Notes from Innovation Policyworks



It's been an unsettling month as Maine's innovation community watches the apparent dismantling of our most effective investment organization, the Maine Technology Institute (MTI). First, the Governor vetoed a small R&D bond that would have funded a new competitive round of the award-winning Maine Technology Asset Fund for capital costs for new laboratories and other research infrastructure. Then, existing R&D bond projects were stopped because the Governor has refused to issue bonds approved by the legislature, ratified by Maine voters and selected through competitive processes. Finally, MTI President Betsy Biemann stepped down abruptly.


All of this is happening at the same time that the bright spots in Maine's economy are innovation-based companies like Cash Star and others that have received more venture capital investments than Maine has seen since 2000. All of the companies that have received these investments have also been supported by MTI, and many have worked closely with Maine's universities to pursue R&D projects.


What's next? I'd love to hear your thoughts on my blog.



How to Ruin your Innovation Process


I'm in training to earn my Black Belt in Innovation Engineering, and so I've been thinking a lot about the application of innovation in individual companies. It's clear that senior leadership can make or break an innovation culture, and often the sabotage is quite unintentional. Here are five ways that leaders crush innovation, courtesy of the Harvard Business Review blog:

  1. Innovation is episodic. It will work better if there is a repeatable process, so that innovation is not over if a particular new idea doesn't work out.
  2. Resources are held hostage by incumbent businesses. You have to be willing to admit when a product line is starting to fade, and reallocate resources to the new products that will replace it.
  3. Trying to fit innovation into your existing structure. It's more effective to create new structures.
  4. Too little diversity of thought and isolation from customers' experience.
  5. Treating assumptions like knowledge. Test, experiment, question, fail, revise. Repeat. Nothing will be right the first time.
Read the whole article at:  the Harvard Business Review blog.


Professor Calls Tax Credit "Soviet Thinking"


Things are getting heated down in Pennsylvania where Gov. Tom Corbett (R) is asking lawmakers to approve a $1.7 billion tax credit to lure a new petrochemical plant to the western part of the state. This would be the largest tax credit ever for PA, and would benefit Shell Chemicals to the tune of $66 million per year for 25 years. Shell is planning to develop natural gas derived from the Marcellus Shale deposits northwest of Pittsburgh. The plant is expected to create up to 10,000 construction jobs, and 500 permanent jobs. PA officials expect that the plant will lead to the growth of other companies in the region, much like SC and AL deals with automakers BMW and Hyundai, respectively, which have sparked entire clusters and supply chains.


Professor David Brunori of George Washington University described the idea as "Soviet thinking." His opinion, as a professor of public policy and expert on state tax policy, is that the best tax systems have low rates, are broadly based, and treat all businesses equally. Similarly, Chris Edwards of the conservative Cato Institute argues that it's better to giver lower tax rates for all businesses in a state, rather than just for a single company or industry.


The Importance of Strong Universities to Regional Economic Development


Some Maine folks don't seem to appreciate the importance of strong university and nonprofit research institutions to local and regional economic development. There is ample evidence of this in the academic literature, including articles that I have written!


Here's another one. BIO, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, asked five distinguished researchers, Lori Pressman, David Roessner, Jennifer Bond, Sumiye Okubo and Mark Planting, to estimate the economic contribution of University/Nonprofit inventions in the US. Their study covered inventions from universities, nonprofits and hospitals in the US from 1996-2010, and estimated the economic contribution to the Gross Domestic Product in a range from $86 billion to $388 billion. This report can be read in its entirety at the BIO website.

In This Issue
How to Ruin Your Innovation Process
For or Against Tax Credits?
Impact of Universities on GDP
IELI in Maine Sept 2 4-26

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To Cash Star for its Series C raise of $5 million announced in early July. The round, led by new investor Intel Capital, included existing investors Passport Ventures, FTV Capital and Steven Boal, co-founder and chairman of CashStar and president and CEO of Coupons.com, Inc., will go toward continued growth and mobile innovation.


To Hodgdon Defense Composites upon the launch of its new Greenough Advanced Rescue Craft. The GARC, is a personal watercraft that Hodgdon is building for the U.S. Air Force Special Command. The 143-horsepower vessel, powered by a jet drive, can travel at 40 knots and is designed to be dropped into the sea by a C-130 aircraft. 


Innovation Engineering in Maine


The next Innovation Engineering Leadership Institute is September 24-26 at the Morgan Hill Event Center in Hermon. 


This three-day intensive introduction to Innovation Engineering will get you and your company on the road to a process that increases speed of innovation up to 6 times and reduces risk by 30-80 percent. It works! 


Maine businesses, nonprofits and UMaine alums can attend for just $495 per person. To get the secret code for this discount, please contact me directly. 


Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.
Theodore Levitt
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96 Maine Street, Suite 183 Brunswick, ME 04011 207.522.9028
Innovation Policyworks, LLC, is an innovation strategy and evaluation firm focused on the development and measurement of effective state and regional technology-based policies and programs. Dr. Catherine S. Renault has been delivering innovation-based economic development results in rural states for over 20 years. She has been a technology-based economic development practitioner in two states and consulted with many more, most recently as science advisor and Director of the Office of Innovation for the State of Maine.   For a list of projects, see www.innovationpolicyworks.com/projects.  For a few months, Dr. Renault is helping the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development  (MCED) with the Top Gun program and other operational matters while the search for a full-time Operations Manager continues.