.

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The Issue Brief stated that Governors are increasingly interested in entrepreneurship because of its key role in driving business innovation. While entrepreneurs face several common challenges, including developing business acumen and making connections with experts and mentors, often their greatest challenge is raising capital. Entrepreneurs’ emerging technologies are frequently viewed as too risky for banks, private equity firms and venture capitalists, yet many fledgling companies require more investment to grow than can be raised from friends and family. Angel investors are increasingly stepping in to fill this gap.

Angel investors are wealthy individuals with business or technology backgrounds who provide entrepreneurs with capital, connections, and guidance. They provide early-stage financing in a space once occupied by venture capitalists, who now invest primarily in larger deals and more mature companies. Angels invest in local and regional ventures, primarily in high-technology sectors, giving their investments local impact. In the past decade, many angel investors have formed and joined groups because investing through groups offers several advantages, most notably a large and more diverse portfolio, access to expertise, and higher deal flow.

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After not seeing the word patent in my daily information routine for a few weeks, I [Brad Feld] saw it twice today – first in an article titled Turning Patents Into ‘Invention Capital’ (in the NY Times) and then in Region Sustains Robust Patent Production in the WSJ.  Both stirred me up early this morning, but for different reasons.

If you are interested in patents, I encourage you to read Turning Patents Into ‘Invention Capital’ as I’m very interested in your reaction.  I’d love to hear what you think in the comments (anonymous is fine if you are concerned about attribution on this one.)  I have an opinion and this article didn’t add anything to my thoughts (which is partly why I’m looking for yours as I’m curious what others think.)  So I hit Ctrl-W and went to the next tab in Chrome.

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There’s a place in business for concepts that can’t find funding to reach production. It’s called the “Valley of Death” and it’s where the carcasses of good ideas go to die.

Consider, then, the Pennsylvania NanoMaterials Commercialization Center an oasis in the nanotechnology desert, or--perhaps more aptly--a bridge over the harsh landscape of commercialization.

The center, based in Pittsburgh, is designed to fund nanotechnology startups that need money to develop promising research into marketable products. “We’re very early stage capital investors where venture capitalists won’t go,” says Alan Brown, the center’s executive director.

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Silicon Valley losing allure for top brains   A looming foreign talent crunch has been pinpointed as a top factor that threatens to rob the Silicon Valley of its title as the world's innovation centre.

'There are clear warning signs suggesting Silicon Valley has entered a new phase of uncertainty and that our competitive standing is at risk,' says the 2010 Silicon Valley Index released on Thursday.

Although alarms are raised periodically about the Silicon Valley's vitality, this is the gloomiest outlook ever painted by Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network which produce the yearly index and have been compiling and analysing a variety of economic and social data relating to the Valley since 1995.

Apart from voicing doubts about the area's continued ability to draw upon some of the world's best brains, the report has highlighted other trends that are furrowing brows - the declining levels of venture capital, inattention from the federal government and California's political dysfunction.

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OTTAWA -- Canada’s venture capital market fell again in 2009 to its lowest level in 13 years, according to statistics released Wednesday by Canada’s Venture Capital & Private Equity Association and research partner Thomson Reuters.

Deal activity fell 27% to $1-billion over the year, from $1.4-billion in 2008, as did the number of VC-backed entrepreneurial firms, which fell to 331 from 388 the year before, the group said.

“The nationwide statistics demonstrate the lack of capital in the venture capital industry,” said Gregory Smith, president of the association.

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As the life sciences sector continues to navigate the changing seas of innovation in the new economy, we’ve trained our gaze toward a few beacons. Seattle and the Pacific Northwest have become a light shining on the horizon.

In March, the Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association and Burrill & Company will together present Life Science Innovation Northwest, a conference that will bring together scientists, entrepreneurs, investors and partners, who, working together, have the ability to discover and promulgate technologies to improve the lives of people around the world.

We originally wanted to convene a meeting in Seattle because of the potential for tremendous growth in the biotech and life sciences industries in the region. But the Pacific Northwest offers so much more; renowned for being a leading and innovative region. Companies like Boeing, Costco, Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks are just a few who call the Northwest home. Over the past several years, the Northwest has emerged as a leader in several emerging 21st century industries, becoming one of the nation’s environmental leaders, spurring startups and expansion in green technologies, as well as in the informatics, health care IT and personalized medicine. In addition, Seattle has become the nexus for global health. This fast growing sector is tackling some of the most challenging diseases known to man, many of which affect the citizens in the Northwest and around the world.

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altErasmus for Young Entrepreneurs is a project initiated by the European Union (EU). It aims at helping new entrepreneurs to acquire relevant skills for managing a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) by spending time in a business in another EU country. It contributes to improving their know-how and fosters cross-border transfers of knowledge and experience between entrepreneurs.

The specific objectives of the programme are:

  • On-the-job-training for new entrepreneurs in SMEs elsewhere in the EU in order to facilitate a successful start and development of their business ideas;
  • Exchanges of experience and information between entrepreneurs on obstacles and challenges to starting up and developing their businesses;
  • To enhance market access and identification of potential partners for new and established businesses in other EU countries;
  • Networking by building on knowledge and experience from other European countries between entrepreneurs.

Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs is financed by the European Commission and operated across 24 EU countries by the help of more than 100 intermediary organisations competent in business support (e.g. Chambers of Commerce, start-up centres, incubators etc.). Their activities are coordinated at European level by EUROCHAMBRES, the Association of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry, which acts as Support Office.

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creative-economyJust do a quick comparison of the market value to the book value for public U.S. companies over the last two decades and you will see the dramatic upward rise in value attributed to intangibles – ideas, innovations.

In this new world, wealth creation is dependent upon the capacity of a nation to continually create ideas. In short, a nation without a vibrant creative labor does not possess the knowledge base to succeed in the creative economy, and must depend on ideas produced elsewhere.

The creative economy is a new a world in which people work with their brains instead of their hands. A world in which communications technology creates global competition. A world in which innovation is more important than mass production. A world in which investment buys new concepts or the means to create them, rather than new machines.

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partner logo Mark Johnson, Chairman and Co-Founder of Innosight, is author of Seizing the White Space: Business Model Innovation for Growth and Renewal (Harvard Business Press: February 2010). He talked with Strategy & Innovation editor Renee Hopkins about why business model innovation is important and how companies can master it.

In your book, you say "disruptive innovation and business model innovation are opposite sides of the same coin." How did you get started thinking this way, and why is it important?

We start with the work of disruptive innovation, which says that when you go into a new market that offers an opportunity for new growth, you should come in with a simpler, low-cost approach. This way you can offer products or services the incumbent's not going to be motivated to match, because it's either too small a market, the margins aren't interesting, or it doesn't further the company goals.

Now, why doesn't the incumbent go after the entrant who does something disruptive? Clay Christensen noticed this phenomenon in the disk drive industry—that those who succeeded were not the incumbents, but a new set of companies, the disruptors. That's also what happened with Digital Equipment (DEC), in the minicomputer world. Strangely, DEC didn't go after the personal computer when it came to the consumer market and schools. Why?

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Doug BrockwayEarly in Mel Brooks’ “The History of the World: Part I,” Moses goes up the mount to see the burning bush and receive the word of God. Coming down with three tablets, Brooks as Moses says, “The Lord, the Lord Jehovah has given unto you these fifteen... [drops one of the tablets] Oy! Ten! Ten Commandments for all to obey!

My own experiences have gone in the other direction. When working with CIOs and their staffs to define the concept of the “IT Utility,” we proposed seven major attributes that a utility has. My CEO said that there were “Ten Principals of the IT Utility.” We asked him to describe the other three. He suggested he only knew that there were 10 and that we had to go back to work. With a little word-smithing, conceptual parsing and verbal padding, we got to the magic number.

It is with this jaundiced view that I recently read Brian Solis’ "Ten Stages of Social Media." If you haven’t read Solis, you might want to. He’s a very knowledgeable marketeer, especially in the realm of social media, its role in marketing and how corporations can take advantage. That said, I doubt there are “Ten Stages” of it (or much else). And, although the article has much to offer, it doesn’t lay out “stages” as much as a combination of things to do or accomplish (e.g., Finding a Voice and Sense of Purpose) and management concepts (e.g., Business Performance Metrics).

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America is facing some of the greatest challenges in a generation.  At the same time, promising nonprofit organizations across the country are making heroic efforts to meet overwhelming need and, implement effective and innovative ways to meet these challenges.  But their impact is often hampered by a lack of resources and support to evaluate and improve their programs, and expand them so they can serve more communities of need.

Yesterday, the Corporation for National and Community Service launched the Social Innovation Fund (SIF) grant competition, which takes a new approach to addressing our nation’s most critical social challenges.

The SIF will direct funding through innovative, hands-on grant makers (or intermediaries) across the country. These grant makers will identify fund and support over a period of years promising nonprofit organizations working in low-income communities.

It’s an approach that has clear benefits.

It leverages private funding from grant makers and others. Each federal dollar will be matched with at least $3 of private funding, for a total of $200 million or greater.

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