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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.

Venture capitalists, whose money provides fuel to technology start-ups, last year invested the lowest amount in such companies since 1997, according to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association released on Friday.

Many in the industry say this sharp decline is healthy. Some have even been calling for a return to the investment levels of the early 1990s, before dot-com mania lured new investors and billions of dollars to venture capital and drove down returns, Claire Cain Miller writes in The New York Times.

“There was too much money in the system,” said Jeff Fagnan, a partner at the investment firm Atlas Venture. “It would be healthier if we can return to the pace and kind of deals that were done in the 1990s.”
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I'm a big proponent of fostering more connections between students at Boston-area schools and the companies that make up our innovation economy. Unfortunately, many MBA students tend to have an opportunity to participate in "tech treks" to Silicon Valley, while they aren't as likely to spend time with interesting businesses a few miles from campus.

MIT's Sloan School of Management is one of the few that has consistently given students a chance to visit local companies, but Harvard Business School is joining in this year. Fifty students are participating this week in an IXP ("Immersion Experience Program") that will take them to various Boston companies and venture capital firms.
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EurActiv LogoBehind-the-scenes manoeuvring is underway in Brussels as EU governments battle for large chunks of the Community research budget – even though the new funding programme will not kick in until 2014.

A €50 billion pot of cash is currently available for research projects across Europe but there have been constant murmurings that other sources will also be tapped in a bid to boost innovation.

Incoming EU commissioner for research, innovation and science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, has already said she wants to ensure that the €86 billion earmarked for innovation in the European Structural Funds is used for research and technology transfer.
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Capital under management for community development funds (Community Development Venture Capital Alliance)The law of unintended consequences could apply to at least one aspect of the President Obama’s latest bank regulation plan.

Barring banks from investing in private equity funds, which presumably includes venture capital, would be a perhaps fatal blow to a group of funds aimed at creating jobs in low-income areas. These community development venture capital funds count banks as their largest group of investors, said Kerwin Tesdell, president of the Community Development Venture Capital Alliance.

Banks have provided a little over 30% of the capital for the 72 U.S. community development VC funds, which have $2 billion under management. “Right when we’re needed, we’re finding it extremely difficult to raise capital and if this were to go through, it would make it virtually impossible to raise new funds,” Tesdell said.
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wile-e-coyote-gravityNow that 2009 is over, we can add up the numbers on how much venture firms invested in startups during all of 2009 — and, well, it was a lot less than in the past. Over the course of the year, VCs invested a total of $17.7 billion in 2,795 deals, the lowest total since 1997, according to the MoneyTree Report from the National Venture Capital Association and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

On the bright side, the worst hit came from numbers that we’ve already reported on, since investments really plummeted during the first half of this year. Funding went up in the third quarter, and more-or-less held steady in the fourth. The amount invested went down from $5.1 billion in the third quarter to $5.0 billion in the fourth quarter, but the numbers of deals went up from 689 to 794. So VCs were making smaller bets, but they placed more fo them. Another reason for optimism: There were more seed and early-stage deals in Q4 than in any other quarter this year, so new ideas are still getting money.
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dukeNo goofy lead-in or anecdote about my law-school professors here. Let’s get to the heart of it. The National Law Journal reports Friday that:

Duke Law School announced on Thursday that it will launch a new Law and Entrepreneurship LLM program next academic year, while the University of Colorado School of Law is awaiting approval of a Entrepreneurial Law LLM it hopes to debut in the fall.

Now, LBers, before you get all crazy on us and start posting comments about what a boondoggle this is; why law schools, given that college grads are flocking to them in droves as an antidote to their job-seeking miseries, need to take in more money; etc., etc., consider the following:
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Huffington PostWhat can we look forward to after the worst U.S. economic and financial crisis in decades, possibly since the Great Depression? As crazy as it sounds at first, I believe 2010 will be the year of the entrepreneur.

Entering 2010 we see signs of a U.S. economic recovery and leading economists are calling for economic growth of 2.5-3.5%. Unemployment seems to have peaked at 10.2% in October, housing prices appear to be gradually on the mend and the stock market indexes have regained a significant portion of their losses from the trough of March 2009. But, admittedly, there is lingering uncertainty in the segment of the U.S. economy where innovation and job creation resides - small- and medium-sized businesses.
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Thank you Senator Ensign and Committee Chairman Stevens for holding this hearing to discuss building a new century of American prosperity by spurring a new wave of American innovation.

From the Franklin stove to the personal computer, Americans have a strong history of innovation. But we face new challenges. We live in a global age where competition can come as easily from across an ocean as across the street. We got a wake up call earlier this year about how tough today`s challenges are when the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) announced that China had overtaken the United States as the world`s largest exporter of high-tech products – shipping $180 billion worth of high-tech goods worldwide last year, versus $149 billion for the U.S.

If this continues, the global high-tech centers could shift from America to China, and with them the high-skill, high-paying jobs that are key to the innovation economy will be lost as well.
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BloombergThe other week, two of my colleagues were engaged in a fierce debate about whether a particular business was or not in fact "disruptive." When they asked my opinion, I surprised them by answering, "I don't really care."

"But we're all about disruptive innovation aren't we?" one of them asked.

"Well yes," I replied, "but we're all even more about building successful, sustainable, scalable businesses."
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Lately there has been a lot of discussion in Florida about “economic gardening” The term refers to the success of Littleton, Colorado in growing their local economy by equipping, and accelerating the growth of “second stage” companies. Second stage companies have between 10 and 100 employees and usually are doing more than $1 million in sales. They are the companies that are expanding (adding jobs) and usually experience rapid growth. In Florida, that represents only about 10% of our companies, however, those companies produce almost the same number of jobs as the other 90% of the stage 1 businesses! So it makes good economic sense, if you want to create jobs quickly, (other than cutting taxes) invest in this group of companies, provide funding, get them what they need and then get out of their way!
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imageWhen it comes to innovation, many executives in the consumer goods industry are chasing Apple. Who can blame them? While most retailers spent the holiday season slashing prices, Apple reported record earnings by enchanting audiences with iPhones. Now, as retailers try to re-engage consumers this year, executives are trying to replicate the "Apple thrill."

But focusing exclusively on product innovation is a mistake for most companies, say executives who gathered recently at Berglass + Associates, my company, to discuss innovation. The attendees included Richard Dickson, general manager, Barbie, and a senior vice president at Mattel ( MAT - news - people ); Melisse Shaban, CEO of Chrysalis, an incubator company for emerging brands; and Bill Brand, executive vice president of programming, marketing and business development at HSN.
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RoseAnn B. Rosenthal spoke to the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology with advice for
the Department of Commerce’s new Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Ben FranklinWASHINGTON, D.C. ( – RoseAnn B. Rosenthal, President & CEO of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/SEP), yesterday testified before the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology’s subcommittee on Technology and Innovation.

Rosenthal was asked to testify because of her track record in Pennsylvania’s technology community, expertise in the industry, and role within Ben Franklin.  Since 2001 alone, Ben Franklin has committed more than $50 million to over 500 early stage companies, which have created or retained over 7000 high-tech jobs.  During that time Ben Franklin’s portfolio companies have raised more than a billion dollars in follow-on investment.

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Akron Global Business AcceleratorOver the past month or so, I’ve [Chris Mather] taken you through some of the organizations behind the transformation taking place in our region around entrepreneurial development. These last two round out the group quite well — and bring some very unique strengths to the table. And, if you missed parts one through three, make sure to check them out too.

Akron Global Business Accelerator Akron Global Business Accelerator (AGBA) was formed in 1983, and in its nearly 27 years of service, has provided business assistance, highly effective space, and a superb entrepreneurial environment to Akron area technology companies. AGBA’s longevity is largely due to its ability to react to changes in the environment.
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LX Innovations, a specialist in the development of low power electronic and wireless designs, has announced the availability of a new government grant scheme beginning in January 2010. The grants can assist businesses with the funds necessary for the development of electronic, firmware and software concepts, prototypes and products.

As announced in the 2009-10 Budget, the Australian Government is establishing Commercialisation Australia to provide a radical new approach to commercialising promising Australian research and ideas. The grants are designed to assist entrepreneurs, researchers and cutting edge firms turn ideas into feasible products and ventures.
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I is for InnovationWhen I [Sharon Dotan] attended the Canadian Innovation Exchange (CIX), I heard a wonderful keynote by Bill Buxton, Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and a passionate advocate for innovation.

So what exactly is innovation? We usually think of innovation as an “Aha!” moment (as Oprah would say) that an individual has. We think of Alexander Graham Bell and the telephone. We think of Thomas Edison and his many patented inventions (well over 1,000). But is this the reality of innovation? Buxton says no.

Most of Edison’s patents in fact, were simply improvements made on an original idea thought up and created by others. Innovation is a team sport! And to be innovative, you need to stack your team with great individuals that bring a variety of skill sets from across the board. Think of hockey – you can’t just have all the top goalies on your team and expect to be a winning team – no matter how good all those goalies are, you’ll still have a losing team without good forwards and defensemen.
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American startups are not alone when it comes to the well of venture funding drying up. A recent report by the Israel Venture Capital Research Center has found that funding in Israel fell drastically to $1.12 billion in 2009, nearly half the amount from the previous year. The 46% decrease marks the lowest funding numbers since 2003 and ends Israel's streak of three consecutive years with increasing number of companies and funding dollars.

The numbers are a sign of the worldwide economic stress that is affecting countries large and small across the globe. While funding plummeted between 2008 and 2009, the number of companies funded only fell roughly 7% from 483 to 447, which means less money is being given to each company. In the fourth quarter of 2009, the average financing round was just $2.2 million, down from $3.61 million during the same period in 2008.
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Turns out Bill Gates' attention-getting debut on Twitter was just the prelude. The Microsoft chairman and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-chair today is launching a new site, dubbed The Gates Notes, where he'll be writing about what's on his mind, posting information from his trips, and sharing excerpts from his exchanges with experts and leaders in areas including science, energy, philanthropy and other global issues.

"Since leaving my fulltime job at Microsoft to dedicate more time to our foundation, a lot of people have asked me what I'm working on. It often feels like I'm back in school, as I spend a lot of my time learning about issues I'm passionate about," he says in an introductory note. "I'm fortunate because the people I'm working with and learning from are true experts in their fields. I take a lot of notes, and often share them and my own thoughts on the subject with others through email, so I can learn from them and expand the conversation."
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We've written quite a bit in the past about the challenges and opportunities facing journalism, a subject which of course is near and dear to our hearts.

New models are emerging. Traditional players are fading away. And entrepreneurs are trying to fill the gaps. Those trends were on full display today when The New York Times announced plans to roll out a new payment system for its Web site beginning next year. The Times -- the number one newspaper Web site in the country -- plans to allow readers to access a select number of stories for free each month before enacting a flat fee.
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How well are you making use or your time daily? Are you always productive? There are many people wanting to know how to become more productive. I came up with 10 ways that you can become more productive with your day. Let’s see if you do any of these things. These 10 ways are in no particular order.

1. Exercise!! We all get stressed with our jobs. Whether your stuck in a cubicle for 8 hours or work from home like I do, we all obtain stresses in our lives. Exercise improves mental health so you can deal with future stress in a better way. Physically fit people tend to have lower rates of anxiety and depression than sedentary people. Most people that are stressed sit at a desk.
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Riccardo Pietrabissa: set up Italy’s tech transfer network.Riccardo Pietrabissa got into tech transfer the old-fashioned way: he made a deal. The bioengineering professor and vice rector at the Politecnico di Milano, Italy, started that university’s patent office when the payment for funding his experimental biomechanical laboratory came due.

“My transition to the tech transfer office started in 1998 when I was an assistant professor. I asked the rector for a grant to establish the lab,” said Pietrabissa, who is 53. “In 2001 the rector called and said he was happy with the lab, and reminded me I was in debt to him. He wanted to establish a patent office in the university, so I had to do that.”

That was a dramatic departure from his research on biomechanics to simulate parts of the human body such as portions of the cardiovascular system or a hip joint. But he embraced the challenge.
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