Notes from Innovation Policyworks


It's evaluation week here at Innovation Policyworks LLC. First, a paper

I co-wrote with Ken Poole, CEO of the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness, has just been published in State Legislature, the journal of the National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL). In our paper, we argue that evaluation of state economic development investments is important, but fraught with challenges, and we recommend several approaches to improving accountability in the use of state tax dollars. To read more about good and bad evaluations, including the latest Maine R&D evaluation,  click HERE. 



Innovation Engineering Executive Program in Portland, ME April 2-3

Your Executive Team Will Learn the New Way of Thinking About Innovation


What:  The Innovation Engineering Executive Program is a 1.5 day training where you and your team of executives learn the fundamentals of how to lead and manage innovation as a "system" that delivers increased speed and decreased risk. The Program is an "Executive Summary" course designed to make senior executives literate in the new innovation mindset. The program is appropriate for executives who are new to Innovation Engineering and to those who have started the process and are looking to expand awareness and understanding.


Why:  Companies that innovate realize 200 to 300% increases in profit growth when they transform to a proactive innovation culture versus a reactive price-driven orientation. However, research indicates that executives feel that innovation can take a long time and can be very risky. The Innovation Engineering field of study and practice transforms innovation from a random art to a reliable business system that delivers increased speed (up to 6x) and decreased risk (30 to 80%). The complete IE curriculum as taught to Innovation Engineering Black Belts on campus and off requires a investment of time and energy to cover the four college courses of content. This program provides a summary appropriate for executives.


How:  You learn through Focused Lectures and "Lab" classes during day one. During day two you apply the learning to your situation. With the help of Innovation Engineering Black Belts you experience translating your growth strategy into Blue Card™ action plans.


Cost: The executive program is designed for individuals and teams of up to 6 people.   The cost is $600.00 per person.


Contact me to learn more.


Eight Essential Questions for Every Innovator


Scott Anthony has written a great piece in the Harvard Business Review blog about questions that CEOs should be asking to set the stage for innovation. The questions are:


  1. What problem is the customer struggling to solve?
  2. Which customers can't participate in a market because they lack skills, wealth or access to existing solutions?
  3. What features are we providing that users don't care about and won't pay for?
  4. If you were going to disrupt your company, how would you do it?
  5. Who has already solved the problem you are trying to address?
  6. What can you do that few other companies in the world can do?
  7. What assumptions are you making that, if false, would blow your strategy up?
  8. How can you learn more affordably and efficiently?


These are the questions that Innovation Engineering is designed to help you address in a systematic and repeatable way. By focusing on these questions, and other similar to them, you can stay ahead in a marketplace that consistently rewards innovation and requires companies to be proactive. Let me know if you want to be ahead of the curve.

Freelance Nation?


Everyone is talking about the increase in self-employed workers, freelancers and small, single person corporations and LLCs. It seems like the economic development world has just figured out that we exist, even though we're hard to find in employment statistics. Are we an economic force to be reckoned with? Is there a future in catering to and supporting us with coworking centers and other policy prescriptions? Or are we just a bunch of people with lifestyle companies that don't contribute to the economy?


Obviously, the answer is in-between. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 14.4 million Americans were self-employed in January. Of those, 9.2 million were incorporated. Looking at an analysis by Economic Modeling Specialists Intl (EMSI) shows that some of the biggest gains in self-employment are in categories like housekeeping and landscapers. However, including the incorporated self-employed, you also see big gains in musicians, web developers, fitness trainers and mental health counselors! And other growing areas are scientists, computer and information systems managers, technical writers, market researchers and other "knowledge economy" occupations.


It appears that there is growth in this entire category, but not as much as some have predicted. However, in some places, this trend is perhaps more prevalent than others. Smaller, trendier cities and towns, for instance, seem to attract the self-employed - places like Portland, ME and Providence, RI. To what extent these places want to enact policies to support and attract the self-employed, as opposed to policies designed to attract a single large manufacturer, depends entirely on what their vision is for the future.

In This Issue - December 2013
New IE Executive Program
Essential Questions
Freelance Nation?
Open Access

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Quote of the Month 


"The key to success is for you to make a habit throughout your life of doing the things you fear. "


Vincent Van Gogh

Will Bitcoin Disintermediate Currencies?


Bitcoin is challenging the way we pay for things as the most prominent "virtual currency" out there. According to Bitcoin.org, "Bitcoin uses peer-to-peer technology to operate with no central authority or banks; managing transactions and the issuing of bitcoins is carried out collectively by the network. Bitcoin is open-source; its design is public, nobody owns or controls Bitcoin and everyone can take part." There are currently approximately 12.2 million units in circulation. However, the value of Bitcoins changes dramatically and is vulnerable to all kinds of pressures. Just this week, prices tumbled from $900 to $618.


Governments around the world are trying to figure out whether to regulate virtual currencies. In Finland, for instance, the central bank has decided that Bitcoin doesn't meet the definition of a currency or even an electronic payment. Norway's government reached the same conclusion. In China, lenders have been banned from handling Bitcoins. In the US, the IRS is monitoring the situation. To learn more, click HERE.



Open Access for Academic Research


Buried in the fine print in the 2014 federal budget just passed is a provision that requires federal agencies under the Labor, Health and Human Services and Educations portions of the bill with research budgets of $100 million or more to provide the public with online access to the research that they fund within 12 months of publication in a peer-reviewed journal.


This language was passed because academics publish most research papers, often based on research funded by federal taxpayer dollars, in scholarly journals that are extremely expensive, and are therefore only accessible through academic libraries. Many researchers have pushed for a more open system that allows for public sharing of scholarly research - "open access." But some publishers have cracked down on professors who post their articles on their own websites. MORE 

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96 Maine Street, Suite 183 Brunswick, ME 04011 207.522.9028

Innovation Policyworks, LLC, is an innovation strategy firm focused on innovation policy and practice. Dr. Catherine S. Renault has been delivering innovation-based economic development results in rural states for over 22 years, most recently as science advisor and Director of the Office of Innovation for the State of Maine.  She is a Certified Innovation Engineering Black Belt.

Cathy has just completed a business plan for an incubator  and coworking space for Newport, RI in collaboration with Camoin Associates, and is starting a new partnership of Pew and CREC to work with states to evaluate their business incentives.  For a list of projects, see www.innovationpolicyworks.com/projects.