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Notes from Innovation Policyworks


Recently, I led a roundtable conversation on stimulating creativity. An attendee challenged me by saying that most folks were not creative, and only a few, like himself, had the ability to innovate. I politely, but vehemently, disagreed with him.


While it's true that many of us, including myself, had creativity sucked out of us by the first grade by teachers insisting that we "color within the lines," research tells us that everyone can recapture that spirit with the right tools and the right environment. The critical pieces include a willingness to fail (i.e., make mistakes and learn from them) and an environment that supports, rather than punishes failure as learning. Another critical piece is gathering information and stimulus from a wide variety of sources, and keeping your inner critic from ignoring divergent thoughts and data that doesn't support your assumptions. Lastly, creativity is definitely a team sport - interaction with others, especially those who are different from you, will yield bigger and better ideas. MORE



8 Reasons to Launch Your Startup Outside of Silicon Valley 


Just as creativity flourishes at the intersections of edges of spheres of knowledge, it also prospers outside the usual places. So, starting your company outside of Silicon Valley has the following benefits, courtesy of Frank Bien of Looker.

  1. Avoid the herd.
  2. The workforce has become more urban.
  3. Lower cost of living attracts young talent.
  4. Less money on office space, more to spend on perks.
  5. Competition for talent in Silicon Valley is fierce.
  6. Not everyone wants to live in the Valley.
  7. Startup hubs are everywhere.
  8. Corner your regional market.

Read the whole article HERE.

Immigration and Entrepreneurship


Robert Litan, formerly with Kauffman Foundation, and now associated with Brookings, along with his co-author Ian Hathway have been writing about the decline in American entrepreneurship (although the recent Global Entrepreneurship Initiative annual report still shows the US at #1 worldwide). They say, "How could it be that the American economy, built on the sweat and ingenuity of some of history's greatest entrepreneurs, now has more businesses closing each year than new ones opening doors?" 


The answer they found is that the declining rate of population growth in the West, Southwest and Southeast regions since the early 1980s appears to be a major factor, and they further link this to immigration. Immigration, they say, helps reverse slowing population growth. But, "we also know that immigrants generally have a higher propensity to launch new businesses, high-tech businesses in particular," say the authors. Read more HERE.


Someone seems to be listening, as shown by a little known aspect of President Obama's immigration initiative launched last week . The new directive specifically orders the Department of Homeland Security to grant parole status on a case-by-case basis to inventors, researchers and entrepreneurs who have received "substantial" US investor financing or otherwise hold the promise of innovation and job creation. This is designed to overcome the barriers to foreign entrepreneurs including the cap on H-1B visas and the lack of a clear pathway from the foreign student F-1 visa to permanent residency or green card status. Read more HERE.

Tension between Startup Communities and Ecosystems


The community that runs Startup Weekends across the country and Canada has begun to get shriller about the importance of having entrepreneur-led initiatives, rather than government-led initiatives. Their argument, as recently articulated by Ken Bautista of Startup Edmonton (Canada), is that government spends a lot of resources on innovation ecosystems and accelerator networks, while overlooking grassroots, entrepreneur-led initiatives. It's hard to say whether this is a false choice or a case of sour grapes, because I've heard this basic paradigm from many in the startup community across the country. "We don't need government," they say, right before they complain that they can't get government grants to underwrite their programs or advocate for preferred tax treatment of investments in startups. Read Ken's op-ed HERE.


It seems to me that both are needed. Entrepreneur-led initiatives are great, as they build community and support networks. But initiatives led by local, regional, state or federal governments are critical too, as they can afford to fund research and development, focus infrastructure investments to assist growing sectors, modify tax policies to support entrepreneurs, and fill in capital gaps. 


High Tech Startups Going Urban


For decades, the startup communities you heard the most about - Silicon Valley, Boston's Route 128 corridor, the Research Triangle - were primarily located in the suburbs. However, in the last few years, startup activity has exploded in urban centers, and in close-in, transit-oriented, walkable suburbs. A new report from the Martin Propserity Institute shows the shift in high tech startup activity and venture capital investment. They found that San Francisco itself now attracts more venture capital than Silicon Valley, and the Boston-New York-Washington corridor is the second major center. Metro New York is now the nation's third largest center for venture capital, with 80% invested in the city itself.


Three other findings that are relevant: (1) venture capital investment tracks the percentage of adults who are college graduates, and the creative class; (2) there is no significant statistical association between venture capital and the location of education and medical centers; and (3) investment is associated with several markers of the diversity of metro areas, including percentages of immigrants and gays.


These findings shouldn't surprise us, when you discover that this report is authored by none other than Richard Florida, the originator of the concept of the creative economy. Note that the findings are correlations, and do not necessarily imply causation. Read more HERE. 
 Upcoming Learning 


December 12: Innovation Engineering Workshop, Portland


Cathy will lead a full day workshop teaching the basics of Innovation Engineering. Underwritten by MTI and E2Tech, this is open to the public for a cost of $99. Register HERE.


This workshop is a fast and fun way to sample the basics on how to Create, Communicate, & Commercialize Meaningfully Unique Ideas, using the Innovation Engineering system. In this format, we will cover the three basic topics in Innovation Engineering:


CREATE: You learn the new mindset that creates a 6x increase in the number of high quality ideas versus classic "brainstorming." It features a special focus on how to maximize learning from customer insights, marketplace benchmarking, technology and future mining and how to leverage the diverse thinking of a group to create Meaningfully Unique ideas.


COMMUNICATE: You will transform how you look at innovation projects. This section provides a simple way for defining ideas so that everyone - from front line worker to the CEO - can speak the same language.


COMMERCIALIZE: You will get basic training in how to reduce innovation risk. Instead of attempting to study away risk, you will learn the new Fail FAST Fail CHEAP approach. It's a modern and accelerated version of the classic Deming learning cycle of "Plan, Do, Study, Act" applied to innovation.


Dr. Catherine Renault, a Certified Innovation Engineering Black Belt, will teach this Innovation Engineering Workshop using the Cycles to MasteryTM teaching system. It's a system of learning developed at the University of Maine that has been found to be 4 times more effective than classic training programs. Quantitatively, the Workshop covers about 20% of the skills that are taught in the full Innovation Engineering Black Belt program.


The workshops involve a series of short videos that are watched in advance of the in-person Workshop on December 16th. This will entail roughly 1 hour of preparation in total. During the Workshop, we will drive deeper understanding through case study examples.


Sign up now for a fun, interactive learning experience. Multiple members of a team are welcomed and encouraged.

In This Issue - December 2014
Launch Outside of Silicon Valley
Immigration and Entrepreneurship
Tensions in Startup Communities
High Tech Startups Going Urban
Upcoming Learning Opportunities
Aimee's Corner
Nortech Merger
Biopharma ROI Dropping

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Aimee's Corner


Imagining Trust


In mid-November, Cathy and I made an innovation road trip to Rockland, Maine. We were invited to deliver a workshop at Juice 4.0. What a wicked cool name, as they say in Maine.


Juice is a statewide conference for community leaders, policy makers, entrepreneurs, artists and innovators to connect, collaborate, and create opportunities for economic development - a perfect forum for innovation engineering. "Imagining Trust" was selected as the conference theme because research studies reveal that success in small business and the arts is less about unique and motivated individuals but more about the social networks and trust that exists within the communities in which they operate. These findings match our personal IE experience realizing the benefits of trust across diverse communities connected through our IE portal.


Cathy and I delivered several popular IE exercises as part of our 3-hour workshop session at the conference - offering many opportunities for innovation action. Our session included Mind Mapping, a very lively Gauntlet of ideas exchange, and Take-Over Time applying established business success to problems in Rockland.


I know you are asking yourself, so what did you learn? Read the answers HERE.

Quote of the Month 


"An idea that is not dangerous is not worthy of being called an idea at all."

Oscar Wilde

One Answer to the Complaint About Too Many Economic Development Organizations


I hear the complaint that there are too many economic development organizations all the time, yet there are few incentives for localities, regions or states to eliminate any of their programs, or for not-for-profits to merge. However, running counter to this observation is the recent decision by Team Northeast Ohio (NEO) and NorTech to merge their operations, along with new functions such as workforce integration, retention/expansion support and strategy coordination. The merger was the result of a new regional competitiveness strategy developed by the business and philanthropy community to accelerate job growth. They plan to make larger commitments to fewer industry clusters, building on NorTech's strong record in cluster development; increase the emphasis on business retention and expansion, compared to Team NEO's prior emphasis on attraction of new businesses; continue to support startup entrepreneurs and scaleups, and address workforce issues. The downside is that many talented public servants at NorTech, including their President, Rebecca Bagley, are losing their jobs. We will see if bigger is better. Read more HERE.

Biopharma ROI Dropping


A new Deloitte study has shown that the overall rate of return on R&D investment for the 12 largest biopharmaceutical firms has dropped from 10.5 percent in 2010 to 4.8 percent in 2014, and the cost of developing a new medicine has surpassed $1.3 billion. Deloitte suggests that this is because of significant uncertainty in three areas: scientific, regulatory and insurance coverage. In addition, policies with regards to biosimilars, which have a shorter path to FDA approval create uncertainty for the time when new medicines come off patent. Read more HERE.

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135 Maine Street, Suite A-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.

Aimee Dobrzeniecki works with clients in Washington DC and across the country sharing her 20 years of government policy, economic development, and technology transition experience. 

She is also  Certified Black Belt in Innovation Engineering, and is following her passion by helping organizations that have a positive outlook on the future. Through her individual coaching skills, she is ready to roll up her sleeves and provide an ally to businesses seeking to enter new markets, create new products, or test new business models. Aimee not only explains why it is the time to innovate; she demonstrates the steps to innovate faster than your competition.


For a list of selected projects, see www.innovationpolicyworks.com/projects.