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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.

At the World Business Forum, Gary Hamel gave a rousing speech about the need for companies to update their management models. An area on which he put a lot of focus was the need for companies to better utilize the talents and passions of their employees. Specifically, he called for reorienting work around "natural leaders" versus relying only on titled leaders. These are people who have earned the respect of their peers, and have demonstrated a capacity for getting things done that advance the company.

And, perhaps for you the reader, it goes without saying that often these people may not be in leadership positions.

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Braden Kelly has posed another question for us, which is: what roles do engineers and marketers play in an innovation setting, and what conflicts can arise based on their perspectives and approaches?

First, let me say that I am ably suited to answer this question, since I am both an engineer (undergraduate) and a marketer (graduate degree). I've worked in the technical trenches and, frankly, left them as quickly as possible, and worked in a number of marketing roles since my MBA. I left the engineering world because it necessarily demands a level of specificity and exactness that I find boring and tedious, and demands attention to detail that I sometimes lack.

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Paul Kedrosky, a Kauffman Foundation senior fellow who often criticizes the venture industry for fattening up too much (see here and here), must have felt the need to show some love, too. Over at TechCrunch, he pens a column called “Why I Love Venture Capitalists.” The column doesn’t say it, but Kedrosky is a former VC himself having worked as a venture partner at Canadian firm VenturesWest a few years ago. No matter, at a time when entrepreneurs continuously criticize VCs, it’s refreshing to see someone whose mission it is to promote entrepreneurship saluting the investors. After all, entrepreneurs and VCs in theory should be working together to create innovative companies….

Of the more than 20 million small business in the U.S., only about 500,000 are in a position to do business with the federal government, according to the New York Times. “That’s not because they are the only ones capable of doing the work; it’s because they know how to get the work,” says the Times, which offers a guide for start-ups looking to secure a federal contract….

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Economic growth is highly correlated with an abundance of small, entrepreneurial firms. This relationship is even stronger looking across industries within cities, and has been taken as evidence for competition spurring technological progress, product cycles where growth is faster at earlier stages, and the importance of entrepreneurship for area success. Any of these interpretations is possible, however, and the only thing that we can be sure of is that entrepreneurial clusters exist in some areas but not in others. This paper first documents systematically some basic facts about average establishment size and new employment growth through entrepreneurship, then analyzes entry and industrial structures at the region and the city levels using the Longitudinal Business Database. Key concepts include:
  • There is a remarkably strong correlation between smaller average firm size and subsequent employment growth due to start-ups.
  • Evidence does not support the view that regional differences in demand for entrepreneurship are responsible for these entrepreneurial clusters.
  • Instead, the evidence suggests that spatial differences in the fixed costs of entrepreneurship and/or in the supply of entrepreneurs best explain cluster formation.

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I have always respected Nokia which I consider to be a quite innovative company. Lately, I have been wondering how they approach open innovation so I did some research on their activities.

"The sourcing, integration, and development of product and business system innovations through win-win external partnerships to capture maximum commercial value for R&D investment."

Kari-Pekka Estola also argued that open innovation is a critical trend and not yet another management fad due to these reasons:

Innovation happens in smaller companies, global innovation hotspots and increasingly influential user communities.

Several factors such as workforce mobility and venture capital are eroding the ability of corporate research labs to contain their useful knowledge.

A new breed of independent research labs create a new source of R&D development.

"Innomediaries" - innovation intermediaries - are enabling an increasingly active and distributed market for ideas.

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The U.S. Small Business Administration and Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence (CMI) launched a cooperative Strategic Alliance Memorandum to promote opportunities for women entrepreneurs through education, training and counseling. The launch, held in Washington, D.C. at SBA’s headquarters, also recognized Women’s Small Business Month.

The alliance between SBA and CMI will help to strengthen and expand small business development opportunities, particularly those to women entrepreneurs. The alliance is intended to promote collaboration on the development of resources and information to benefit the needs of the small business community, and of women-owned small businesses. SBA and CMI will develop a joint podcast on business start-up and financing, as well as a Web chat on small business issues affecting women entrepreneurs.

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Fundraising by U.S. venture capital firms continues to lag. A survey released overnight by Dow Jones Private Equity Analyst shows that 26 VC funds raised about $3.5 billion during the three months that ended September 30—down about 51 percent from the same quarter last year.

The findings nevertheless represented an improvement over the previous quarter, when VC fundraising was down by almost two-thirds compared with the second quarter of 2008. While fundraising was down for all types of VC firms over the past three months, those that invest in late-stage startups were hit hardest.

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In the September issue of Harvard Business Review, authors Ram Nidumolu, C.K. Prahalad, and M.R. Rangaswami provide a framework for adopting sustainable practices to bring about technological and organizational innovations that will ultimately yield top-line and bottom-line returns, providing a competitive advantage when the recession ends. They feel that sustainable companies will emerge from the recession ahead of their competitors, who will face difficulties trying to catch up.

The authors argue that sustainability is not the drag on the bottom line that many executives perceive it to be, and that it can actually lower costs, and increase revenues. This is an indicator that business leaders will have to rethink business models, processes, technologies, and products.

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Nanotechnology has surprising applications in mundane materials like sunscreen and esoteric items like high-tech body armor for soldiers. But some fear scarier scenarios worthy of a science fiction novel.

At Florida State University, engineers are creating new body armor for American troops. It's more durable, more bulletproof and light enough that it can cover arms and legs as well as torsos.

``It's definitely more flexible and more comfortable,'' says Frank Allen, operations director for FSU's High Performance Materials Institute.

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This week saw a lot of coverage of new technology in televisions and displays, mostly centered around Ceatac, the big consumer electronics show in Tokyo. Most of the technology - ranging from 3D to very high-end processors for TVs - has been discussed before, but it remains quite fascinating. However, these features aren't likely to impact the TVs the vast majority of us are going to buy any time soon.

The most coverage went to 3D, with Panasonic in particular making a big push for their upcoming 3D plasma screens. Sony is also committed to shipping a 3D with high-speed LCD sets, and Toshiba, Hitachi and Sharp also showing 3D sets I wrote about a lot of the 3D technology here.

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The Swearer Center’s Social Innovation Initiative is creating a new blog aimed at promoting social innovation and entrepreneurship at Brown.

Although students and others have already written online material describing their individual experiences and sharing tips, the improved version will feature a new crop of student authors who research and write about salient social innovation issues in the University community and the world at large.

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When General Motors discontinued America’s oldest automobile maker, Oldsmobile, in 2004, it ended a grand tradition of technical achievement.

Oldsmobile was created by Ransom Eli Olds, born in 1864 in Geneva, Ohio. His father, Pliny F. Olds, moved the family to Lansing, Mich. in 1880 and established an engine-building and machinery repair company. Ransom joined the firm in 1883. He completed a crude steam car in 1887, followed by an improved version in 1891 that was featured in Scientific American. He built his first gasoline-powered vehicle in 1896 and founded the Olds Motor Works on Aug. 21, 1897.

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