Planning ahead? Humans don’t want accuracy; they want reassurance. The Nobel laureate and retired Stanford University economist Kenneth Arrow did a tour of duty as a weather forecaster for the U.S. Air Force during World War II. Ordered to evaluate mathematical models for predicting the weather one month ahead, he found that they were worthless. Informed of that, his superiors sent back another order: “The Commanding General is well aware that the forecasts are no good. However, he needs them for planning purposes.” [Jason Zweig, Wall Street Journal, Dec 31]
Optimism unbounded. Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi is now officially the world’s most valuable tech startup, worth $46 billion—the exclamation point on a year of extraordinary valuations. Valuations placed on tech startups world-wide stretched to record heights in 2014 and accelerated at an exceptional pace, even when compared with the late 1990s dot-com boom. [Evelyn Rusli, Wall Street Journal, Dec 30, 14]
Biotech Investors bail out after Gilead's drug pricing fight. The biotechnology sector is having its worst day since April as investors fear health insurers and companies that manage patient's drug benefits will put new pressure on how much the industry can charge for breakthrough [San Jose Mercury News, Dec 23, 14]
Glass sensors. Although a water app isn’t close yet, researchers at Corning and elsewhere recently discovered that they could use Gorilla Glass, the toughened glass made by Corning that’s commonly used on smartphone screens, to make extremely sensitive chemical and biological sensors. It could detect, say, traces of sarin gas in the air or specific pathogens in water. [Kevin Bullis, technology.com, December 17, 2014]
Manufacturing money. The Administration announced $390 million in public and private funding for new manufacturing programs, including competition for two new manufacturing innovation hubs. One hub will be overseen by the Department of Energy, the other by the Department of Defense. [AAAS, Dec 17]
Universities are stepping up efforts to create “spinouts,” or business startups born from some of the cutting-edge research of their students or faculty. Some schools are creating funds that help cover startup costs. Others are pairing scientists with entrepreneurs, launching incubators, or programs to foster business development, and even including entrepreneurial activity in their reviews of faculty. .... University spinouts face a host of obstacles. Technologies emerging from research labs are often embryonic. Academic researchers are typically rewarded for research and publishing, not venture creation, and often have little business experience. Many universities are located far from the funding and people needed to expand companies. Finding ready markets and entrepreneurs to build these businesses are additional challenges. [Ruth Simon, Wall Street Journal, Dec 17] As Churchill once noted, "He wants Napoleon's victories without fighting Napoleon's battles." Universities smell the profit but haven't the tools, and they seem to discount the entrepreneurs who would find and pursue a true profit opportunity wherever it appears. And businesses created by institutions and governments start with a thinking handicap.
Emerging Ethical Dilemmas in S&T. The John J. Reilly Center at the University of Notre Dame has begun a year-long endeavor to identify the "2015 List of Emerging Ethical Dilemmas and Policy Issues in Science and Technology" with contributions from experts and the general public. The list currently contains ten such dilemmas/issues, including, for example, wearable technology, enhanced pathogens, robot swarms, brain-to-brain interfaces, and much more. There is a link from the main site for casting your vote, and the Center will post a running tally of the votes. One can also view the lists for 2013 and 2014. [AAAS, Dec 17]
Premiere of Documentary on Patent System. On December 15, Inventing to Nowhere, a documentary on the U.S. patent system and what drives people to invent, will be screened in 20 cities across the country, including Washington, D.C. The documentary was created with support from the Innovation Alliance and features interviews with inventors such as Dean Kamen as well as historians and Members of Congress. The Alliance was created "to support measures to improve patent quality and curb excessive litigation costs for all users of the patent system." [AAAS, Dec 17]
There are two entrepreneurship problems afflicting the U.S. economy today, and both are bad for the middle class. The country doesn’t have enough of the kind of entrepreneurship that creates jobs, and it has too much of the kind that boosts rich executives at the expense of everyone else. ... A recent study for George Mason University’s Mercatus Center by economists Russell Sobel and Rachel Graefe-Anderson found that for companies, deep political connections (including high lobbying spending) and higher revenues go together. But instead of banking those extra revenues as profits, the firms appear to pass them on to their chief executives. The paper finds “a robust and significant positive relationship between political activity and executive compensation.” [Jim Tankersley, Washington Post, Dec 17]
Microsoft feted the first batch of startups to go through its Seattle accelerator with a demo day in the heart of Amazon’s neighborhood. And despite their competition for workers and customers, Amazon employees were invited inside ... The Microsoft accelerator, in partnership with American Family Insurance, focused on home automation. ... Microsoft also has accelerators in Paris, Berlin, Bangalore, Beijing, London, and Tel Aviv, and plans to expand to more locations, said Zack Weisfeld, head of Microsoft Ventures global accelerators. [Benjamin Romano, xconomy.com, Dec 11]
Dave McClure, cofounder of Silicon Valley investment firm 500 Startups, has learned the tricks of the trade of investing in startups after shelling out funds for more than 900 companies in more than 40 countries. "Startups are a very challenging thing," he said recently at the National Angel Summit in Dallas. "Know that most things are going to fail." [Danielle Abril, Dallas Business Journal, Dec 10] McClure shares a litany of do and don't for angels.
The Texas Medical Center and Washington, D.C.-based Village Capital have launched VilCap USA, a national business incubator that will offer new companies mentorship, business development and potentially seed-stage cash. .... All of the [twelve so far] companies are some sort of a digital health play. [Joe Martin, Houston Business Journal, Dec 9]
Los Alamos National Laboratory announced it has released a new version of Sequedex, a powerful bioinformatics software. The new version of Sequedex is capable of identifying DNA sequences from any type of organism, including fungi, bacteria and viruses. [Andy Beale, Albuquerque Business First, Dec 1, 14]
Researchers at Princeton University developed a way to print functioning electronic circuitry out of semiconductors and other materials. They are also refining ways to combine electronics with biocompatible materials and even living tissue, which could pave the way for exotic new implants. [Katherine Bourzac, technologyreview.com, December 1, 2014]
Things change quickly—and more drastically than many think. Fourteen years ago, Enron was on Fortune magazine’s list of the world’s most-admired companies, Apple was a struggling niche company, Greece’s economy was booming, and the Congressional Budget Office predicted the federal government would be effectively debt-free by 2009. There is a tendency to extrapolate the recent past, but 10 years from now the business world will look absolutely nothing like it does today. [Morgan Housel, Wall Street Journal, Dec 6]
Startup nation continues to be mired in stagnation. American entrepreneurship has been on a decades-long decline, one that’s belied by the rise of new household names like Google, Facebook and even Uber. Starting a new business has supposedly never been easier, yet more businesses are dying than are being created and new businesses keep shrinking as a share of all companies. As a result, just as the American population has been aging, American businesses have as well. The trend has been clear for a while, but the reasons for it haven’t been. [Yuval Rosenberg, The Fiscal Times, Nov 26] Wasn't SBIR supposed to fix or prevent such a decline? Not really, because its political designers couldn't resist the urge to do something for everybody and then punt the question to the federal agencies who have no incentive to create innovative new biz. The result has been that the big agencies put their money on safe companies with safe projects that would almost certainly "succeed." But not succeed at creating an economic impact.
Bringing tech indoors. General Motors plans to add 200-to-400 IT jobs in metro Atlanta, a year after opening a 1,000-employee technology development center in the region, Atlanta Business Chronicle has learned. ... With its abundance of tech grads, inexpensive cost of doing business, and global transportation connectivity, metro Atlanta has drawn several software development centers, including CBS, Infosys Ltd, and Panasonic Automotive Systems of America. ... Atlanta IT center is one of four such centers GM has opened around the country as it brings the majority of its IT operations in-house and in the United States. The other GM IT centers — Warren, MI., Chandler, AZ. and Austin, TX — are also being expanded. [Urvaksh Karkaria, Atlanta Business Chronicle, Nov 19, 14]
Economics as theology. A substantial part of the problem arguably lies in the textbook assumption that selfish motives will produce sensible outcomes, a belief that dates back to Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations. Data, such as there are, supply little support for this warmly embraced belief. Like much else in economic theory, this particular belief is in accord with Robert Skidelsky's unkind suggestion that economics “is a form of post-Christian theology, with economists as priests of warring sects” [Robert May reviewing Capital Failure: Rebuilding Trust in Financial Services by Nicholas Morris and David Vines, Science, Nov 28]
The billion-dollar pill is now $2.6 billion. That’s according to a new estimate from the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development of the cost of developing a pharmaceutical and getting it approved for human use. [Kerry Grens, The Scientist, November 24]
St. Louis is among a handful of cities that are benefiting most from having business accelerators. ... According to a ranking from the Seed Accelerator Ranking Project, the eighth most improved city for startup funding ... Aside from investing in startups — St. Louis accelerators will invest between $50,000 to $100,000 in at least 45 companies next year [Brian Feldt, St. Louis Business Journal, Nov 18, 14]
The Internet has made it terribly easy for anyone with a computer to post any absurdity they choose. The perfect quote for this discussion is Benjamin Franklin’s admonition: “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” Except of course, that it was said by Winston Churchill. This is exactly the reason why we must pay heed to Abraham Lincoln, who once tweeted, “You cannot believe everything you read on the Internet.” [Barry Ritholtz, Bloomberg View, Nov 25, 14]
Years ending in “5.” There have been eight years ending in “5” since the start of our daily S&P 500 data. They all have been up with an average gain of 25.3% ranging from 3.0%-41.4%. By the way, the two-year gain for years ending in “5” and “6” averaged 37.6%, with seven of the eight periods having double-digit gains and only one period down by 5.2%. [Ed Yardeni's blog, http://blog.yardeni.com] Eight consecutive heads in a coin toss, or a defensible trend?
Johnson & Johnson's plans to open one of its life sciences incubators in the Texas Medical Center is yet another piece of the puzzle to transform TMC's research into commercial products. ... will be able to house 50 companies. Once it opens next year, it will feature labs [and office space] for pharmaceutical and medical device startups to develop new drugs or hardware. [Joe Martin, Houston Business Journal, Oct 31, 14]
The Ohio group responsible for
bolstering the tech industry in the Buckeye State has awarded $9.1
million to boost startups in Cincinnati. .... to support and
invest in high potential companies through 2016
[Andy Brownfield, Cincinnati Business Courier, Nov 12] The money
goes to accelerators and incubators, not directly to R&D
companies. No mention of ROI from earlier investments, just
government input numbers for political cheerleading. The
city no doubt sees justice in gettingback some of its tax payments.
CVS Health, operator of Minute Clinics and the country's second-biggest drugstore chain, is planning to open a technology development center in Boston this winter. ... will fit about 100 people ... CVS is #12 on the Fortune 500 list [Scott Kirsner, betaboston.com, Nov 17]
According to Chris Benner, a regional economist at the University of California, Davis, there has been no net increase in jobs in Silicon Valley since 1998; digital technologies inevitably mean you can generate billions of dollars from a low employment base. [David Rotman, Technology and Inequality, Technology Review, Oct 2014]
A scanner the size of an iPhone that you could hold up to a person’s chest and see a vivid, moving, 3-D image of what’s inside is being developed by entrepreneur Jonathan Rothberg [who] says he has raised $100 million to create a medical imaging device that’s nearly “as cheap as a stethoscope” and will “make doctors 100 times as effective.” The technology, which according to patent documents relies on a new kind of ultrasound chip, could eventually lead to new ways to destroy cancer cells with heat, or deliver information to brain cells. .... He started and sold two DNA-sequencing companies, 454 and Ion Torrent Systems, for more than $500 million. [Antonio Regalado, trechnologyreview.com, Nov 3, 14]
The city of Rochester, Minn., and the Mayo Clinic are teaming on a $1.2 million plan to host a regenerative-medicine clinical trial for Belgium's Cardio3 BioSciences in hopes of landing a big manufacturing plant down the road. ... The technology, which Cardio3 and Mayo have collaborated on for years, works by reprogramming the body's stem cells to repair cardiac tissue. [Mark Reilly, Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal, Oct 28] Welcome immigrant competition.
a startup accelerator focused on German companies seeking to break into the U.S. market ... officially called the German Accelerator, expanded to New York after operating for three years in Silicon Valley. Both outposts are focused on German technology startups. ... the companies in the program get mentorship, office space at a NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering building on Varick Street in Manhattan, and networking opportunities. [J. Jennings Moss, New York Business Journal, Oct 24]
Capitalism is succeeding in all the ways one should expect. That is, capitalists are winning and the labor class is losing. That’s been the trend over the last 30 years. This doesn’t mean capitalism is “good” or “bad”. It just means that capitalism is doing what it does best by enriching the capitalist class. Most importantly, the cause of this growing stagnancy at the median household level has little to do with policy and more to do with macro trends. Globalization and technology have altered the landscape in phenomenal ways. Technology is making the labor class increasingly replaceable. Massive increases in technological efficiency mean that the capitalist class can keep more and rely less on the labor class. [Cullen Roche, Pragmatic Capitalism, Nov 4]
Clinicians and other health care professionals with ideas for new medical device innovations have a new resource in the Austin area with the launch of Medical Innovation Labs, an incubator created to piggyback on the Dell Medical School, which is now under construction. .... the creation of a team led by CEO Dr. Michael Patton, who founded Patton Surgical (Austin, TX; no SBIR) and later sold it to Stryker (San Jose, CA; no SBIR) medical technology firm for an undisclosed amount in 2012. [Chad Swiatecki, Austin Business Journal, Oct 14, 14]
This artificial intelligence breakthrough, [Kevin Kelly] argues, is being driven by cheap parallel computation technologies, big data collection and better algorithms. The upshot is clear, “The business plans of the next 10,000 start-ups are easy to forecast: Take X and add A.I.” [David Brooks, New York Times, Oct 30]
Sandia National Laboratories announced that one of its researchers has invented a sensor to make prosthetics, particularly prosthetic legs, a better fit for those using them and is looking for commercial partners to help bring it to market. Researcher Jason Wheeler developed new technology to accommodate the natural tendency of limbs to change shape throughout the day. As a person walks, for example, fluids in their legs shift, causing the limbs to change shape slightly as the day progresses. ... said the technology is very near the stage where it can be sold [Andy Beale, Albuquerque Business First, Oct 15, 14]
If you speak to senior executives from some of the big firms that have set up operations in China, they will tell you, off the record, that China’s success was built in part on the theft of their intellectual property. If that’s true, it’s pretty similar to what American textiles manufacturers did to British market leaders during the early nineteenth century. [John Cassidy, Is the Chinese Economy About to Fall Off a Cliff?, New Yorker, October 21, 2014
A recent survey by the National Science Foundation found that a quarter of Americans did not know if the earth moved around the sun or vice versa. [Priyamvada Natarajan, What Scientists Really Do, New York Review of Books, Oct 23]
Every six months, the IMF forecasts the global economy - and cuts its previous forecast. Despite an army of economists, all of its forecasts since 2011 have been too optimistic. ... Part - reflects an (unavoidable) optimistic bias. You can't expect an international agency, responsible to its 188 member countries, to become a citadel of gloom. 1. hangover from the 2008-09 financial crisis; 2. legacy of global trade imbalances in the 1990s and early 2000s; 3. cost of maturing welfare states ... all have a similar economic effect: They reduce demand. ... We're witnessing a historic break from the past. IMF forecasters deserve some sympathy. They're dealing with a global economy that strains our intellectual understanding and is outside their personal experience. We don't know what we don't know. [Robert Samuelson, Washington Post, Oct 13]
Thiel begins with a question that he poses to job applicants: What important truth do very few people agree with you on? This is a great interview question, and I’m going to steal it from him. But the question also points to a deeper truth: It is extremely difficult to come up with an idea that is simultaneously contrarian, true, and valuable. Such an idea is the genesis of most great technology companies. [Jim Manzi, Weekly Standard, Oct 20]
China is spending billions on health-care reform, with a focus on telemedicine. But keen interest is no guarantee of success in any country. “If you have a chaotic system and add technology, you get a chaotic system with technology,” says Peteris Zilgalvis, a health official at the European Commission. Telemedicine may even increase costs if it is added to old routines rather than replacing them. There is little evidence of its cost-effectiveness, says Marc Lange of the European Health Telematics Association, because studies simply lump it on top of standard care. [The Economist, Oct 11]
What if the market ..? Avoid reading headlines. ... bad news is simply more exciting for the media industry than good news.... If you pay too much attention to headlines and the talking head experts on television, you might want to sell everything and head for the hills. Keep in mind, though, that every trade has a buyer and those buyers are obviously not as worried. Your best buys come when there is ‘blood in the streets.’ There will always be bad news somewhere, and even the best stocks have hundreds of investors who think they are garbage. Focus on the fundamentals. [Peter Hodson, CEO of 5i Research Inc, National Post (Canada), Oct 10]
here in Seattle, Semi-successful companies [whose product sales are too small to make it attractive enough to be swallowed by the bigger fish] are exactly what we need here as the river of economic change washes through the biopharmaceutical ecosystem. Because very successful companies get bought out as Big Phama retools its business models. These days it’s goodbye, internal R&D; hello acquisitions, collaborations, and contract research organizations. [Stewart Lyman (consultant), xconomy.com, Oct 6]
The world’s export engines are sputtering, putting new pressure on many nations to weaken their currencies to jump-start their economies. ... major exporters see a key engine of growth downshifting. “The global economy is weaker than we had hoped,” Christine Lagarde, managing director of International Monetary Fund, said late last week. [Ian Talley, Wall Street Journal, Oct 6]
Despite the fact that New York had some of the finest biomedical research labs in the country ... there were few mechanisms to launch startups. .... To launch it, [ Samuel K. Sia, a biomedical engineering professor at Columbia University] enlisted the financial assistance of the New York City Economic Development Corp. It provided $626,000 to develop the incubator and turn one floor of a former office building on West 127th Street, in proximity to Columbia University, into shared office space. .... accommodates 20 startup bioengineering firms [Gary M. Stern, New York Business Journal, Aug 25]
AT&T’s executives reacted as if Baran had asked them to get into the unicorn-breeding business. They explained at length why his “packet-switching” network was a physical impossibility, at one point calling in 94 separate technicians to lecture [RAND Corporation researcher, Paul] Baran on the limits of the company’s hardware. “When it was over, the AT&T executives asked Baran, ‘Now do you see why packet switching wouldn’t work?’ ” Isaacson writes. “To their great disappointment, Baran simply replied, ‘No.’ ” [BRENDAN I. KOERNER, reviewing Walter Isaacson, "The Innovators", New York Times, Oct 2]
Isaacson contends that men like Atanasoff receive too much adulation, for an ingenious idea is worthless unless it can be executed on a massive scale. [BRENDAN I. KOERNER, reviewing Walter Isaacson, "The Innovators", New York Times, Oct 2]
companies and shareholders found that “the return on technology was better than the return on people.” Manufacturing has fallen from 25 percent of the economy in 1970 to 12 percent today. Between the 1970s and the early 2000s, when stock options and other compensation packages became common, the average chief executive went from being paid 20 times as much as the median employee to being paid 400 times as much. [David Bromwich, reviewing Roberts's "The Impulse Society," New York Times, Oct 2]
The Scientific Revolution of the 17th century had changed the way that a small group of elite thinkers saw the world, but most of the world’s population still doesn’t think the way scientists do. The Digital Revolution, by contrast, has changed many things for all of us. There’s no overestimating the shattering effects of these technologies on our economy, our culture, our forms of interaction and our sense of who we are. [Steven Shapin reviewing Walter Isaacson. The Innovators, Wall Street Journal, Oct 3]
TECHNOLOGICAL revolutions are best appreciated from a distance. The great inventions of the 19th century, from electric power to the internal-combustion engine, transformed the human condition. Yet for workers who lived through the upheaval, the experience of industrialisation was harsh: full of hard toil in crowded, disease-ridden cities. ... wealth creation in the digital era has so far generated little employment. .... In the 19th century, it took the best part of 100 years for governments to make the investment in education that enabled workers to benefit from the industrial revolution. [The Economist, Oct 4] The shrinking employment pie is challenging our politicians to say or do something intelligent. Unhappily, election is best obtained by telling the voters what they want to hear. Which, for an intractable problem, means shifting the blame to the other party. They also must pretend that they have a solution such as, "Let us solve the problem that half of my constituents are below the median income."
Too much of a good thing. A spike in supplies has sent U.S. ethanol prices tumbling to four-year lows and curbed profits for an industry that had posted robust earnings for most of this year. Ethanol futures plunged 28% last month, as falling domestic demand left U.S. producers with the largest inventories in more than a year. ... "Demand for gas went off a cliff in early September, and ethanol blending fell off with it," said Geoff Cooper, senior vice president at the Renewable Fuels Association. [Wall Street Journal, Oct 3, 14]
The Planet Needs More Plant Scientists. Academia is not producing sufficient PhDs in the plant sciences to solve the crop production challenges facing a rapidly growing population. ... Since 1982, we have consistently trained only about 1,000 PhDs in applied agricultural and related sciences each year. And over the last decade, the U.S. has annually produced only 800 or so plant scientists working in applied agricultural science and only 100 with the skills for basic plant research. ... bad news in the near term for the depressed U.S. corn market. [Alan M. Jones, The Scientist, Oct 1, 14] Even though plants are the base of the food chain, and sunlight the only source of plant growth energy, ten times as many science PhDs study health were more heroic stories are possible. Government subsidy launched the ethanol ship, and government will be under political pressure to bail out the losers.
Panicked primates on a ball floating somewhere in our universe. One of the collective fallacies our culture operates under is the delusion that the market is some kind of astute forecasting machine. It is not — it represents the collective wisdom of 10 million panicked monkeys. That millions of slightly clever, pants wearing primates can combine their collective ignorance, their intellectual foibles, biases and false beliefs somehow into something resembling intelligence was one of the false beliefs of the era. Unfortunately, this is a condition the monkeys are prone towards (Witch burning, bloodletting, organized religion, etc.).” [Barry Ritholtz, ritholtz.com/blog , Oct 2, 2014]
Carnegie Mellon University professor Keith Cook has received a $2.4 million [NIH] grant to support the research and development of artificial lungs that patients may use long-term at home while waiting for a lung transplant. .... cover the research and development of the device for four years [Justine Coyne, Pittsburgh Business Times, Sep 10] Good solid science work. But no one has an economic incentive to make something work, for however long, in multiple places and seek independent solutions to problems from many observers. SBIR could be a vehicle for the economic enterprise that would parallel and feed from the purely science work, and NIH seems amenable to funding private enterprise for just that purpose.
in the 1970s, tech firms were scattered across the developed world. Since then America has come to dominate tech, almost totally. [Ken Fisher, investor]
Nathan Myhrvold’s May 1997 vision for expanding Microsoft Research helped set the foundation for “what has arguably become the world’s leading corporate research organization in software and computing—signaling its move from a one-off lab into the global organization it is today, boasting some 1,100 scientists and engineers in seven research labs and five other tech centers around the world.” That’s how Xconomy founder and editor in chief Bob Buderi introduced his analysis of the strategic plan, which helps provide the complex backdrop against which Microsoft today navigates unprecedented change, including significant layoffs and the closure of Microsoft Research Silicon Valley. [Benjamin Romano, xconomy.com, Sep 30]
Another Ucubator. The Kogod [School of Business, American University] incubator will provide mentors and work space for entrepreneurs as well as $1,500 in cash to pay for initial expenses. ... All startups that move past the concept stage will able to apply for backing from the Entrepreneurship Venture Fund which the university just put together with $100,000 in funding. [Tucker Echols, Washington Business Journal, Sep 23] A home for more app-makers? Or a base for eventual game changers? Since DC is a one-industry town, and it's not tech, where will any young tech-entros meet serious money?
Dogmatic belief. Despite clear evidence that elevated prices in stocks, bonds and real estate remain a direct consequence of zero percent interest rates and quantitative easing, the crowd has asserted again and again that the prices are justified by the surging U.S. economy. There is very scant evidence upon which to base such an opinion. [Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, Real Clear Markets, Sep 30] Start with a single correlation and assume an entire case of economics in a highly complex and diverse economy. Borders on religion. Schiff often opines in public, usually gloomily.
Robots have already become safe and smart enough to work alongside people on a few manufacturing production lines. ... replacing some people. But in many situations they are augmenting the abilities of human workers—freeing them to do tasks that require manual dexterity and ingenuity rather than extreme precision and stamina. These robots are also increasing productivity for manufacturers and giving them new flexibility. .... The next generation of robots to work alongside humans are likely to be faster and more powerful, making them considerably more useful—but also necessitating more sophisticated safety systems. These safeguards are now affordable because the sensors and computer power needed to react quickly and intelligently to safety risks have become cheap. ... At ABB, a Swiss energy and automation company, human and robot teammates swap tasks to learn each other’s preferences, resulting in a process that gets the job done more quickly. .... Workers seem comfortable with the idea of robotic colleagues, too. [Will Knight, technologyreview.com, Sep 16] Robot colleagues will become robot job replacers as robot economics steadily advances.
The Elliott Wave Theorist (newsletter) was incredibly bearish before the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, but they have been bearish for most of the last 20 years. --- Mark Hulbert, financial market adviser
The metabolism of the economy has accelerated. In the past, it took 20 years to create a billion-dollar business. Groupon did it in 18 months. We have entered the age of the billion-dollar startup, where the best companies move seemingly at light speed. We live in a time where age, size, reputation and current sales don't guarantee you will be around tomorrow. On the other hand, if you can build an organization that is sufficiently scalable, fast-moving and smart, you may see success—exponential success—to a degree never before possible. [Salim Ismail, founding director of Singularity University, Silicon Valley]
The book’s title sums up the main argument, that truly valuable innovation occurs not through incremental change but by creating something out of nothing, something entirely new. That will require hard, contrarian thinking; the sort of vague “indefinite optimism” that things are going to get better that has long been a part of American culture, though is currently on the wane, will have to be resisted. Successful entrepreneurs, he argues, are not lucky lottery-winners, but people who have a clear vision of the future and a well-designed plan for getting there. [The Economist reviewing Thiel's Zero to One, Sep 20]
Procter & Gamble has turned to government laboratories that were instrumental in the development of the atomic bomb to improve the quality of products such as Pampers diapers, Head & Shoulders shampoo and Tide laundry detergent. ... was granted access to some of the fastest supercomputers in the world through the U.S. Department of Energy’s INCITE program, which stands for Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment. .... the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility at the national lab in Tennessee posted an article on its website recently that explained how “America’s fastest supercomputer” can help companies such as Procter & Gamble [Barrett J. Brunsman, Cincinnati Business Courier, Sep 8]
Fewer startups. The image of the United States as bursting with entrepreneurial zeal, it turns out, is more myth than reality. In truth, the rate at which new companies are being formed has fallen steadily for more than three decades. The decline has occurred nationwide — even in Silicon Valley. Business creation there is still high compared with most of the country, but it's down markedly from the past, according to the Brookings Institution. [Walter Hamilton, Los Angeles Times, Sep 21, 14] So, the invention of SBIR for three decades has paralled the decline of innovation despite the founders' claims for more direct government prime contracting of innovation. Part of that failure came from allowing the federal agencies to capture the program to feed their own R&D programs with little thought to downstream economics. Ah well, so goes interest group politics.
Sprechen Sie Deutsch? German companies are embarking on their biggest-ever acquisition spree in the U.S., chasing deals that promise innovation, growth and an escape route from a crisis-ridden Europe. ... German firms have announced about $65 billion in U.S. deals — almost 18 times the total of $3.7 billion in the same period last year — eclipsing the sixfold increase in acquisitions by European companies overall in the U.S. [MATTHEW CAMPBELL , Bloomberg News, Sep 22]
The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson The mega-bestselling biographer of Steve Jobs takes a long view of the Internet revolution. Starting with the first computer program (written by a woman in the 1840s), the book profiles the people and the teams that brought us into the modern technological era [Fortune's list of this season’s most anticipated titles.]
when electronic cash registers went from 10 percent of the market in 1972 to 90 percent just four years later, NCR, long the leading maker of cash registers, was caught unprepared, resulting in big losses and mass layoffs. ... Nowadays every corporate executive wants to disrupt; the word has become a mark of forward-thinking decisiveness—though it is sometimes attached to strategies that are more about cost-cutting than game-changing. [Justin Fox, the Atlantic, Sep 17]
Robert Gordon, a respected Northwestern University scholar, contends that mainstream economic growth predictions are wildly optimistic. ... By 2024, he reckons, gross domestic product will be nearly $2 trillion lower — almost 10% — than projected by the Congressional Budget Office. ... From 1950 to 1973, the U.S. economy grew almost 4% annually; until 2001, growth average slightly more than 3% a year. By contrast, the CBO's projection for the next decade is 2.1% annually, and Gordon's baseline estimate is a meager 1.6%. .... But statistics are firmly on his side; since 2010, annual productivity gains have averaged less than 1% [even with computers and robots] [ROBERT J. SAMUELSON, investors.com, Sep 19] Is the problem / solution economic or political? Unfortunately, politics is driven by economics, not the other way round, despite politicians' claims and promises for a free lunch.
Twenty-five years later, [biophysicist David Deamer's 1989] idea is now being commercialized as a gene sequencing machine that’s no larger than a smartphone, and whose effects might eventually be similarly transformative. .... Early versions of the instrument, called the MinION, have been reaching scientific labs over the past few months after long delays. It’s built by a U.K. company, Oxford Nanopore, that has raised $292 million and spent 10 years developing Deamer’s idea into a DNA sequencer unlike any other now available [Antonio Regalado, technologyreview.com, Sep 17, 14]
Microsofter. Microsoft will close its Silicon Valley research-and-development operation as part of 2,100 layoffs announced on Thursday, as it moves toward its new CEO's goal of cutting 18,000 staff, or about 14 percent of its workforce. [Bill Rigby, Reuters, Sep 18]
we must lose some misconceptions. First, manufacturing no longer derives its importance primarily from employing large numbers of people. As software drives more of the manufacturing process, and automated machines and robots execute much of it, factories don’t need as many workers. Second, the idea popularized in the 1990s and 2000s that innovation can happen in one place (say, Silicon Valley) while manufacturing happens in another (such as China) is not broadly sustainable. If all the manufacturing is happening in China, these networks are growing there, meaning eventually all the innovation—or at least a lot of it—will be happening there too. .... Robots, software, and sensors work no matter what language is spoken around them. [Nanette Byrnes, technologyreview.com, Sept 16, 2014]
A microfluidic device filled with magnetic nanometer-sized beads that bind a plethora of pathogens and toxins was able to clear these invaders from the blood of rats with sepsis, improving their outcomes, according to a paper published today (September 14) in Nature Medicine. The design of the extracorporeal device was inspired by the small vessels and sinusoids within the spleen, through which blood “trickles slowly, almost like in a wetlands, efficiently capturing pathogens” said lead study author Donald Ingber, a professor at Harvard Medical School and founding director of the Wyss Institute in Boston [Anna Azvolinsky , The Scientist, Sep 14]
A top Oregon business official said today's announcement that a Portland bioscience incubator plans to expand means good things could happen within Portland's biotech community. [Andy Giegerich, Portland Business Journal, Sep 15] Wishing for a piece of the massive biotech investment [bubble?] by big pharma with cashcow patents expiring and not enough great prospects in their internal pipeline. Incubators are in, at least in the talking. Meanwhile farther up the river, The Oregon Regional Accelerator & Innovation Network ( RAIN) formally started in May and since then the board and its executive director Jim Coonan have been busy gathering resources and convening stakeholders. The group is convening government leaders, higher education leaders and local entrepreneurs to galvanize economic development in the southern Willamette Valley and create sustainable businesses. [Malia Spencer, Portland Business Journal, Sep 15] Like all government and pseudo-government enterprises, it's a lot easier to count the input than to count the results.
Oregon's trade groups that represent the state's technology and biotech industries [Technology Association of Oregon and Oregon Bioscience Association] said they'll collaborate on ways to nurture the health information technologies, personal digital health products, bioinformatics and health analytics sectors. [Andy Giegerich, Portland Business Journal, Sep 5]
U.S. corporations are buying their own shares at the briskest clip since the financial crisis, helping fuel a stock rally amid a broad trading slowdown. [Dan Strumpf, Wall Street Journal, Sep 16] All the cash hoard, which would normally be used for investment in productive capacity, is going to enrich the management, which creates no economic gain for the economy. That's bad news for employment and for developers of new technology.
A New Zealand company [PowerbyProxi] that develops wireless power systems is opening a new U.S. headquarters in Austin, company officials said. [Austin American Statesman, Sep 11]
Robot rooter. As a technology, robotics has the potential to be far, far bigger than the Internet. It could be more on the scale of railways, the telephone, or electricity — technologies that really did transform the economy. Why? There are three reasons. It creates genuinely novel products. It promises to dramatically increase productivity. And it will create spinoff industries. The Internet does not do any of that, or at least not very well. Robotics will. [Matthew Lynn, Market Watch, Sep 10]
K-12 education systems are improving nationwide, but states aren't doing enough to keep the U.S. competitive on the global stage, according to a new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. ... people ought to be outraged," said Cheryl Oldham, vice president of the foundation's Center for Education and Workforce. [Caroline Porter, Wall Street Journal, Sep 11] BTW, says US good-citizen business, while you're improving our work force, cut our taxes. Ah, well, politics is about competing interests and getting somebody else to pay the bills.
It is only a matter of time before your smartphone is better at recognizing the content of your pictures than you are. ... [what] in 2012 changed the world of machine vision? ... a technique called deep convolutional neural networks which the Super Visison algorithm used to classify the 1.2 million high resolution images in the dataset into 1000 different classes. had an error rate of 16%, that improved to only 6.7 percent by Google engineers. [technologyreview.com, Sep 9]
According to the study published by Martin Hilbert in Science (Hilbert and López 2011), 95 percent of all information existing in the planet is digitized and most of it is accessible on the Internet and other computer networks. [Manuel Castells, The Impact of the Internet on Society, Open Mind, Sep 14]
Pennsylvania ranked No. 38 in the 2014 State Entrepreneurship Index from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Bureau of Business Research. That was quite a drop from No. 7 in the 2012 index, the steepest decline of any state for the 2013 business year. Neighboring West Virginia and Ohio were also in the low ranks, while New York has been at or near the top for eight years. [Paul J. Gough, Pittsburgh Business Times, Sep 2]
Yuebing Zheng, a University of Texas at Austin assistant engineering professor at the Cockrell School of Engineering, has won the prestigious Beckman Young Investigator Award for his work to develop a device [Dubbed Virtual Plasmonic Tweezers] that could improve health care in the developing world. The award comes with a $750,000, four-year grant to help further Zheng's research. [Michael Theis, Austin Business Journal, Sep 4, 14]
Turning ideas into products has never been easier. It begins with cheap—and in some cases free—computer-aided-design software, which allows devices to be modeled and simulated to a high level of accuracy. Rapid-prototyping equipment, such as 3D printers, can quickly give the ideas shape. And besides open-source software, product developers now have low-cost open-source hardware they can use too, such as Arduino microcontrollers. ... a particularly thriving area is medical technology. [The Economist, Sep 6]
A technology’s emergence is no guarantee that its benefits will trickle down to humanity at large. When men attacked two teenage girls and hanged them from mango trees in India this May, the atrocity drew attention to the fact that the women had to defecate in the forest at night. Two and a half billion humans still lack access to a rudimentary latrine, a venerable technology developed over 3,000 years ago. [Rob Nixon reviewing The Human Age, by Diane Ackerman, New York Times, Sep 5, 14]
Google 's secretive Calico LLC life-sciences company unveiled a potential $1.5 billion research partnership with drug maker AbbVie marking the entrance of a potentially big player in developing treatments for age-related diseases. ... a Google spokesman declined to say how many employees Calico has or whether it had begun any other research projects. ... Calico, or California Life Company, is one of several companies using cheaper technology to analyze genetic information in the hopes of creating treatments for age-related diseases. [Alistair Barr and Peter Loftus, Wall Street Journal, Sep 3. 14]
The United States climbed to third in a leading ranking of the world's most competitive economies, rising for the second straight year because of more positive views of the nation's business climate, innovation capacity and strength of public and private institutions. The U.S. trailed only Switzerland and Singapore
Researchers [of the Proteogenomics Research Institute for Systems Medicine in San Diego] have invented a microscopic pump that has the potential to transport cancer drugs from the blood into the heart of tumors, according to a new study. .... created from an engineered antibody that attaches to a protein found in microscopic pouches lining the walls of blood vessels in mouse, rat and human tumors. Substances attached to this antibody are transported from the blood through the vessel wall into the tumor’s interior. .... The study was published Aug. 17 in the journal Nature Medicine. The first author is Phil Oh. [Bradley Fikes, utsandiego.com, Aug 30, 14]
Submit your new product or methodology before September 16 for a chance to win .... The Scientist’s annual Top 10 Innovations competition The rules.
Low interest rates on long-term bonds show that financial markets don't believe that huge deficits will ever actually materialize. But those wedded to the idea that the deficits are the nation's number one public problem insist on taking these projections as concrete reality and on proclaiming the dire consequences that will ensue if the deficit is not cut immediately. [Henry Aaron, realclearmarkets.com, Sep 2] The morality, the economics, and the effects of government deficits are religious arguments that too few people understand. Thus, the politics are even less based on realities.
The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index, which features many companies that are either unprofitable or richly valued due to lofty investor expectations for their growth, ... a 10% monthly gain. [Wall Street Journal, Aug 29]
The Texas Medical Center is expected to open a large-scale business accelerator to focus on the life sciences industry. .... co-working space will also provide counsel from lawyers to help startups through the process of incorporation, handling intellectual property and other issues before they go to market. [Joe Martin, Houston Business Journal, Aug 22] Note that this is a private effort designed to get more marketble ideas into life with the emphasis on MARKET, not making the government smarter.
Liquid (ionic) salts can improve the treatment of skin infections by killing bacteria and enhancing antibiotics' ability to penetrate the skin's outer layer, a new [UC Santa Barbara] study [published Jun 20, 2014 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences].finds. .... [Samir] Mitragotri and his team synthesized a variety of ionic liquids and screened them for their ability to penetrate skin and biofilms. They then tested 12 of their ionic-liquid formulations on the human pathogens Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Salmonella enterica, and found that at least one possessed strong antimicrobial activity, decreasing biofilm survival by at more than 99.9%. [Scientific American, Aug 25]
The Valley has always been characterized by a four-year boom-bust cycle, and the electronics industry is overdue for such a downturn. Yet there is very good reason to believe that not only will the Valley return bigger and stronger than ever, but that it will further consolidate its position against all comers as the World's High Tech Capital. Here's why: Success breeds success; The Long Wave; Population ; Infrastructure. .... San Francisco's tech industry is already crossing the Bay to Oakland, while the rest of the Valley is pouring into the East Bay and beyond toward the San Joaquin Valley cities of Tracy (where Amazon has set up a plant) and even Stockton. That is a glimpse of things to come. [Michael Malone, Wall Street Journal, Aug 25] In other words, Silicon Valley has the goods: money, nerve, and success. Pretenders like SBIR that beg for government money for innovation have nothing but a shadow of Silicon Valley's ability to recognize, invent, and exploit innovation.
Call it the paradox of entrepreneurship: The very thing it takes to start a business often ends up destroying it. How an Entrepreneur's Passion Can Destroy a Startup [Noam Wasserman, Wall Street Journal, August 25, 2014]
Two of the most sacred numbers in the electric-vehicle industry are 300 miles and $100. The first is generally considered to be the distance electric cars need to travel on a single charge for Americans to take them seriously. The second is the cost, per kilowatt-hour, to which batteries need to drop before EVs can compete with gas-powered cars on sticker price. Sakti3, a Michigan startup that auto-industry insiders have been whispering about for years, says it might soon hit those two sacred targets. ... By now the company has received millions in funding from backers including Khosla Ventures and GM Ventures ... Avestor used a polymer separator to replace the electrolyte in its batteries. We don’t know what Sakti3 is using—that’s a trade secret. The composition of the positive electrode also remains a secret; Sastry says it is nothing unusual—“a very well understood electrochemistry.” We do know that, like most of the promising post-lithium-ion battery chemistries identified so far, the Sakti3 battery has a metallic-lithium anode, or negative electrode. [Seth Fletcher, Scientific American, Aug 20, 14]
A job slump has emerged in Santa Clara County [home of Apple and Intel], which has now lost jobs for three straight months [George Avalos, Oakland Tribune, Aug 15] Home county jobs no longer following global explosion of info-tech, although the major force seems to be public employment, especially teachers.
Oakland calls. As office rents soar and available space plummets in San Francisco and the Peninsula, now may be the right time for tech companies to pack up for Oakland. ... Oakland now boasts many of the urban amenities that draw tech tenants to San Francisco: proximity to BART and other public transportation, restaurants and nightlife. On top of that, housing is more affordable. ... Besides rents soaring, San Francisco is the middle of a space crunch despite more than 4 million square feet of office space under construction since much of the new space is pre-leased. [Blanca Torres, San Francisco Business Times, Aug 5]
Harvard University scientists have devised a swarm of 1,024 tiny robots that can work together without any guiding central intelligence. Like a mechanical flash mob, these robots can assemble themselves into five-pointed stars, letters of the alphabet and other complex designs. The researchers at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering in Cambridge, Mass., reported their work Thursday in Science. [Robert Lee Hotz, Wall Street Journal, Aug 14] If you like fictional dramatizations of such developments, try master thriller Michael Crichton's 2002 cautionary tale novel Prey.
BioSTL, the St. Louis organization working to advance medical and plant bioscience companies, is in line for a portion of a $30 million grant being handed out by JP Morgan Chase to help boost entrepreneurial networks [in 10 innovation clusters] across the country. .... The program was rolled out nationally in Washington D.C [Brian Feldt, St. Louis Business Journal, Jul 23]
Emerson Climate Technologies (Sub of Emerson Electric) will spend $20 million to build a new innovation center on University of Dayton’s campus, according to a statement from the school. ... will focus on research and education for the global heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) industry. .... Emerson’s process management division in January opened a new $70 million innovation center in Round Rock, Texas. The company now has at least four innovation centers around the country. [Brian Feldt, St. Louis Business Journal, Jul 30]
Barbara Corcoran expects entrepreneurs to listen to what she says, and then do what they want. Even when they're using her money to build their companies. Corcoran, now one of the investors on the ABC program "Shark Tank," ... Over nearly 30 years, she took chances, made some mistakes, and learned how to take risks. She often asked for advice, then grew to trust her own instincts and do what she thought was best. Now Corcoran expects her "Shark Tank" entrepreneurs, including the owners of food truck operator Cousins Maine Lobster and baker Daisy Cake, to do the same. [Joyce M. Rosenberg, AP, Aug 11]
Productivity replaces jobs. Employment growth at the largest U.S. companies has lagged far behind increases in revenue and operating profit since the start of the century, as firms reaped the benefits of globalization, technology, and other ways to operate more productively, according to a Reuters analysis of corporate data. From 2001 to 2013, inflation-adjusted revenue at 100 of the largest publicly traded companies grew 71 percent and inflation-adjusted operating profit rose 150 percent. Global headcount reported in company financial filings rose 31 percent. ... could have major implications for economic policy decisions, such as how long the Fed keeps interest rates at very low levels to stimulate jobs growth. [Howard Schneider, Reuters, Aug 11] Look for the politicians to promote simplistic responses to lower employment per profit growth because the un-and under-employed vote and don't study economics.
Raleigh (NC) is reaping the results of a robust and ever-evolving entrepreneurial economy, ranking as the third best place for entrepreneurs to start a small business in the U.S., according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s digital platform FreeEnterprise.com. [which relies on Regulatory Climate] [Sarah Chaney, Triangle Business Journal, Aug 5] Top two: Dallas and St Louis.
If everything [technologically] is so good, why is everything [economically] so bad? ... Part of the story is that economists are trained to look at aggregate statistics like GDP per capita and measure for things like "factor productivity." These measures were designed for a steel-and-wheat economy, not one in which information and data are the most dynamic sectors. They mismeasure the contributions of innovation to the economy. [Joel Mokyr, Wall Street Journal, Aug 8]
Danish couple to open factory in Buffalo (NY). The company will invest $840,000, with a goal of producing 80,000 tablets [for African markets] in its first 12 months..... high-end tablets to be produced for the African market, and the American market,” J.P. Bak said. “The tablet PC market is increasing more per month than the cell phone market, when it exploded in 1992.” ... The Baks want their products in hands of people who need them most: in third world countries. .... The newly un-retired Baks plan to pay their staff a little more than minimum wage, plus a commission. The tablets won’t be built on assembly lines. Rather, one individual will be responsible for assembling an entire unit, all 50 pieces, from start to finish. When complete, his or her name will appear on the inside of the case. [David Bertola, Buffalo Business First , Jul 30]
the contribution of startups and young businesses to jobs and productivity is a noisy and complex process. While startups contribute substantially to jobs immediately, most startups fail or, even if they survive, do not grow, while a small fraction of high-growth young firms contribute disproportionately to job creation in the United States. [Decker, Haltiwanger, Jarmin, and Miranda, The Role of Entrepreneurship in US Job Creation and Economic Dynamism, Journal of Economic Perspectives, August 2014] If government wants growth from small firms, it has to make growth potential a prime criterion for picking winners in any subsidy competition (like SBIR). The firm's ability to do competent work is NOT a growth potential indicator; many similar firms can do equally competent work.
Texas is the fastest-growing state for technology jobs, beating out New York, Florida, Massachusetts and Washington .... added 8,100 positions this year as the state continues to look for employees in mobile, big data and software development in cities including Dallas, Austin and Houston, according to the report [by Dice.com, a career website for IT and engineering professionals]. [Danielle Abril, Dallas Business Journal, Aug 5]
Construction of an Energy Innovation Center is expected to start in September on Milwaukee's north side, a project that aims to create a laboratory for innovation in energy and power technologies that could help some of the state's largest businesses grow. The project received a financial boost Friday when the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority announced $900,000 in funding for the center .... Long-term plans for a project estimated to cost $9.6 million include a small business incubator as well as offices for tenants including workforce education programs, funding organizations and business support services. [Thomas Content, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jul 31]
Incubators galore. Right after the University of Washington celebrated its success in spinning out a record 18 startups last year, Washington State University announced it is also upping its game in the commercialization arena. .... announced a partnership this week with Accelerator Corp., a Seattle investment firm that focuses on biotech investments. ... WSU is one of eight partnerships Accelerator entered into this week after announcing it raised $51.1 million. [Rachel Lerman, Puget Sound Business Journal, Aug 1] Earlier, Accelerator Corp., a Seattle a life-science investment firm that focuses on biotech businesses, said it's raised $51.1 million in capital funding, and will expand to New York City. [Ben Miller, Puget Sound Business Journal, Jul 29]
High tech wishing still in vogue. In an acknowledgment that the military may be pricing itself out of business, the Air Force called for a shift away from big-ticket weapon systems that take decades to develop and a move toward high-technology armaments that can be quickly adapted to meet a range of emerging threats. [Helene Cooper, Wall Street Journal, Jul 30] Being the big world dog costs real money, and life is what happens when you begin to execute your plan. There is no cheap route to having a dominant influence on world events. Maintaining a highly skilled armed force means paying competitive wages for motivated brains - that means decent present living and long decent pensions - for skills in demand in the civil economy where there is little risk of death and disfigurement. DOD has long dreamed of substituting machines for soldiers, but the adaptive enemies always change those plans. The decisions lie not in DOD but in the Congress that has to collect the taxes to pay for the big dog status.
Demand will get supply. A tanker of oil from Texas set sail for South Korea, the first unrestricted sale of unrefined American oil since the 1970s.[Wall Street Journal, Jul 30] Tomorrow's needs take a back seat to today's profit.
Stress in Inno-Valley.With a tech boom lubricated by VC cash, a startup culture cranked up by fiercely competitive VPs and adrenaline-driven coders, and a corporate model that encourages stressed-out managers to look the other way, illicit drugs and black-market painkillers have become part of the landscape here in the world's fountain of tech. ... it's bad out there," says Cali Estes, a Miami-based addictions coach who has helped 200 tech workers -- many of them high-level executives -- struggling with everything from cocaine and heroin to painkillers like oxycodone and stimulants like Adderall, a prescription drug used to treat attention-deficit disorders. [Patrick May and Heather Somerville, San Jose Mercury News, Jul 25]
If all the costs and benefits are totted up using Mr Frank’s calculation, solar power is by far the most expensive way of reducing carbon emissions. It costs $189,000 to replace 1MW per year of power from coal. Wind is the next most expensive. Hydropower provides a modest net benefit. But the most cost-effective zero-emission technology is nuclear power. [The Economist, Jul 25]
[University of California, Berkeley] Researchers are developing technology that can adjust an image on a display so you can see it clearly without corrective lenses. .... uses algorithms to alter an image based on a person’s glasses prescription together with a light filter set in front of the display. The algorithm alters the light from each individual pixel so that, when fed through a tiny hole in the plastic filter, rays of light reach the retina in a way that re-creates a sharp image. Researchers say the idea is to anticipate how your eyes will naturally distort whatever’s onscreen—something glasses or contacts typically correct—and adjust it beforehand so that what you see appears clear. [Rachel Metz, technologyreview.com, July 23, 2014]
Even smarter phones. A novel type of computer memory could, in theory, let you to store tens or even hundreds of times as much data on your smartphone. Researchers at Rice University have demonstrated a more practical way to manufacture it. [Kevin Bullis, technologyreview.com, July 23, 2014]
Today, I think there are risks of what I’ve called the new secular stagnation. By that I mean that in the industrialized world economies, it may be very difficult for investment to absorb all saving. Or if that is made possible by the provision of extraordinary liquidity, it will come along with substantial risk of financial bubbles or financial instability. [Larry Summers, The New Republic, Jul 23] The dismal science reminds us of realities that politicians overlook (or don't want to understand) in the quest for public approval.
In what is perhaps the most formal event to commercialize research coming out of the University of California Davis, the Biomedical and Engineering Entrepreneurship Academy began Wednesday as a three-day boot camp of sorts for aspiring entrepreneurs. [Allen Young, Sacramento Business Journal, Jul 9,14]
Employers in the U.S. are creating jobs at the fastest pace since the late 1990s and the economy finally looks ready to expand at a healthy rate. .... Now, [economic forecaster David] Levy says the United States is likely to fall into a recession next year triggered by downturns in other countries, the first time in modern history. [Bernard Condon, AP, Jul 22] Remember that every forecaster is right occasionally.
Stanford University scientists say they have developed a new test [ a $20 chip] for type 1 diabetes that will cost a fraction of the current price and could speed up diagnosis from days to hours. That could be useful anywhere, but especially in poorer countries where many people with diabetes go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed because the existing tests are too expensive to be widely offered. [Alexandra Morris, technologyreview.com, July 17, 2014]
Biofuels will make up 6.1 percent of the [US] aviation and marine fuel market and generate $7.8 billion in revenue by 2024, according to a report [called " Aviation and Marine Biofuels,"] by Boulder-based Navigant Research. [Caitlin Hendee, Denver Business Journal, Jul 15] Beware long range forecasts, especially where biology and competitive pricing are involved.
ReWalk Robotics, an Israeli company that makes wearable robotic exoskeletons for paraplegics recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, filed paperwork Thursday seeking to go public and is hoping to raise $57.5 million. [David Harris, Boston Business Journal, Jul 14, 14]
Does Spending Big on Research Pay Off for Tech Companies? Not Really. ... For one thing, R&D spending is a bad predictor of future stock performance. ... Sacconaghi found that what correlations there are between R&D spending and stock performance are unique to the tech sector. He found, he writes, “no meaningful relationship between R&D spending and stock performance” across the universe of companies traded on the S&P 500 between 1977 and 2014. [Arik Hesseldahl, re/code.net, Jul 8]
Happy centenary, the refrigerator. In a 1999 survey, Americans voted the refrigerator the appliance they could least do without. [a history The Refrigerator's Cool Century, By Edward Tenner, The [AEI] American, July 2014]
Google has started a $100 million fund to invest in European startups, the beginning of what could become big-money investments for overseas entrepreneurs and lead to yet more acquisitions for the search giant. [Heather Somerville, San Jose Mercury News, Jul 10]
DIY Peer Reviews. A scientific journal has retracted 60 papers linked to a researcher in Taiwan, accusing him of “perverting the peer-review process” by creating fraudulent online accounts to judge the papers favorably and help get them published [in The Journal of Vibration and Control]. [HENRY FOUNTAIN, New York Times, JULY 10]
Researchers at Oxford University have used a type of phase-change material to make devices whose color changes instantly in response to a small jolt of power. The materials, which are used in some types of DVDs, could lead to ultra-low-power, full-color displays, according to an article describing the work in the journal Nature. .... The technology will face competition from OLED displays, which use less power than conventional LCD displays, yet produce sharp, high contrast color images. The Oxford researchers say they need to improve the contrast of their images to be competitive. [Kevin Bullis, technologyreview.com, Jul 9]
Originally [30 years ago], I thought small stocks best. Academics “proved” it. Now I view that as a liquidity trap for fools–and that most leading academics spend too much time counting angels on pinheads to fathom reality. All equity categories, correctly calculated, create near identical lifelong returns. They just get there via wildly differing paths. [Ken Fisher, Forbes, Jul 2] The longer you look, the deeper and wider you see.
Welcome to the Everything Boom — and, quite possibly, the Everything Bubble. Around the world, nearly every asset class is expensive by historical standards. Stocks and bonds; emerging markets and advanced economies; urban office towers and Iowa farmland; you name it, and it is trading at prices that are high by historical standards relative to fundamentals. The inverse of that is relatively low returns for investors. .... two interrelated forces. Worldwide, more money is piling into savings than businesses believe they can use to make productive investments. At the same time, the world’s major central banks have been on a six-year campaign of holding down interest rates and creating more money from thin air to try to stimulate stronger growth in the wake of the financial crisis. [Neil Irwin, New York Times, Jul 7]
Albany Medical College will welcome its first company into its new biomedical business accelerator and community center this fall. .... the latest example of the new momentum in the region to encourage the development of more early stage companies and products. ... equipped to offer businesses access to doctors, laboratories and patients for clinical labs. A business accelerator for the technology industry also is opeining in downtown Schenectady. [Megan Rogers, Albany Business Review, Jun 16] Non-profits scrambling to turn their technical expertise into for-profit business. Upstate NY trying to recover its strong industrial position that sprang from the 1825 Erie Canal.
Machines are substituting for more types of human labor than ever before. As they replicate themselves, they are also creating more capital. This means that the real winners of the future will not be the providers of cheap labor or the owners of ordinary capital, both of whom will be increasingly squeezed by automation. Fortune will instead favor a third group: those who can innovate and create new products, services, and business models. [Foreign Affairs, J/A 2014]
Short term is more predictable. according to the authors, companies’ budgets show them to be putting their resources toward efficiency-focused innovations without much focus on ultimately selling more stuff to more people—a concept that, by many definitions, is at the core of capitalism, and that tends to lead to greater job creation, but that costs a lot of money. The authors attribute this decision partially to companies themselves, who think it’s much easier to find ways to make the bottom number smaller—to cut costs—than it is to make the top number bigger—by growing market share. Investors, too, seem overly focused on the short-term, putting the onus on companies to deliver quick financial returns. “Capitalists seem uninterested in capitalism,” they write. [Adam Vaccaro, boston.com, May 27]
every venture-backed startup chasing advertising revenue is going after just 0.6% of the economy. ... Still, the pursuit of advertising dollars includes about every startup that is going for scale first and says it will figure out how to "monetize" its users "once it has the eyeballs." The problem isn't entrepreneurs, says Mr. Mundkur, it's the venture capitalists who are funding them ..... Software companies are eating up 37% of all VC funding, the highest percentage since PricewaterhouseCoopers started gathering data on the subject in 1995. [Christopher Mims, Wall Street Journal, Jul 6, 14] Software attracts capital because the technical uncertainty is near zero, only the business prospects are uncertain.
Despite receiving major state
investments, the bioscience industry in Florida hasn’t been a big job
creator in recent years, according to a new report. The latest
report from Battelle and the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO)
said bioscience employment in Florida was essentially flat from 2007 to
2012 .... The good news is that Florida has show rapid
improvement in attracting venture capital in bioscience, with $255
million landed in 2013, according to the Battelle/BIO. That still left
it in the second quintile of states. ... The state also needs to
catch up in National Institutes of Health research grants, where it was
in the second quintile with $435 million in 2013. It was in the bottom
quintile in NIH funding per capita. [Brian Bandell, South
Florida Business Journal, Jun 25] It's easier to wish for a big return
fom state investment than it is to actually book the profits. So,
states tend to play up the spending and overlook the substantial
anlaysis of return.
Chips made with nanotube transistors, which could be five times faster, should be ready around 2020, says IBM. ... In 1998, researchers at IBM made one of the first working carbon nanotube transistors. And now, after more than a decade of research, IBM is the first major company to commit to getting the technology ready for commercialization. [Tom Simonite, technologyreview.com, July 1, 2014]
researchers at Sharp have built a prototype [solar cell] that demonstrates.. double the amount of power a solar cell can generate, offering a way to make solar power far more economical. ... the first time that anyone has been able to generate electrical current using these high-energy electrons. In theory, solar cells that exploit this technique could reach efficiencies over 60 percent. [Kevin Bullis, technologyreview.com, June 20, 2014]
Small ball incubation. 11 teams to have joined the second Techstars Austin program, a three-month accelerator. .... Each company receives $18,000 in seed funding and is offered a $100,000 convertible note. [Kritika Kulshrestha, Austin Business Journal, Jun 10, 14] 10 new businesses added to the Capital Factory for its April incubator program. [Kritika Kulshrestha, Austin Business Journal, Jun 5, 14] Unfortunately for Austin, the companies all have perfectly sane business ideas that can easily be judged on ROI standards by private capital. Nothing that will build a future job or tax engine. Same story in Phoenix, Ten entrepreneurs from innovative early-stage startups in education technology, health care and information technology have been selected for Tallwave’s third High Tide venture program. ... “We congratulate the High Tide 3 participants for passing our intensive selection filter and look forward to helping them become fast-growing, sustainable companies,” Robert Wallace, Tallwave Venture Services’ executive vice president, said in a statement. “Our goal is to make them ‘fund ready,’" [Hayley Ringle, Phoenix Business Journal, Jun 12] Most are also low capital-barrier-to- entry software apps that could be eclipsed the next week by a new pile of competitors. Who's looking to the future for new techfor new markets? Almost no one. The federal gov has a political feel-good SBIR that gets no economics supervision as the federal agencies satisfy their short term goals with safe technology and companies. Maybe DARPA is the only risk-loving seeker of the right stuff.
It has never been easier or cheaper to launch a company in the hothouse of ambition, money and software that stretches from San Francisco to Cupertino, Mountain View, Menlo Park and San Jose. In 2012 the number of seed investment deals in US tech reportedly more than tripled, to 1,700, from three years earlier. Investment bankers are quitting Wall Street for Silicon Valley, lured by hopes of a cooler and more creative way to get rich. .... Companies typically die around 20 months after their last financing round and after having raised $1.3m, according to a study by the analytics firms CB Insights titled The RIP Report – startup death trends. [Rory Carroll, theguardian.com, June 28]
Steve Wozniak attributed his success at Apple Inc. to pure luck during an appearance Friday morning at Flying Car, a conference about technology and the future. ... now chief scientist at Fusion-io, a flash technology manufacturer [Kylie Gumpert, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jun 27]
In the first quarter of 2014, the inflation-adjusted business output per hour worked—declined at a 3.5% annual rate. .. worst productivity statistic since 1990. And productivity since 2005 has declined by more than 8% relative to its long-run trend. ..... In our view, an important factor is the large decline in the creation of new businesses. The creation rate of new businesses, as well as new plants built by existing firms, was about 30% lower in 2011 (the most recent year of data) compared with the annual average rate for the 1980s. ..... Surveys by John Dearie and Courtney Gerduldig, authors of "Where the Jobs Are: Entrepreneurship and the Soul of the American Economy" (2013), show that entrepreneurs report being hamstrung by difficulties in finding skilled workers, by a complex tax code that penalizes small business, by regulations that raise the costs of doing business, and by difficulties in obtaining financing that have worsened since 2008. [Edward C. Prescott and Lee E. Ohanian, Wall Street Journal, Jun 25] In principle, SBIR was supposed to help small high-tech biz get started. But after thirty years there is no evidence that SBIR has made any economic difference. There are only detailed reports of how much money was diverted from open competition into sheltered handouts to companies who learn to play the game. Of course, some of the money enabled hugely successful companies (like Cree and ATMI) that used it to feed infant technology, but awards lists show much money going to companies just doing government work well. And there is little evidence that Congress cares beyond getting a fair share of the pie for their constituents.
Google seeks world innovation. Google’s Campus in London, which provides a powerful community for business resources and technical assistance, in addition to some very tasty snacks. They also have a Campus in Tel Aviv, Israel, and recently announced plans for another Campus in Warsaw, Poland. In other parts of the world, Google also has TechHubs that provide similar support and some of the services available on their campuses. Google's Campus provides space, mentorship and community. These are all vitally important for entrepreneurs. Google started in a garage in the late 1990's and now the campuses provides an even better “garage” for start-ups. [Terry Brock, Sacramento Business Journal, Jun 19]
employees at a number of companies—Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Intel. What roadblocks do they see to innovation? FJ: Most people see the biggest roadblock as the unwillingness of the organization to accept experimentation, mistakes, and failures. They think that if they fail, they are done for. By its very nature, innovation means trying something that hasn’t been done before. So how to deal with this? You have to limit the costs of the experiment, both in terms of money and someone’s reputation. You can’t put everything on the line when you’re trying something new. [Kara Miller interviewing Frans Johansson, author of The Medici Effect , xconomy.com, Jun 20]
In its second annual Disruptor 50
list, CNBC finds few
innovators of technologies that will make any economic difference.
Mostly software and organization of life.
The upstarts who work at startups don’t often stay at any one place for very long. (Three out of four startups fail. More than nine out of ten never earn a return.) They work a year here, a few months there—zany hours everywhere. They wear jeans and sneakers and ride scooters and share offices and sprawl on couches like Great Danes. [ Jill Lepore, New Yorker, June 23, 14]
Peers peering everywhere. by a mixture of deliberation and technological pressure, the [scientific peer review] system is starting to change. The internet means anyone can appoint himself a peer and criticise work that has entered the public domain. And two recent incidents [pluripotent stem cells, and primordial gravitational waves] have shown how valuable this can be. ... as Ronald Reagan put it in a different context, “Trust, but verify.” [The Economist, Jun 14]
A New America Foundation study shows that the number of job-creating businesses that Americans start every year fell by 53 percent between 1977 and 2010, when measured as a proportion of the U.S. working-age population. The Brookings Institution recently found that this decline in the net growth of new firms persists across most regions and sectorsof the economy. .... monopolistic and oligopolistic domination of markets is surely a factor. Dominant corporations can use their muscle in a variety of ways to deter new firms and protect their market power. [Lina Khan and Sandeep Vaheesan, Washington Post, Jun 14]
I've learned that no one cares how accurate pundits' forecasts are. Those who listen to pundits are most interested in having their own views confirmed. Accuracy is an afterthought. -- Morgan Housel, fool.com
Today Handybook solidified its place as the best-funded alum of the Harvard Innovation Lab, announcing a $30 million round to expand its on-demand housecleaning and handyman service. .... Other startups that have raised significant funding after launching inside the Innovation Lab include Plastiq, service allowing credit card payments for more purchases, such as tuition and rent ($8.6 million); RallyPoint, professional networking site for current and former military members ($6.6 million); and Philo, live TV online for college students ($6.3 million). [Kyle Alspach, betaboston.com, Jun 11] The bad news is that all the startups are service companies with services that have no potential for starting new industries that spin off more companies that will employ long-term workers. These do not need government support because their stuff is nerely business risk, not technological uncertainty that repels capital investment in ideas that could have great societal and economic benefit if the technological actually works as envisaged. Harvard is not sheltering a new Cree or Synaptics. Harvard can use whatever investment criteria it wants for its private investment, but the government should target its investment for high tech risk with high potential payoff.
marauding broomsticks, genies in bottles, and monkey’s paws. All are literary images the scientist Norbert Wiener used to make the point that we fool ourselves if we think we have our technologies firmly under control. That Wiener was instrumental in creating the technologies he warned about demonstrates the insistent obstinance of his peculiar genius.Besides nuclear weapons, [Norbert] Wiener was perhaps most worried about the technology he was most directly responsible for developing: automation. Sooner than most, he recognized how businesses could use it at the expense of labor, and how eager they were to do so. "Those who suffer from a power complex," he wrote in 1950, "find the mechanization of man a simple way to realize their ambitions." [Doug Hill, Atlantic Monthly, Jun 11] As capital continues to substitute machinery for labor and population keeps rising, how will the people support themselves with work? Only Republicans have a simple answer - find a job at whatever the employer is willing to pay. Which simply denies the basic problem in a society expecting to earn a comfortable life in the world's richest country.
When newly minted data earn fewer credits than reinterpretations of the past based on such data, the temptation to combine the drudgery of data construction with the glamour of interpretation is almost irresistible. [M Kelly and C O Grada, Journal of Economic History, Dec 2013] Just read the pontifications of any politically useful history.
A pessimist's manufacturing. Smil examines the possibility of reviving manufacturing but adopts a pessimistic perspective, citing “too far global” supply chains as a result of pursuing short-term cost reduction, low-quality labor force resulting from the broken education system, mismanaged government budget, and an international trading scheme that is not mutually beneficial. Since the author is also skeptical of “the superior job-creating capacity of startups” and high-tech companies, he calls for measures to revitalize the overall manufacturing sector, such as supporting domestic manufacturing, investing in innovation, and rebalancing global trade and finance. [Changkeun Lee reviewing Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing by Vaclav Smil, Journal of Economic History, Jun 2014]. The great trick is to invent any government program that would actually accomplish its economic goals, not just its political goals of grandstanding.
Need more immigrant techies, says the tech world. The pro-overhaul group, Partnership for New American Economy, released a new report Wednesday that contends U.S. workers are hurt because visa caps slow job creation and wage growth in computer-related fields. The partnership, led by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, reports that H-1B visa denials in 2007 and 2008 led to 2,500 fewer tech jobs for American-born workers in the Raleigh/Durham area. The findings are part of a national study that reported job growth U.S. workers in computer related industries would have been 55 percent faster between 2005-2006 and 2009-2010 if not for the visa denials at the beginning of the recession. [Franco Ordoñez, Raleigh News & Observer, Jun 5]
Bar-bell economy. Between 2001 and 2011, both low-skill and high-skill jobs rose as a percentage of the total labor market, while the percentage of middle-skill jobs fell by about 10%. Middle-skills jobs have been in decline for about 20 years, according to the study, although the early part of the trend, in the 1990s, was barely noticeable. During the past 10 years, however, the loss of middle-skill jobs has intensified to the point that it now threatens the prosperity of the entire middle class. [Rick Newman, Yahoo finance, Jun 5] Can the government do anything about middle class hollowing out? Depends on whom you ask. The wealthy want to keep all their money, and have powerful ways to convince Congress of whatever economics they find convenient for the purpose, since Congress follows contributions more than economics.
High-rent district. Within two weeks, the 15,000-square-foot space at a sprawling midtown office [Grand Central Tech] next to Grand Central Terminal in New York City will host 18 tech startups in a year-long program that includes advice from seasoned entrepreneurs and others .... Competition among startup accelerator programs is intensifying as a flood of new players enter the field .... an estimated 300 to 2,000 accelerator and incubator programs world-wide. [Angus Loten, Wall Street Journal, Jun 5].
Immune therapy working. Two years ago, Arrica Wallace was riddled with tumors from widely spread cervical cancer that the strongest chemotherapy and radiation could not beat back. Today, the Kansas mother shows no signs of the disease, and it was her own immune system that made it go away. The experimental approach that helped her is one of the newest frontiers in the rapidly advancing field of cancer immunotherapy, which boosts the body's natural ways of attacking tumors. [MARILYNN MARCHIONE, AP, Jun 2]
Unhoopla time. Google's Motorola Mobility handset unit announced Friday it will shutter its North Texas factory by the end of this year, barely a year after it opened with much fanfare as the first smartphone assembly plant in the U.S. [EMILY SCHMALL, AP, May 30]
Amazon expects to add 10,000 robot workers to its warehouses by the end of the year, according to CNN. While robots are not new to Amazon -- it already uses 1,000 robots in its fulfillment centers -- it would mark a ten-fold jump in non-organic employees. The robots are manufactured by Kiva Systems (no SBIR), which Amazon purchased two years ago for $775 million. .... Although it's easy to see how these robots, along with the delivery drones it introduced last year, could displace a large portion of Amazon's 88,400 employees worldwide, the company has stated that these robot workers wouldn't impact the size of its human workforce. [Leo Sun, fool.com, May 29, 14]
If you're a gloomer, take heart. The drivers that underpinned years of booming global trade, once the engine of the world's economic growth, may be fading. In the past few decades, trade has played an increasingly important role in the growth of the global economy. But more than three years into one of the weakest recoveries in decades, slack demand from consumers in the U.S. and Europe is weighing on exports in the developing world. .... Massive government stimulus in the developed world helped revive growth, but as those programs wound down, global trade began declining again in 2011. [John Scoen, CNBA, May 28] The general rise of markets must be caused by fools with no eye on the future? All that money sloshing around looking for investments will just have to retire to the mattresses.
A century ago, American innovation produced tens of millions of Americans jobs. Today's innovations produce a small number of high-skill jobs in the headquarters of U.S. firms, millions of assembly jobs overseas and very little in between for the American middle class. [William Galston, Wall Street Journal, May 27] Galston on ideas to bring Republicans into the present on dealing with the American middle class under pressure.
Small ball capitalism. according to the [Harvard Business review] authors, companies’ budgets show them to be putting their resources toward efficiency-focused innovations without much focus on ultimately selling more stuff to more people—a concept that, by many definitions, is at the core of capitalism, and that tends to lead to greater job creation, but that costs a lot of money. [Adam Vaccaro, boston.com, May 27] The great wealth creation machine, called capitalism, only does so when it reaches beyond its grasp.
The University of New Hampshire has launched a new website, http://innovation.unh.edu, as part of an ongoing effort to open its doors to the business community and underscore its active role in technology-based economic development. ..... a hub for UNH news, events, blog posts, and resources for researchers and innovators on campus. A whole section is dedicated to providing faculty innovators with important information regarding the protection of their intellectual property and will include a list of technologies for license. [fosters.com, May 22]
According to the annual rankings by the IMD World Competitiveness Center, the United States has the most competitive economy in the world, when taking into account economic performance, efficiency of businesses and government, and infrastructure. [Christopher Matthews, Fortune, May 23] Unhappily for competition as the highest goal, success requires change, which leaves many people behind as a problem for society. Even Grant at Appomatox recognized that for a united society, the winners had to help the losers recover and contribute. In a democracy, those people can also combine to drive public policy into helping adjustment for the losers. Eventually, we reach an equilibrium that keeps the competition machine humming without revolution.
The driving force of the capitalist system is relentless innovation that improves productivity and raises living standards. For millennia people lived pretty much as they always did—on farms and in local communities, growing their own food and making tools for local markets, and generally passing away before age fifty. Over a span of two and a half centuries, since roughly 1750, the traditional regime transformed itself through an accumulating process of technological innovation and widening circles of trade. Workers and consumers have benefited generation on generation from less burdensome forms of work and access to ever more inexpensive products that make life easier. Widely shared progress—not exploitation—is the story of the past two centuries. [James Piereson, The American Spectator, Jun 2014] Piereson, like every capitalist pundit worth his ink, opines on how Piketty has it wrong on the causes and effects and cures of economic inequality.
McGuire, professor Eric Hellstrom of Florida State University and emeritus professor Charles Olson of UW-Whitewater have developed a system that uses a 3D printer to make a mold in which molten metal can be poured. .... A dozen UW faculty, staff, students and affiliated companies were awarded the grants this week from a $2million fund launched in February. Ideadvance helps set the stage for university faculty and students to get their ideas commercialized, said Lisa Johnson, WEDC vice president for entrepreneurship and innovation. ..... The foundry industry is integral to the U.S. economy, as 90% of all manufactured goods incorporate castings into their makeup or use castings during their production. The Midwest has more foundries than anywhere in the nation, and Wisconsin is home to some of the largest. [Rick Barrett, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 22]
Autodesk started inviting startups to shack up at its Waltham (MA) facility last month. The maker of engineering and design software has already filled about half the space with three fledgling companies, and plans to bring in several more over the summer. There are about 20 desks dedicated to what the company calls its STIR program, for Startups-In-Residence. [Scott Kirsner, betaboston.com, May 21]
the future of solar, he says, depends on the more-with-less dynamic—e.g., finding better ways of storing and amplifying the energy drawn from sunlight—and such change will come about only by private capital meeting consumer demand for affordable energy—not by diktat or subsidy. If one looks at the history of government-sponsored green-energy initiatives, both in the U.S. and Europe, it is hard to disagree. Governments can play a role in supporting basic research, but the assumption by regulators and politicians that they can pick technology winners better than the market has been proved wrong time and again. [Arthur Herman reviewing 'Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper' by Robert Bryce, Wall Street Journal, May 21] "Government bad, markets good" advocates like Herman have no trouble finding government initiatives that did not work out well, while ignoring the market driven things that didn't work out well either. They also ignore public policy aspects of assuring a decent supply of basic needs for the population. But it's also true that politics tends to override economics when there is to be free money on the table as the private market sharks feed on the politicians' need to be seen doing something.
Johnson & Johnson's Janssen Labs will open 30,000 square feet in the epicenter of the life sciences industry for as many as 50 emerging biotech, pharmaceutical, medical device, diagnostics and consumer and digital health companies, at 329 Oyster Point Blvd. in South San Francisco ... J&J nearly two years ago said it would open innovation centers in Boston, London, Shanghai and California, including sites in the San Diego area and Menlo Park. Those centers focus heavily on business development deals and capitalize on local relationships. [Ron Leuty, San Francisco Business Times, May 14, 14]
No capitalism, please; we're special. The Washington Post reported they have penned a letter to Pfizer asking the pharmaceutical giant to ensure it will not shed jobs at MedImmune (Gaithersburg, MD; $3.4M SBIR) should it succeed in acquiring parent company AstraZeneca. [Washington Business Journal, May 13, 14] A company that sells itself to a bigger company deserves little compassion when the new parent treats it as a mere property.
The University of Washington today announced a $31.2 million gift from the Washington Research Foundation to support interdisciplinary, entrepreneurial researchers working on protein design, data science, clean energy, and neuroengineering. ... That funding will be distributed to four programs, supporting new hires—both faculty and postdoctoral research fellows—and improved facilities. —The eSciences Institute, acting as an umbrella for data-driven discovery efforts across the UW, will receive $9.27 million. —The Institute for Protein Design is in line for $8 million. —The Institute for Neuroengineering will be established in part with funding of $7.19 million from this gift. —The new Clean Energy Institute is slated to receive $6.74 million. [Benjamin Romano, xconomy.com, May 14] It remains to be seen how well the money creates new industries and how much supports hobby shops with grand sounding goals.
Reminder: Robots Are Changing Everything. there’s this Harvard Business Review article showing that American manufacturers are trading outsourcing practices for “bot-sourcing.” That means all those jobs that went overseas in the outsourcing boom could come back home—only they’re not really jobs coming back, just robots doing the work. Writes robotics analyst Colin Lewis, who identifies as optimistic about how robotics will change the world: "This new wave of bringing production back home through robotics automation may be the single biggest disruptive threat to India?s $118 billion information technology industry. The more processes can be automated, the less it makes sense to outsource activities to countries where labor is less expensive." [Adam Vaccaro, boston.com, May 14]
Since big companies off-shore much of their job growth (or replace what's left of it with software or smart hardware), the future of work in the U.S. will come from work that absolutely has to be here, like health care, education, and food services. Start-ups can be special for many reasons—they can challenge lumbering incumbents, they can create new demand for stuff, they can introduce more ideas—but from a big-picture macroeconomic standpoint, they're also special because they're here, and when they expand they tend to expand here. It's easy to make fun of Silicon Valley these days. But at least its companies have a California address. [Derek Thompson, The Atlantic Monthly, May 12] Since 2008 more firms are exiting than entering the US economy.
Who invents stuff? 3M Co. has reached an inventor’s milestone by accumulating 100,000 patents worldwide. .... Last year, 3M was awarded 644 U.S. patents, far behind IBM’s 6,791, which were the most received by any company. [Steve Alexander, Minneapolis Star Tribune, May 9]
Staying put in CA. Spurred on by financial incentives, San
Network Security was well on
its way toward moving to Austin, Texas, last year. But iboss
changed its mind at the last minute. Chief Executive Paul Martini
said iboss was growing too fast to move. And it saw an opportunity to
attract employees from rival cybersecurity firm Websense, which in February
announced plans to relocate its San Diego headquarters and 445 jobs to
Austin. [Mike Freeman, utsandiego.com, May 8, 14] Texas
is not everyone's paradise, despite tax inducements for companies where
employees get none of that tax benefit. SoCal has a lot of
advantages over Texas in living amenities, and Texas has some attitude
barriers for newcomers.
Twitter's stock plunged [18%] to an all-time low after a post-IPO lock-up period preventing employees and early investors from selling expired .... latest earnings report surpassed expectations, but worries about user growth and engagement weighed on its stock [AP, May 6, 14]
Thousands of institutions—universities, community colleges, even high schools—offer courses that purport to prepare students for careers as entrepreneurs. Yet there is no employer demand for people trained in the "art" of entrepreneurship, nor does the training offer any recognized value in other jobs. Indeed, one can receive a Ph.D. in entrepreneurship even though there is no academic consensus on what works for starting a new business. Not surprisingly, as the number of entrepreneurship teachers grows, the number of new businesses continues to decline. [Carl Schramm, Wall Street Journal, May 7]
Innovator. [Economist Gary] Becker believed that economics could be used to explain all social behavior. He proved it by analyzing topics believed at the time to be beyond economic analysis. His work was so revolutionary that it was viewed as heretical when it first appeared in the late 1950s, but it was eventually recognized with the Nobel Prize in economics in 1992. [Edward P. Lazear, Wall Street Journal, May 5, 14]
George H. Heilmeier, an electrical engineer [for RCA] who in the 1960s helped invent a kind of screen display that used liquid crystals to project images — technology that is now ubiquitous in telephones, digital watches, computer monitors and flat-screen televisions — died April 21. ... left RCA in 1970 and spent much of the next decade working on military technology for the government. He first spent a year as a White House fellow, ... later became director of the DARPA. [William Yardley, New York Times, May 6, 14]
Cambridge in demand. The Cambridge real estate market is getting too hot for many buyers to handle. One in three homes and condos sold in Cambridge this April fetched $50,000 over asking. Meanwhile, 24 percent sold for more than $100,000 over. [ Scott Van Voorhis, boston,com, May 2]
Microsoft is creating a new training and development center in Vancouver B.C., ... which could eventually create 400 new jobs. ... expects to spend about $90 million a year on the center .... Vancouver has been establishing itself as a hot new tech hub, taking advantage of Canada’s generous tax benefits, more flexible immigration rules — with a faster visa process than in the U.S., and relatively abundant supply of engineers. [Janet Tu, Seattle Times, May 1]
OhioHealth Corp. has set aside $5 million in an investment fund to be managed by TechColumbus exclusively for helping its staff and physicians bring medical devices and other inventions to market. Central Ohio’s largest hospital system is using the fund as a recruitment and retention tool .... the inventors keep all of their intellectual property rights – rather than royalties, OhioHealth’s returns will be based profits or future investment rounds for any companies created. .... will offer concept-stage investments of up to $75,000 for prototypes and market studies, and seed-stage infusions of up to $1 million for the final push to market, [Carrie Ghose, Columbus Business First, Apr 25]
The Internet of Things. Cisco Systems announced it will invest $150 million into early-stage companies so the networking giant can foster -- and benefit from -- emerging and disruptive technology trends. .... into startups and startup accelerators that are part of an emerging technology revolution that aims to connect up to a trillion ordinary things -- from dishwashers to coffee makers and airplanes -- to the Internet. [Heather Somerville, San Jose Mercury News, Apr 30]
In many ways The Great Degeneration [by historian Niall Ferguson] is yet the latest example of the winning strategy (if one wants to sell books, that is) of doomsaying that Matt Ridley argues so powerfully against in The Rational Optimist. Nothing attracts attention quite like the idea that things are about to fall apart. Malthus and his modern-day disciples see the carrying capacity of human ecosystems (a discredited idea if there ever was one) as the constraint. Ferguson sees the constraints coming not from ecology but from the decline of essential institutions, ...... But I remain skeptical of the skeptics. My evidence is that for the past quarter millennium they have always been wrong. A respect for history ought to give that evidence more weight. [Sven Wilson, libertylawsite.org, Apr 30]
Northeastern University is launching a one-year graduate program focused on business innovation that will cater to working professionals by holding classes on Saturdays and help students develop actual products and services for their companies. [betaboston.com, Apr 25]
Catching up. U.S. manufacturers have grown
competitive over the past decade compared with factories in China,
Brazil and most of the world's other major economies. So says a new
private study, which found that rising wages and higher energy costs
have diminished China's long-standing edge over the United States. So
has a boom in U.S. shale gas production. It's reduced U.S. natural gas
prices and slowed the cost of electricity.
WISEMAN, AP, Apr 24]
Corporations are sitting on lots of cash, and interest rates are very low for credit-worth companies. The problem is lack of optimism. When I do see companies spending money, it's to lower operating costs through labor or energy savings. Few companies are increasing their productive capacity (aside from energy, agriculture and high tech). [Bill Conerly, Businenomics blog, Apr 24] High tech innovators need buyer-users to be investing in business improvements and innovations.
The Silicon Valley
also pretty close to being zero-sum. Even on a purely financial basis,
if you add up all the profits from successful investments, they barely
cover the losses on all the unsuccessful ones. A few big-name angels
and VCs can do OK for themselves, but in aggregate the industry of
investing in startups does not make money. [Felix Salmon,
Reuters, Apr 24] Peter Drucker said the same no-net-profit thing about
the computer industry. But a few got filthy rich, on top of the rich
world, which was enough incentive to keep new innovators trying. On
average, everybody winds up dead.
Indiana is creeping past us when it comes to new companies spinning out of universities.That is according to a report by The Courier-Journal ... Purdue, it reports, spins out an average of 8 companies a year. RTP universities? 4.5, it says, quoting numbers from the Association of University Technology Managers. .... Last year, Purdue instituted a policy that lets the students, not the university, own their own intellectual property. [Lauren K. Ohnesorge, Triangle Business Journal, Apr 15, 14]
More than 1,600 startups applied to MassChallenge Inc.’s Boston startup accelerator program this year. We rounded up 20 of them that you should watch in 2014. Only two have tech potential with IP protection for creating new markets: PolyDrop is a scientific breakthrough for the coating industry. .. lightweight, liquid additive transforms standard coatings into highly efficient dissipaters of electrostatic discharge. .. is inexpensive and easy to incorporate into any coating. and BlueMorphuv is dedicated to eliminating wastewater and chemical use associated with the sanitization of stainless steel tanks used throughout the food and beverage industry. It intends to penetrate the wine market first. [Yazhou Sun, boston.com, Apr 17, 14]
Tech stocks have taken a pounding over the past month, putting pressure on the ecosystem for financing startups and taking them public. .... "We all feel like we're at the top of the cycle, and everyone's skating on new ice," said Nick Beim, partner at venture-capital firm Venrock. [Wall Street Journal, Apr 17] Infotech flooded with easy-to-implement software ideas that slaughter profit margins among competitors.
Online dating site Zoosk filed plans to raise $100 million in an [IPO], the second Mid-Market startup to file for an IPO in as many weeks. The six-year-old company has served about 26 million members in 80 countries since its inception as a dating app on Facebook [Benny Evangelista, SFGate.com, Apr 16, 14] No tech mysteries to conquer, only market competition. Plenty of capital looking for such transient projects with no need for government subsidy for technically certain "innovations." Such as Avvo, an online marketplace for finding lawyers, has raised $37.5 million in a Series D round [xconomy.com, Apr 16]
Weibo, China's version of Twitter, sold 16% fewer shares than planned in its $285.6 million initial public offering as the deal priced below expectations. [Wall Street Journal, Apr 17]
Ottobock HealthCare L.P. [German health care manufacturer] said it will relocate its North American regional headquarters to Northwest Austin. ... to bring 110 jobs and $4.6 million in investment. Otto Bock began making prosthetic devices in 1919 for injured World War I veterans and opened its North American arm in 1958. The company's U.S. subsidiary, Ottobock Healthcare, lists its headquarters in Minneapolis. .... had applied to the city of Austin for incentives prior to the move, but did not receive an incentives package [Robert Grattan, Austin Business Journal, Mar 31, 14]
Go Ahead, Vladimir, Make My Day. Because such an oil shock, though disruptive in the short run, could have the same long-term impact as the 1973 Arab oil embargo — only more so. That 1973 embargo led to the first auto mileage standards in America and propelled the solar, wind and energy efficiency industries. ... “Clean energy is at an inflection point,” explains Hal Harvey, C.E.O. of Energy Innovation. “The price reductions in the last five years have been nothing less than spectacular: Solar cells, for example, have dropped in cost by more than 80 percent in the last five years. [Tom Friedman, New York Times, Apr 12]
The selloff in biotechnology stocks has even Wall Street analysts who follow the notoriously volatile group shaking their heads. On Thursday, the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index tumbled 5.6% without any apparent bad news ... the day after the biotech index jumped 4.1%, also without any particular catalyst ... a downtrend that has taken the biotechnology index off almost 20% from its all-time high hit Feb. 25, after nearly tripling over two years. [Alexandra Scaggs, Wall Street Journal, Apr 11, 14]
Silicon Valley tech stocks slaughtered ahead of earnings reports [San Jose Mercury News, Apr 10] Memories of headlines from the 1960s about the nifty-fifty.
A month after making national headlines for withholding an experimental drug from a critically ill child, Kenneth Moch is out as CEO of Chimerix (Durham, NC; one SBIR). [John Murawski, Raleigh Nerws & Observer, Apr 9, 14]
Heartbleed password dilemma. A programming mistake from two years ago has forced countless websites to make fixes to protect the sensitive personal information of consumers [from a crypto weakness called Heartbleed]. ... up to two-thirds of websites could be affected .... “It certainly can’t hurt to change your password now and then again next week,” said Brian Krebs, a security researcher. [Molly Wood, New York Times, Apr 9] or consult your favorite security blogs
British-American physicist Stuart Parkin has won the 1 million-euro ($1.3 million) Millennium Technology Prize for discoveries leading to a thousand-fold increase in digital data storage on magnetic disks. His discoveries enabled cloud services and the online distribution of social networks, music and film. The Finnish foundation cited the 58-year-old director of the IBM-Stanford spintronic science center in California as an innovator who helped make "our contemporary online world largely possible." Spintronics relies on the magnetic spin of electrons rather than their charge to store bits. [AP, April 9, 14]
Imperfect, but better than the alternatives. Reality Check on Yuan's Threat to Dollar. What seemed like a safe bet, that the yuan would continue to rise, has just blown up. A second bet, that its inexorable rise threatens the supremacy of the almighty dollar, now looks like a serious mistake, too. [Wall Street Journal, Apr 9]
We found that only one out of six Americans can find Ukraine on a map, and that this lack of knowledge is related to preferences: The farther their guesses were from Ukraine’s actual location, the more they wanted the U.S. to intervene with military force. [Kyle Dropp, Joshua D. Kertzer and Thomas Zeitzoff, Washington Post (The Monkey Cage), Apr 7]
Where are the techies? Nashville's demand for technology talent continues to outpace the supply, according to the Nashville Technology Council's latest Tech Employment Spotlight. ..... "As evidenced by this data, the number of job openings requiring technology skills still exceeds the supply of related graduates in technology-related ﬁelds," the report says. But the report also shows a 41 percent increase since 2008 in the number of students graduating with computer systems networking and telecommunications degrees and 27 percent growth in computer science. [Eleanor Kennedy, Nashville Business Journal, Mar 31] Three possible answers: kids more interested in social networking, science-trained people's aversion to religious meddling in science education, and Tennessee's sponsorship of the Scopes trial.
Techie alien competition. [Mumbai's] Tech Mahindra, which launched a tech-support business in Fargo [ND] four years ago [partnering with big client Cargill], will boost its workforce there by 40 percent by 2015. [Mark Reilly, Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal, Apr 4]
Covidien company spokesman David T. Young said last week Covidien is on track to end production this month [in Argyle, NY], with complete closure by the end of June. .... employed about 200 in the manufacture of catheter-based devices for a range of medical procedures in recent years. But Covidien announced in July 2011 it was closing the Argyle plant and moving the production lines to Mexico and Costa Rica. [Scott Donnelly, Glens Falls Post Star, Mar 14, 14]
State tech lagging. When Microsoft puts Windows XP out to pasture, ceasing to provide new technical and security upgrades, thousands of computers [An estimated 20 percent] in state government will still be running the beloved operating system. The computers, whose hard drives record taxes, inmate lists, disease information, budget documents, regulatory files, laws, as well as birth, marriage and death certificates, could become increasingly vulnerable as time goes on. [but capitalism has a solution] State officials said they are investigating a plan to buy custom support from Microsoft for as much as $250,000. [Brian Dowling, Hartford Courant, Apr 4] The anti-government libertarians should welcome government's sticking with old but working technology that costs a lot less to keep than to buy the latest products. But libertarian business supporters want to sell new eqquipment.
Money's out there. U.S. businesses, excluding those in the financial sector, saw cash reserves grow by 12 percent last year to a record $1.64 trillion. ... According to a report by Bloomberg [Albany Business Review, Apr 1] But they need a credible ROI to invest it.
Eastman Kodak which once had 60,000
employees in the
Rochester, NY area, now has fewer than 2,500. ... emerged from
Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganiztion in September. [Albany
Business Review, Mar 21] Missed the digital photography train.
Criminal entrepreneurs. Meetup is one of several small web start-ups that have been hit recently by a wave of so-called denial-of-service, or DDoS attacks, in which attackers knock a victim offline using a flood of traffic and refuse to stop until their victims pay their ransom in Bitcoins. .... Other start-ups that have been hit are Vimeo, the video-sharing company; Basecamp, a project management software company; Bit.ly, the link-shortening service; Shutterstock, the stock photography agency; and MailChimp, the email marketing provider. .... “Imagine you run a coffee shop,” he told employees. “And zombies start coming in — millions of zombies — and you can’t sell coffee.” [ NICOLE PERLROTH and JENNA WORTHAM, New York Times, Apr 3]
Mozilla's new leader steps down from the nonprofit after a backlash stemming from his financial support of initiative to ban same-sex marriage. [Jeremy C. Owens, San Jose Mercury News, Apr 3]
Yahoo has added more layers of security in its effort to shield people's online lives from government spying and other snooping. [Michael Liedtke, AP, Apr 3]
6 reasons to stop running your company’s Windows XP [Heinan Landa, CEO of Optimal Networks, Albany Business Review, Apr 1]
Gene Therapy Revived. The once abandoned gene therapy field has become a hotbed, with 11 different companies raising at least $618 million from venture capitalists and the public markets since the beginning of 2013, and one more, AGTC, plans a $50 million initial public offering soon. Top venture capital firms are among their backers, and some of the industry’s top talent is being attracted to what was once seen as a lost cause. [Matthew Herper, Forbes, Mar 26]
Telling peers only the good news. Medical researchers often presented the findings of their clinical trials in a different way on a federal government website than they did in the medical journals where their studies were ultimately published, according to an Oregon Health & Science University analysis to be published April 1 in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Researchers' reports in peer-reviewed medical journals often were more favorable to the drug or intervention being studied than the reports on the government website — ClinicalTrials.gov — which required data for specific categories, according to the analysis. One of the most notable discrepancies: Of the 84 clinical trials the researchers looked at where a "serious adverse event” was reported on ClinicalTrials.gov, 33 of those trials reported fewer adverse events in the medical journals than they had reported to the government website. In 16 of those cases, no adverse events were reported in the journals. [James Walsh, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Mar 31, 14] In the publish-or-perish research world, the most valued objective is citations by peers.
Tech slump. the Dow average, mainly composed of well-established, dividend paying companies, rose 0.1% for the week, while the biotech and tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite fell 2.8% for its biggest weekly percentage decline since October 2012. The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index slumped 7% for its biggest weekly slide since August 2011.
Self-reproductive assets. Researchers in Massachusetts reported this week that they engineered bacteria to produce sheetlike biofilms decorated with an electrically conductive gold layer on top. The work opens the door to engineering organisms to create everything from self-healing electrical devices to artificial tissues [Robert Service, Science, Mar 28]
Sparkling crystal ball. the U.S. economy could be poised for a breakout year -- its strongest annual growth in nearly a decade. The combination of an improving job market, pent-up consumer demand, less drag from U.S. government policies and a brighter global outlook is boosting optimism for the rest of 2014. .... Many analysts foresee the economy growing 3 percent for the year [Martin Crutsinger, AP, Mar 27]
PICKING out the new
technologies that will have a big impact on society is notoriously
tricky. Sometimes inventions that do not seem to be important end up
nearly everywhere. This was the case with the laser, for example. When
the first lasers appeared in 1960 they were described as a solution
looking for a problem. But lasers have been used to make machines from
DVD players to barcode scanners, printers and telecommunications gear.
And they are now regularly used in surgery and in factories to cut and
weld materials. But trying to pick winners is compulsive and, as with
the World Economic Forum’s recently published list of top ten emerging
technologies for 2014, it can at least highlight some promising
research trends. [Babbage, an Economist blog, Mar 4,
14] If you think the SBIR reviewers and approvers really believe they
can pick future winners, free your imagination to sketch them a new
world. After all, you are looking desperately for an edge.
The Orlando metro area was ranked No. 71 of 102 major markets in The Business Journals’ brainpower rankings. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the study analyzed 102 major markets, searching for the metros with the highest levels of collective brainpower, [Orlando Business Journal, Mar 2]
Now the semiconductor industry has another thermal problem to sort out. As chip components shrink, the copper wiring that connects them must shrink, too. And as these wires get thinner, they heat up tremendously. A potential solution to this interconnect fever has been found in the form of graphene, an exotic material made from single-atom-thick sheets of carbon that is a superlative conductor of both electrons and heat. Materials scientists already use copper as a catalyst to grow graphene for other uses. [Katie Bourzac, technologyreview.com, Mar 21, 14]
A new Facebook page promises to tell the stories behind the faces, sockets, and hydraulics of MIT’s robots [Boston Globe, Mar 24]
One in four Americans 'don't know the Earth orbits the Sun' and only half believe in evolution .... results, which appear in the National Science Foundation (NSF) survey of 2,200 Americans, .... 42 per cent of Americans thought astrology was either "very scientific" or "sort of scientific". .... nearly 90 per cent of Americans believed the benefits of science outweigh any dangers. Thirty per cent believe science deserves more funding from government, and around 90 per cent expressed an interest in learning about medical discoveries. [ Rob Williams, The Independent, 16 February 2014]
Recalls of defective medical devices nearly doubled in the decade from 2003 through 2012, according to a Food and Drug Administration report due Friday. [Wall Street Journal, Mar 21, 14]
The New Future for American Coal: Export It on a recent morning, a ship loaded with 134,000 tons of the combustible black rocks embarked from the terminal and headed to South Korea, where they will be fed into blast furnaces belonging to Posco, 005490.SE +0.35% the world's fifth largest steelmaker. [John Miller, Wall Street Journal, Mar 19] Natural resources exist for private profit makers to dig out of the ground and sell for the best available price wherever a market can be found. Even a market already saddled with over-capacity. Capitalism, humankind's greatest wealth generator, is not about planning a long term strategy for exploiting a natural resource as few politicians can see beyond the next election and private company owners want profit and dividends now.
[writer George Gilder] calls for an "information theory of capitalism" in which the economy is driven by a dynamic marketplace, with information widely (and freely) distributed. The most important feature of such an economy, Mr. Gilder writes, is the overthrow of "equilibrium," and the most important actors are inventors and entrepreneurs whose breakthrough ideas are responsible for "everything useful or interesting" in commercial life. [Matthew Rees reviewing Gilder's latest opus Knowledge and Power, Wall Street Journal, Mar 17]
Moving to compete as a country at a higher level. China has announced plans to expand its cities and improve public services to support economic growth by allowing millions more rural residents to migrate to urban jobs. .... The Cabinet plan issued Sunday calls for raising the share of China's population of almost 1.4 billion people living in cities to 60 percent from 53.7 percent now, a shift of about 90 million people. A major shift from the present scheme of protecting city residents from rural residents. A study by Tsinghua University in Beijing found only 27.6 percent of China's people have urban status with full claims to education, health and other public services, while hundreds of millions of city dwellers with rural status have limited benefits. [Louise Watt, AP, March 16] My observations in 2010 of Beijing, Xi An, Chongxing, and Shanghai was that the national crop is 30-story apartment buildings stretching to the horizon.
1 Million Cups, a two-year-old program that supports entrepreneurs, is run by entrepreneurs and is popping up in cities across the country. It is administered by Kauffman Laboratories for Enterprise Creation, an affiliate of the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Mo ... is operating in 30 midsize and small American cities, and entrepreneurs in about a hundred cities have expressed interest in starting a chapter. .... The program’s goal now is to reach cities that do not have established start-up ecosystems. [Eilene Zimmerman, New York Times, Mar 12]
Extrapolation is usually simple and dangerous. Most long-term studies begin the 1920s, and they show that the stock market has returned about 7% per year, once we include dividends and inflation. The problem with that is it covers what Henry Luce called the “American Century,” when our way of life of democratic capitalism spread all over the world. I don’t think that’s repeatable. I’m still optimistic for America, mind you, but I don’t think we’ll see quite the triumph of free minds and free markets that we saw in the 20th century. [Eddy Elfenbein, crossingwallstreet.com, Mar 11] Can you predict the future? Not unless you are well versed in how the world really works, which is a rare talent. Most of us can't get past our devotion to our half-formed ideas based on seeking confirmation rather than enlightenment.
The 10 fastest growing companies [in St Louis] (according to CrunchBase) have no SBIR. [Brian Feldt, St. Louis Business Journal, Mar 6, 2014]
A report from Pacific Crest Securities called wearable devices one of the "most overhyped" bits of the technology sector, due mostly to limited battery life. It noted that most wearables need daily charging, saying big advances would be needed to lengthen batteries' staying power. [Wall Street Jounral, Mar 11]
Creeping isolation. For the first time in recorded history, a majority of Americans believe that their country has a declining influence on what’s happening around the globe. A slight majority of Americans now say that their country is doing too much to help solve the world’s problems. ... but America is not turning inward economically. More than three-quarters of Americans believe the U.S. should get more economically integrated with the world, according to Pew. ... We live in a country in which many people act as if history is leaderless. Events emerge spontaneously from the ground up. Such a society is very hard to lead and summon. It can be governed only by someone who arouses intense moral loyalty, and even that may be fleeting. [David Brooks, New York Times, Mar 10]
Capitalism buries competition. Yahoo’s growth appears to be in some way dependent on the widespread acquisition and subsequent annihilation of some of the Internet’s most promising startups, and no one can figure out why. ReadWrite reports that since Marissa Mayer took over in July 2012, 31 of 38 startup companies acquired by the search giant have had their services shut down, often to the detriment of users who had begun incorporating those services into their daily lives. [Jacob Siegal, bgr.com, March 7]
Technology creates revolution. The greatest revolution has taken place in the United States, where producers have taken advantage of two newly viable technologies to unlock resources once deemed commercially infeasible: horizontal drilling, which allows wells to penetrate bands of shale deep underground, and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which uses the injection of high-pressure fluid to release gas and oil from rock formations. .... Terminals once intended to bring foreign liquefied natural gas (LNG) to U.S. consumers are being reconfigured to export U.S. LNG abroad. [in capitalism, everything flows toward immediate profit, even the export of a critical commodity] .... the United States is now poised to become an energy superpower. ... Moscow has the most to lose [as] A sustained drop in the price of oil could destabilize Russia’s political system. [Robert Blackwill and Meghan O'Sullivan, Foreign Affairs, M/A2014]
The failure by a distressed Chinese solar-equipment maker to make a bond-interest payment on Friday signals Beijing's willingness, however tentative, to let some weak companies fall—a move that analysts and investors said could inject some discipline into a swelling debt market long viewed as implicitly supported by the government. At the same time, the default by Shanghai Chaori Solar Energy Science & Technology Co. also adds to worries over mounting risks in the country's financial system. .... The midsize maker of solar cells and panels has continued to borrow in recent years even as overcapacity swamped the industry and the company's losses grew. [Lingling Wei, Dinny McMahon, and Wayne Ma, Wall Street Journal, Mar 9, 14]
Sell whatever you have to whoever will buy. Houston-based Freeport LNG Expansion LP said Thursday that two Japanese companies plan to invest about $1.2 billion for its liquefied natural gas export project in Texas. [Jordan Blum, Houston Business Journal, Feb 27] Drain America first.
Alejandro Zaffaroni, a prolific biotechnology entrepreneur and Silicon Valley legend who played a significant role in the development of the birth control pill, the nicotine patch, the DNA chip and corticosteroids, died. He was 91. [Andrew Pollack, New York Times, Mar 6]
The Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPrize competition has opened registration for a contest where participants develop new technologies to track oceanic health. Teams compete in a 22-month contest for a $2 million prize to create a new generation of ocean pH sensor technology that could transform the way scientists understand ocean acidification. .... registration runs through March 31 for $1,000 per team .... Other active XPrize competitions include the $30 million Google Lunar contest, the $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder contest and the $2.25 million Nokia Sensing XChallenge. [Sarah Drake, Silicon Valley Business Journal, Feb 11, 14]
Microsoft should move to San Francisco because there aren't enough "innovators" in Redmond, according to [Forbes contributor Peter Cohan] ....because San Francisco "is where Microsoft must move if it hopes to break free of the yearning for a pension that keeps its people from the kind of thinking and action that spurs innovation that could accelerate Microsoft’s revenue growth." He adds it would cost billions of dollars in moving expenses to move to California. [Ben Miller, Puget Sound Business Journal, Feb 10, 14]
Optimistic. Fueled in part by growing confidence in the U.S. economy, more businesses are upbeat about their future than at any time since the onset of the recession, according to a new survey. Fifty-nine percent of executives saw better times ahead for their companies in the first quarter [David Ranii, Raleigh News & Observer, Mar 6]
Chipmaker Intel thinks it has a way to let valuable data be combined and analyzed without endangering anyone’s privacy. Its researchers are testing a super-secure data locker where a company could combine its sensitive data with that from another party without either side risking that raw information being seen or stolen. .... The project: known as Reliance Point [Tom Simonite, technologyreview.com, March 3, 2014]
AT&T Inc. plans to open a type of educational center in Austin later this year but the telecom giant is disclosing few details about the project. [Christopher Calnan, Austin Business Journal, Feb 26]
Hewlett-Packard sold a portfolio of 2,400 patents and patent applications for mobile technology to Qualcomm [John Sailors, San Francisco Business Times, Jan 24, 14]
The great British biologist J.B.S. Haldane said that ideas pass through four stages of acceptance: 1, "worthless nonsense"; 2, "interesting"; 3, "true, but quite unimportant"; and 4, "I always said so." [Jason Zweig, Wall Street Journal, Mar 1]
As Nate Silver put it in an interesting interview, “our brains are wired to build stories around essentially random data.” .... Narratives are crucial to how we make sense of reality. They help us to explain, understand and interpret the world around us. They also give us a frame of reference we can use to remember the concepts we take them to represent. [http://rpseawright.wordpress.com, Feb 27]
From looking good to doing good. Miramar Road's pyramid, a drawing card for interior designers for 22 years, is morphing with the times, pirouetting from poofy couches to apps, cellular networks and high-tech startups [as San Diego Innovation Center]. ... "If you're in a startup tech company and funding is limited and want to be around other tech companies, this could be a great place for you," Eldredge said. "If you need 1,500 to 2,000 square feet, that's kind of what we're shooting for." [Roger Showley, utsandiego.com, Feb 24]
[Joel Kurtzman in "Unleashing the Second American Century"] offers an upbeat, mouthwatering forecast, based on four key "forces" propelling the U.S. economy: a depth of creativity, evident in America's innovative tech sector; huge energy reserves, including natural gas newly released from shale, that will make the U.S. energy-independent within a half-dozen years; massive amounts of dormant capital ($5 trillion), mostly stored up by corporations in cash and just waiting to be deployed; and the country's "unrivaled manufacturing depth." ... Unlike other countries, Mr. Kurtzman says, the U.S. excels in nurturing a massive "knowledge transfer" between academic research and business, an extension of the Emersonian philosophy that the practical application of ideas should be essential to any scholar's identity. Mr. Kurtzman argues that this notion gives America a competitive advantage over Europe, where there has been a historical bias against mixing ivory towers and boardrooms. Such cross-pollination indeed helped power up the U.S. biotech business, a sector that creates seven new jobs and $2.20 of revenue for every $1 spent on research. [Stewart Pinkerton, Wall Street Journal, Feb 21]
EvoNexus, a no-strings-attached start-up incubator run by San Diego technology trade group CommNexus, is seeking applications for a new group of high-tech companies to join the program. EvoNexus offers office space, mentoring and other services to young companies – including collaboration with Qualcomm Labs. The deadline for applying to the EvoNexus program is Feb. 28. For information, go to www.commnexus.org/applicants. [utsandiego.com, Feb 21]
AS INVESTORS and executives crammed into a New York ballroom for a conference held this week by the Biotechnology Industry Organisation, the mood was jittery. The previous week eight biotech firms had launched initial public offerings in America, together raising more than $500m. In a discussion panel on whether the industry’s latest boom will last, a prominent investor, Oleg Nodelman, joked that he still had suitcases of cash for any firm that wanted it. ... One of the main causes for the millennial boom was that investors, flush with money they had made from internet firms, became excited about the Human Genome Project. [The Economist, Feb 15, 14]
Mr. King was a 17-year-old high school student when he developed a deep desire to be an inventor. His method was to “go to my coffee shop for hours” — .. where he still lives. He’d order a latte and type “inventor-friendly company” into Google. “I would make up an invention on the spot regarding their product line,” he said. “Then I would send it off to the company and pitch it.” ... [on] G-WIN, or the General Mills Worldwide Innovation Network page, in 2011. The site has received thousands of ideas from inventors since it went up in 2009, but considers somewhere “less than 10 percent” for use at the company. It was on that website that he read of a need for “a quantitative method of analyzing the texture of a chewy granola bar to assess differences in bar texture.” .... The precise design of Mr. King’s breakthrough is now a trade secret. General Mills is pursuing a patent [Jack Hitt, New York Times, Feb 22]
YANG YUANQING, Lenovo’s boss, hardly spoke a word of English until he was about 40: he grew up in rural poverty and read engineering at university. But when Lenovo bought IBM’s personal-computer division in 2005 he decided to immerse himself in English: he moved his family to North Carolina, hired a language tutor and—the ultimate sacrifice—spent hours watching cable-TV news. This week he was in São Paulo, Brazil, for a board meeting and an earnings call: he conducted all his business in English except for a briefing for the Chinese press. [The Economist, Feb 15]
In the past two decades a new concern has emerged: that monopolies may be restricting innovation. The technology industry seems to have been particularly prone to creating near-monopolies, from Microsoft in software to Amazon in retailing and Google in internet search. This is due to network effects. Consumers gravitate to the dominant technology, either because it offers more products or because many of their friends are already using the network concerned. These monopolists, it is feared, will be slow to introduce new technologies that might cannibalise their existing business; and they will be so entrenched that new competitors will find it hard to get a foothold. [The Economist, Feb 20]
Fixed minds. one of my professors at Yale, Ian Ayres, asked his class on empirical law and economics if we could think of any issue on which we had changed our mind because of an empirical study. For most people, it’s hard. We like to think that we form our views based on evidence, but in fact we view the evidence selectively to confirm our preexisting views. [James Kwak, http://baselinescenario.com/, Feb 19]
Often wrong, never in doubt. the psychologist David Kahneman describing how theories are born: “We can’t live in a state of perpetual doubt, so we make up the best story possible and we live as if the story were true.” A theory that began as a wild guess ends as a firm belief. Humans need beliefs in order to live, and great scientists are no exception. Great scientists produce right theories and wrong theories, and believe in them with equal conviction. [Freeman Dyson reviewing Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein—Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe by Mario Livio, New York Review of Books, Mar 6]
Disgraced Scientist [Korean researcher Hwang Woo-suk] Granted U.S. Patent for Work Found to be Fraudulent .. his claim that he had created the world’s first cloned human embryos and had extracted stem cells from them .... a spokesman for the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and some outside patent lawyers, said the system operates on an honor code and that patent examiners cannot independently verify claims [Andrew Pollack, New York Times, Feb 14]
[The molecular diagnostics] industry, which accounts for less than 2 percent of healthcare spending, is stuck in neutral. If it’s ever going to grow into a bigger business that delivers lots of valuable information about health, the molecular diagnostics industry needs a tough, science-minded, credible regulator. It needs a thorough, predictable, and efficient third party who can comb through complex data sets and say with confidence what’s real, what’s clinically meaningful, and what’s BS. [Luke Timmerman, xconomy.com, Feb 14]
In the latest demonstration of optogenetics, a versatile but complex technology for controlling nerve cells, a research team at Stanford University has sketched out how patients afflicted by chronic pain might one day find relief: simply by pressing a bright flashlight to their skin. ... Optogenetics is a breakthrough technology that is giving scientists precise control over what animals feel, how they behave, and even what they think. It relies on modifying the DNA of neurons so that they send signals—or are blocked from firing—in response to light. [Antonio Regalado, technologyreview.com, Feb 16]
Intellectual Ventures, the patent acquisition company founded by former Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Nathan Myhrvold, laid off some of its staff. .... has been called a “patent troll” by some, said in a statement: “Intellectual Ventures has always had a bold vision — to establish an active market for invention where inventors realize the value of their ideas. [Seattle Times, Feb 12, 14]
The Nook’s fate isn’t unusual these days. Technologies have always gone belly up, but tech extinctions may become even more common over the next few years. We’re living through an exhilarating and mystifying time in the tech business, when every established brand and business model — from the Windows PC to the whole idea of selling software and hardware for a profit — is suddenly under assault. Today, five behemoths — Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft — plus a dizzying array of start-ups are competing to win every dollar and minute you spend in tech. [Farhad Manjoo, New York Times, Feb 13]
Even apart from the elusiveness of tacit knowledge, there are many reasons to doubt the imminence of a virtual human brain, let alone one that would become a self-multiplying, possibly civilization-threatening superintelligence. Artificial intelligence researchers themselves acknowledge that many tasks have taken far longer than their predecessors had predicted, leading in the past to disappointing results and funding slumps. [Edward Tenner, Could Computers be gettign too smart?, The American, Feb 7]
Sluggish growth among young technology firms could bode trouble for the U.S. economy, according to a new report from the Kauffman Foundation. The number of technology firms aged five years or younger - key drivers of job creation - has fallen to below 80,000, down from a high of 113,000 in 2001, according to the report. Today's levels are roughly on par with the mid 1990s. [Reuters, Feb 11] Since 2001 was the peak dot.com era, it's not surprising or bad news that levels have returned to good times of the mid 1990s.
companies have been
selected to participate in AccelerateBaltimore's 2014 program.
Mentorea, Ntensify, Heyy, Speakerblast [Sarah Gantz, Baltimore Business Journal, Jan 28] All are doing software apps of some sort.
Dumping hardware. The inventor of the PC IBM is exploring a sale of its semiconductor business in what would be its most significant strategic move since it faced a financial crisis in the early 1990s, according to various media reports.... weeks after IBM announced the sale of its low-end server business to Lenovo for $2.3 billion. [Austin American Statesman, Feb 7] Software and advice need a lot less capital.
Bring in big data. Born in apartheid-era South Africa, Soon-Shiong excelled as a surgeon despite discrimination because of his Chinese ancestry. In the United States, he pioneered a safer and more effective way of delivering the breast cancer drug paclitaxel, and amassed $9 billion through his entrepreneurship. .... proposes to use the power of what’s called “Big Data” to track the path of cancer. That path starts with mutations in the genome, continues through the messenger molecules of RNA and ends with the proteins made by RNA. .... have [all new] science digitized as part of a “national information highway of connective health.” Matched up with clinical results, this database will become increasingly powerful. [Bradley Fikes, utsandiego.com, Feb 5, 14]
BigPharma combo. Ten big drug companies that have spent billions racing one another to find breakthroughs on diseases like Alzheimer's have formed an unusual pact to cooperate on a government-backed effort to accelerate the discovery of new medicines. Under a five-year collaboration to be announced on Tuesday, the companies and the National Institutes of Health have agreed to share scientists, tissue and blood samples, and data. They aim to decipher the biology behind Alzheimer's, Type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, and to thereby identify targets for new drugs. The price tag, roughly $230 million, is relatively small: The global drug industry spends about $135 billion a year on research and development. But the collaborators seek something money can't buy. [Monica Langley and Jonathan Rockoff, Wall Street Journal, Feb 4]
Herding cats. CED, a Triangle-based support group for entrepreneurs, has been awarded a $250,000 grant from NC IDEA to help make the region’s entrepreneurial network more efficient. [David Bracken, Raleigh News & Observer, Jan 31]
[the modern gold-rushers] are armed with computer-science degrees rather than shovels and picks. It is boom time again in Silicon Valley. Startups are sprouting like mushrooms after rain. Investors are showering them with cash. Hoodie-clad geeks are quaffing champagne in trendy bars, as they celebrate their nascent firms’ multi-billion-dollar valuations. Meanwhile, Google and Apple continue their march towards world domination. ..... How do the valley’s firms thrive in this climate? Partly it is because their cluster effect is as strong as ever. Firms, workers, investors and universities benefit from proximity to one another. ..... It seems unlikely that California will ever challenge the likes of Texas or North Dakota at the top of business-friendliness tables. It is a progressive, high-tax, high-regulation place, and most voters like it that way. [The Economist, Jan 25] Politicians with seed capital and tax break ideas take note. You cannot make a Silicon Valley in [name your state] with a handful of frugally funded start-ups.
MIT announced its list of startups springing from the Media
Lab that will get a small investment by its E14 Fund: DuKode Studio: MindRider Helmet Bike helmet
; Six Questions
Website that lets
visitors suggest and
vote on questions for interviewees like celebrities; Beansprock
Website that delivers
recommendations to help visitors make better career decisions;
Pixels.io Creating invisible QR codes that
read by ordinary digital cameras; SourceMap
Software for mapping and better understanding supply chain relationships; Buddy Cup Drinking cups that enable people to become social network "friends" by clinking, and broadcast where they're hanging out ; Circular2 working on what you might think of as a whammy bar crossed with a theremin — a way of using hand gestures to control the sounds that come out of guitars. [Scott Kirsner, boston.com, Jan 21, 14] A collection of small beer gadgets that will not create an industry not threaten the drift from labor to capital.
Ireland now is one of the largest clusters in Europe where research translates into lean startup ventures that can flourish in a ecosystem where innovation means business. [Chad O'Connor, boston.com, January 30, 2014]
a new co-working space managed by Startup Milwaukee that aims to bring together the start-up community. 96square [a co-working space for high growth startup companies located in the historic Blatz Wash House in downtown Milwaukee], which launched in October, has signed 16 tenants and plans to add at least four more. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jan 28]
Today, the American economy is still roughly 8 percent smaller than it would be if it had followed the path the Congressional Budget Office forecast in August 2007. That’s a gap of $1.5 trillion, or almost $5,000 for every person in the country. .... For all the political back-and-forth over these questions, calls for more radical moves to revive the economy have largely vanished from the policy debate. [Eduardo Porter, New York Times, Jan 29] Into that gap plunge politicians with pet economic theories that give their constituents some advantage. Politics was ever thus. Unfortunately, even the unbiased economists have no good solution for the decline of good paying human jobs in the face of technologically driven advances in productivity. Every productivity advance hands another edge to capital which pushes income and power upward. And no, there is no good solution, there is only adaptation to reality.
Lenert, Wang, and their team have already produced an initial [solar thermophotovoltaics] test device with a measured efficiency of 3.2 percent, and they say with further work they expect to be able to reach 20 percent efficiency — enough, they say, for a commercially viable product. ... in a paper published this week in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, written by graduate student Andrej Lenert, associate professor of mechanical engineering Evelyn Wang, physics professor Marin Soljačić, principal research scientist Ivan Celanović, and three others. .... the team inserted a two-layer absorber-emitter device — made of novel materials including carbon nanotubes and photonic crystals — between the sunlight and the PV cell. This intermediate material collects energy from a broad spectrum of sunlight, heating up in the process. When it heats up, as with a piece of iron that glows red hot, it emits light of a particular wavelength, which in this case is tuned to match the bandgap of the PV cell mounted nearby. [David L. Chandler, technologyreview.com, Jan 23]
The Bay Area added more than 11,000 jobs in December, led by a big surge in Santa Clara County and the San Francisco-San Mateo-Marin region that drove the unemployment rates in those two regions to five-year lows, a new report shows. [George Avalos, Oakland Tribune, Jan 24, 14]
For every flawed statistical model, there is a flawed ideology whose inflexibility leads to disastrous results. .... But if we have learned one thing from science, it is that the most plausible explanation is not necessarily correct. ..... a scientific mind should always remain skeptical of what it knows. Be skeptical of data by all means, but also be skeptical of plausible explanations, conventional wisdom, inspiring ideologies, compelling anecdotes, and most of all your own intuition. [Duncan J. Watts, technologyreview.com, Jan 22]
Dirt, seawater, and sunlight. Boeing and its research partners in the Middle East said they would start field trials after recording progress in making biofuel from desert plants fed with seawater. [technologyreview.com, Jan 22]
A day after predicting its sales this year would be flat largely due to the dwindling market for personal computers, chipmaker Intel said it planned to cut more than 5,000 jobs over the next 12 months. [Steve Johnson, San Jose Mercury News, Jan 17] Markets rise and markets fall. Intel got rich by abandoning the DRAM market to make microprocessors. Life moves on as the microprocessor moved from computers to all sorts of info devices and competitors made their own processors.
New biotech gateway. along came the great biotech bull market of 2013. It was the second-biggest year on record for biotech IPOs, with 52 companies going public by my count. The Nasdaq Biotech Index rose 66 percent last year .... The little guy with a promising new drug candidate can walk away from a low-ball bid and go public now. The rising tide of the stock market has roughly doubled the group of companies that have the cash to buy innovative new drugs [Luke Timmerman, xconomy.com, Jan 20]
Vietnam has set a goal to create an advanced tech economy that contributes 8 percent to 10 percent to gross domestic product by 2020 as companies such as Intel, Samsung and Nokia spend billions of dollars on new factories in the nation. [John Boudreau, Bloomberg News, Jan 19]
Bow-tied Steve Jobs, standing on the Flint Center stage on Jan. 24, 1984, reaches into a bag and pulls out a rectangular all-in-one personal computer called Macintosh. "Hello, I am Macintosh," the squat machine's robotic voice says. ... marked the moment that the tools of the digital age were offered to all of us. ... Price: $2,495, CPU speed: 8 MHz [Mike Cassidy, San Jose Mercury News, Jan 17]
even without another internet bust, more than 90% of startups will crash and burn. ... More ominously, startups may destroy more jobs than they create, at least in the shorter term. .. Yet this report will argue that the world of startups today offers a preview of how large swathes of the economy will be organised tomorrow. The prevailing model will be platforms with small, innovative firms operating on top of them. This pattern is already emerging in such sectors as banking, telecommunications, electricity and even government. .. . this special report will explain how they operate, how they are nurtured in accelerators and other such organisations, how they are financed and how they collaborate with others. It is a story of technological change creating a set of new institutions which governments around the world are increasingly supporting. [The Economist, Jan 18] A must-read for innovators who imagine being safe in their innovations.
Competition getting serious. Increasingly, China's own technology companies are challenging market leaders and setting trends in telecommunications, mobile devices and online services. Keeping better-known global competitors at bay in their massive home market, they are hiring Silicon Valley executives and expanding overseas with aggressive marketing campaigns featuring international sports stars and celebrities. ... many executives at Chinese and Western companies contend, China's technology sector is reaching a critical mass of expertise, talent and financial firepower that could realign the power structure of the global technology industry in the years ahead. .... According to a study released in December by U.S.-based Battelle Memorial Institute, R&D spending in China will likely reach $284 billion this year, up 22% from 2012. That compares with just 4% growth forecast in the U.S. to $465 billion for the same period. It forecasts China will surpass Europe in terms of R&D spending by 2018 and exceed the U.S. by 2022. [Juro Osawa and Paul Mozur, Wall Street Journal, Jan 17, 14] US political leaders will start wringing their hands and remembering the Japan, Inc scare in the 1980s. And if Democrats continue to hold two of the three power spots, look for government "investment" programs in technology.
One recent study by academics at Oxford University suggests that 47% of today’s jobs could be automated in the next two decades. ... No country is ready for it. [The Economist, Jan 16]
Of the 118 university-based startups launched in Illinois between 2006-13, about 73 percent remain in the state, according to the latest issue of the Illinois Innovation Index. [SSTI, Jan 16] No mention of how many are in their graves, a statistic usually avoided.
‘The characteristic danger for great nations, like the Romans or the English, which have a long history of continuous creation, is that they may at last fail from the weakening of the great institutions which they have created.’ -- Walther Bagehot, ca1867
Harvard University researchers say they’ve developed a new type of battery that could make it economical to store a couple of days of electricity from wind farms–and other sources of electricity. The new battery, which is described in the journal Nature, is based on an organic molecule—called a quinone—that’s found in plants such as rhubarb and can be cheaply synthesized from crude oil. [Kevin Bullis, technologyreview.com, Jan 8]
Researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston have developed a surgical glue with promising properties: it doesn’t dissolve in blood, and it’s rubbery enough to hold a seal inside a beating heart. [Kathleen Bourzac, technologyreview.com, Jan 8]
The hallmark of this cycle is that it goes down as the weakest ever in term of growth in the real private sector capital stock. Volume capital spending growth has barely averaged a 1% annual rate in the past half-decade, as the business sector moved forcefully to reward their shareholders in the form of dividend hikes and initiations and stock buybacks while refraining from investing organically in their own businesses. [David Rosenberg quoted in http://stawealth.com, Jan 6]
Got an innovation? Watch for competition. On a trip over the holidays, my wife rolled her eyes when I realized we'd left the Garmin at home and said we'd have to get a GPS for the rental car. She pointed to the Google Maps app on her mobile phone and said: "I bet this works even better." It did. ..... powerful new technologies like cloud computing and big data allow entrepreneurs to develop products and services that are "simultaneously better, cheaper, and more customized," Messrs. Downes and Nunes write. "This isn't disruptive innovation. It's devastating innovation." [Gordon Crovitz, Wall Street Journal, Jan 5]
The estate of the late American shipping magnate Daniel Ludwig on Monday donated a total of $540 million to six elite U.S. cancer research facilities .... divided equally among "Ludwig Centers" already established [ in 2006] at Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Stanford University and the University of Chicago. .... Ludwig has donated some $2.5 billion globally to fund cancer research [Richard Valdmanis, Reuters, Jan 5] Over on the private sector where the research is turned into profit, Barclays says that one-third of spending is going into oncology and inflammation, despite these areas accounting for less than 17% of projected revenue. New drugs don't necessarily cannibalize sales of existing treatments. But if R&D spending is becoming more concentrated, firms may be swapping development risk for commercial and marketing risk. Where science is developing rapidly, drugs also may be overtaken by the next innovation. [Helen Thomas, Wall Street Journal, Jan 5, 14]
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have shown that the nanoparticles, loaded with a common bacterial toxin and injected into mice, can induce an immune response that protects the animals against a subsequent lethal dose of the toxin. [Mike Orcutt, technologyreview.com, Jan 3, 14]
High tech model brought low. Hewlett Packard which has been struggling financially in recent years, is taking a bigger whack at its gargantuan workforce than previously has been reported. In a regulatory filing, said a total of 34,000 positions will be eliminated by the end of October. [Steve Johnson, San Jose Mercury News, Dec 31]
From life shortening to life sciences. [Biomed Realty Trust] A California real estate investment trust that specializes in life sciences properties has bought the Chesterfield [a cigarette brand] building in downtown Durham. ... BioMed now owns more than 1.2 million square feet of space in North Carolina. [David Bracken, Raleigh News & Observer, Dec 31]
The Russell 2000 index of small companies' shares rallied 37% this year, its biggest such rally since 2003. [Wall Street Journal, Dec 31]
Merck is working on a plan to radically reshape its once-storied re2golfesearch-and-development unit that would create international innovation hubs tapping into drug research outside of its labs. Merck would create these hubs in or near Boston, the San Francisco Bay area, London and Shanghai, according to people familiar with the matter—regions with a critical mass of academic and commercial R&D. [Peter Loftus and Jonathan D. Rockoff, Wall Street Journal, Dec 28]
Michael Watts and pals at [MIT] say they’ve designed and built the first photonic modulator that operates at this ultralow power level. “We propose, demonstrate, and characterize the first modulator to achieve simultaneous high-speed (25 Gigabits per second), low voltage (0.5 peak-to-peak Voltage) and efficient 1 femtoJoule per bit error-free operation,” they say. The new device is a hollow silicon cylinder that acts as a cavity for trapping light waves. It modulates this light thanks to a phenomenon known as the electro-optic effect in which the refractive index of silicon can be changed by modifying the voltage across it. [technologyreview.com, Dec 17]
Is too much money a bad thing? .... in tech circles, there's increasing concern about a flood of venture capital money that could artificially boost the value of startups -- and then lead to a dot-com style crash. The debate recently gathered steam when tiny Snapchat turned down multibillion-dollar acquisition offers. Now the checks for later-stage companies are getting bigger too, as home-run seeking venture capitalists court more tech entrepreneurs -- some of whom actually find themselves turning away millions of dollars. [Peter Delevett, San Jose Mercury News, Dec 14]
Forecasts in the rear-view. Perma-bear Nouriel Roubini has already incorrectly forecasted a double-dip in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012, and bond maven Bill Gross at PIMCO has fallen flat on his face with his “2013 Fearless Forecasts”: 1) Stocks & bonds return less than 5%. 2) Unemployment stays at 7.5% or higher 3) Gold goes up. [investingcaffeine.com, Dec 14]
Reality intrudes. To read the media, you’d think that to be an entrepreneur today is to change the world like Elon Musk or Bill Gates ...... Yet the reality belies the media. To be an entrepreneur today is to be a “solopreneur,” creating few or no jobs and eking out an existence. Far from a way to control one’s life, entrepreneurship — with or without success — is a ticket to a perpetual roller coaster-ride that can be nauseating most of the time. .... Almost 90 percent of the new businesses in the Kauffman study have three or fewer employees, and those are dominated by consultants operating out of home offices. Of people who did start businesses, only the youthful have high confidence that their businesses will be more profitable in the next year than they are now. ..... you might bear in mind that 40 percent of people in entrepreneurial businesses report working 16 hours a day. [Francine Hardaway, Phoenix Business Journal, Dec 3] The politicians' answer to small biz is to throw money at it, as much as the political system will tolerate, with little attention to when and where it would actually have an economic impact. With SBIR, it's even worse since no one has to account for results when there is no appropriation competition. Feel good is good enough.
The latest company cofounded by the prolific MIT scientist and entrepreneur Robert Langer has raised $11 million to advance work on a new kind of surgical adhesive technology. The startup called Gecko Biomedical (France, founded 2013) grew out of the Langer Lab at the MIT. It aims to bring its biodegradable glues and patches to market in the next few years for surgeons to close up wounds after operations. [Michael Farrell, Boston Globe, Dec 10, 13]
[Economist Robert] Gordon is pessimistic that we can do much about [a declining age-related trend in employment] , and he is not alone. But we should do what we can—for example, by addressing the decline in innovation and entrepreneurial startups that the Kauffman Foundation has diagnosed. One thing is clear: If we don't try, productivity will likely languish, further depressing per capita economic growth. And when the pie is barely expanding, a protracted period of zero-sum politics is the likely, ugly result. [William A. Galston, Wall Street Journal, Dec 10] The SBIR advocates will welcome any program aimed for more start-ups, but if the program is run like SBIR, the chances of success are minuscule. Federal mission agencies would do what they have done with SBIR, use the money for ordinary mission functions.
Funded by prominent Silicon Valley investors and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Hampton Creek Foods (San Francisco, CA; no SBIR) seeks to disrupt a global egg industry that backers say wastes energy, pollutes the environment, causes disease outbreaks and confines chickens to tiny spaces. ..... just started selling its first product — Just Mayo mayonnaise — at Whole Foods Markets .... Venture-capital firms, which invest heavily in early-stage technology companies, poured nearly $350 million into food-related startups last year, compared with less than $50 million in 2008, according to the firm. .... The American Egg Board, which represents U.S. producers, said eggs can’t be replaced. [TERENCE CHEA, AP, Dec 8, 13]
Eli Lilly and Co. will kick in money to help fund life science startups in New York City. ... drugmaker said today it hopes to gain access to new drug and other life science technologies by becoming an early venture capital partner in the City of New York Early-Stage Life Sciences Funding Initiative. The program will be started with $50 million in venture capital from Lilly, Celgene Corp., GE Ventures and the New York City Economic Development Corp. The partners’ goals are to help finance 15 to 20 new life-science breakthroughs over the next six years, with funding starting new year. [Jeff Swiatek, Indianapolis Star, Dec 4]
Over the last half-year, Google has quietly acquired seven technology companies in an effort to create a new generation of robots. .... not something aimed at consumers. Instead, the company’s expected targets are in manufacturing .... Among the companies are Schaft, a small team of Japanese roboticists who recently left Tokyo University to develop a humanoid robot, and Industrial Perception (Palo Alto, CA; no SBIR), a start-up here that has developed computer vision systems and robot arms for loading and unloading trucks. Also acquired were Meka (San Francisco, CA; no SBIR) and Redwood Robotics (San Francisco, CA; no SBIR), makers of humanoid robots and robot arms, and Bot & Dolly (San Francisco, CA; no SBIR), a maker of robotic camera systems that were recently used to create special effects in the movie “Gravity.” A related firm, Autofuss (San Francisco, CA; no SBIR), which focuses on advertising and design, and Holomni (Mountain View, CA, no SBIR) a small design firm that makes high-tech wheels. The seven companies are capable of creating technologies needed to build a mobile, dexterous robot. Mr. Rubin said he was pursuing additional acquisitions. [John Markoff, New York Times, Dec 4, 13] Note that all the US companies live around San Francisco Bay with the hotbed of innovative venture capital. And none needed SBIR to attract major investment.
Entrepreneurs and investors like me actually don't create the jobs—not sustainable ones, anyway. Yes, we can create jobs temporarily, by starting companies and funding losses for a while. And, yes, we are a necessary part of the economy's job-creation engine. But to suggest that we alone are responsible for the jobs that sustain the other 300 million Americans is the height of self-importance and delusion. [Henry Blodget, Slate, Nov 29] Note that the SBIR advocates jabber about creating jobs by pouring money into small biz (his constituents). Pure political balderdash that ignores the larger economic picture linking good employment to technology "investment". Of course, to a politician, any money spent on his constituents is an investment in the future. And I have never seen any study that directly relates SBIR to any gain in permanent employment that would not have happened anyway. But since such a study is too complex for any credible answer, and since no one really dares or cares to know, I never will see such numbers.
A California woman pleaded not guilty to what is believed to be the first traffic citation alleging a motorist was using Google's computer-in-an-eyeglass. .... pulled over in October on suspicion of going 80 mph in a 65 mph zone on a San Diego freeway. The California Highway Patrol officer saw she was wearing Google Glass and tacked on a citation usually given to people driving while a video or TV screen is on in the front of their vehicle. .... she will testify at a trial scheduled for January that the glasses were not on when she was driving, and activated when she looked up at the officer as he stood by her window. [Justin Pritchard, AP, Dec 3, 13] Who has the burden of proof on whether she was operating a distracting device while speeding?
In 2010 East London (UK) could claim 200 tech companies. Today it is home to more than 1,500. [William Lee Adams, Slate, Dec 4]
Stem cell research has already yielded historic breakthroughs against incurable diseases, a panel of top stem cell researchers said at a public forum Tuesday evening. And that's just the start, said the researchers, who described progress against cancer, diabetes, HIV and other illnesses. The forum was organized by California's $3 billion stem cell agency to kick off the World Stem Cell Summit .... More information on the project is available at www.summit4stemcell.org [Bradley Fikes, utsandiego.com, Dec 3]
Innovation competition rising. in these nondescript offices China is nurturing a growing class of tech entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, whose promising startups are challenging the long-held idea that China's Internet companies merely copy the products of the West. .... young techies rub elbows with a growing number of wealthy investors. Many of those investors are veterans of the first crop of Chinese Internet success stories .... network of entrepreneurs and tech executives from bigger companies increasingly connect startups with capital. [Paul Mozur, Wall Street Journal, Dec 4]
Wanna get rich? Raise someone's profit. General Electric is a classic example. Factories that used to require hundreds of employees to create light bulbs now only require the labor of a dozen different people. This trend is unfortunate for those seeking or desiring to maintain employment, but it benefits the owners that seek to draw out large profits from their ownership stakes. On the industrial side, we are starting to see the company eke out $0.11 of profit on every dollar of manpower employed, compared to $0.08 ten years ago. Those kinds of increases in productivity result in lower ongoing costs, which is one of the two levers that can increase overall profitability. [Tim McAleenan, seekingalpha.com, Nov 30]
competing visions of an approach to the outside world will not be solved by a vigorous debate per se, however much one might hope so. For in an Internet age, especially, the different sides talk mainly to themselves, not to each other. -- Robert Kaplan, realclearworld.com, Nov 28
in recent years, a large number of Europe-founded tech firms have set up offices in the Boston area. To give a snapshot of the activity, we've identified 18 of the noteworthy ones. Five of the companies have been lured by the Techstars Boston accelerator, while the other 13 have arrived in order to make a push into the U.S. market. [Boston Business Journal, Nov 26]
NASDAQ above 4000 this week for the first time in 13 years, which has prompted plenty of comparisons to the go-go days of the tech bubble. But ... the markets are showcasing different characteristics [this time, in price as a multiple of various economic measures]. [Mark Hulbert , Market Watch, Nov 26] Note: that's a version of "it's different this time".
Statistical-data guru Nate Silver says the rapid rise of big data can provide great insights, but also can be dangerous when misused. .... Silver provided four suggestions for avoiding data pitfalls: 1) Think probabilistically ; 2) Know where you're coming from (your biases); 3) Survey the data landscape; 4) Try, and err. [John Vomhof Jr., Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal , Oct 15, 13] Warning: politicians will ignore all four suggestions in endless rounds of cherry-picking numbers for speaking half-truths. Our great asset of BigData WILL BE shamelessly abused with no laws to prevent it. Your defense it either to ignore political claims or know enough about the subject to see through the chicanery. And remember about your (too certain) knowledge that we don't know as much about the system as we think we do. And remember that all the voices claiming a great idea on reducing taxes is looking firstmost to cut their own taxes.
“A lot of people want to build lifestyle businesses,” notes [Forbes's Rich] Karlgaard. They want “the freedom and autonomy” that come with privately held businesses. [Naomi Schaefer Riley, New York Post, Nov 25] The same is true of many SBIR proposers who want the government to subsdiize their uncompetitive products and services. Unfortunately, the government often does just that with its unilateral authority to fund whatever it pleases. At least, there's no evidence that the inefficient government investment is driven by personal gain for the deciders.
Harvard materials scientist Jennifer Lewis is laying the groundwork for lithium-ion batteries and other high-performing electronics that can be produced with 3-D printers. .... with new inks and tools [Mike Orcutt, technologyreview.com, Nov 25]
Auto lit review. Software that read tens of thousands of research papers and then predicted new discoveries about the workings of a protein that’s key to cancer could herald a faster approach to developing new drugs. ... developed in collaboration between IBM and Baylor College of Medicine, was set loose on more than 60,000 research papers that focused on p53, a protein involved in cell growth implicated in most cancers. By parsing sentences in the documents, the software could build an understanding of what is known about enzymes called kinases that act on p53 and regulate its behavior; these enzymes are common targets for cancer treatments. It then generated a list of other proteins mentioned in the literature that were probably undiscovered kinases, based on what it knew about those already identified. Most of its predictions tested so far have turned out to be correct. [Tom Simonite, technologyreview.com, Nov 25]
Too much progress for some. As the center of the technology industry has moved north from Silicon Valley to San Francisco and the largess from tech companies has flowed into the city — Twitter’s stock offering unleashed an estimated 1,600 new millionaires — income disparities have widened sharply, housing prices have soared and orange construction cranes dot the skyline. The tech workers have, rightly or wrongly, received the blame. .... More and more longtime residents are being forced out as landlords and speculators race to capitalize on the money stream. [ Erica Goode and Claire Cain Miller, New York Times, Nov 24]
Aversion to numbers. At Manchester University, a student society has been set up to challenge the current syllabus. Among the demands are fewer lectures bogged down in detailed maths, and more time discussing important historical thinkers. [The Economist, Nov 23] Recall Michael Bloomberg's dictum, In God we trust; all others bring data.
Snapchat is not even 3 years old. It's run by a couple of 20-somethings with no prior business experience. And it has never made a cent. Yet investors are fighting for the opportunity to throw hundreds of millions at the mobile messaging service that is all the rage with teens. [Jessica Guynn, Los Angeles Times, Nov 21] No capital shortage for innovators, providing they seem to promise an economic return.
What are you most nervous about? The unintended consequences of decisions. I have always believed that people don’t sit in their offices trying to make stupid decisions—it’s just that it’s very hard to think out to the longer-term effect of things. [Madeleine Albright, Bloomberg Business Week]
researchers [Yi Cui and Zhenan Bao] at Stanford University have shown that mixing silicon microparticles, with self-healing polymers, helps prevent a longer-lasting battery from failing. They say the self-healing polymers could stabilize other promising but damage-prone battery materials. [Katherine Bourzac, technologyreview.com, Nov 17]
The crowdfunding rule is now out for public comment. Here's mine: Once you're allowed to invest in private startups, my advice is: don't. Success is much harder than you might think. ... investing in some world-changing app is probably better than investing in your brother-in-law's pizza joint. But not by much, and you won't get a free calzone. [Andy Kessler, former hedgefund manager, Wall Street Journal, Nov 16]
"I've always said the Silicon Valley that matters is the one you can't see. It's the one going on at the third table at the Peet's down the street and not that giant corporation next door to it. It's always about the startups. It's never about existing companies." --- Michael Malone [Mike Cassidy, San Jose Mercury News, Nov 15]
It is a well-established, though much ignored, economic fact that higher levels of investment and lower levels of consumption lead to a higher standard of living (measured in terms of consumption per capita) in the long run. Yet the majority of countries, smitten with the Keynesian bug and full of politicians with their eyes on the next election, still pursue economic policies favoring immediate consumption over investment. [Jeffrey Dorfman, Real Clear Markets, Nov 17]
He predicted the market crash in 2008. He also predicted a crash in 2006, 2004, 2003, 2001, 1998, 1997, 1995, 1992, 1989, 1984, 1971... [Motley Fool] It's an old story that predictions are hard, especially about the future. But pundits, like politicians, have to say something that will get attention.
Wall Street may be riding high, but Main Street is down in the dumps: An index of small business indicators fell 2.3 points in October to its lowest level since March. [Kent Hoover, Dayton Business Journal, Nov 12, 13]
Never happen, guv. creating another Silicon Valley will be far harder than anyone imagines. .. it has a critical mass of serial acquirers ... these companies are used to disrupting things ... has 400,000 workers broadly in the tech sector. If you count the supporting infrastructure of service providers, it might be twice that size. That workforce is global. Almost two-thirds of people working in Silicon Valley are “foreign workers.” ... [Other state wannabes should create companies as best they can and] if it’s a very high-growth disruptor and strategic, odds are a Silicon Valley company will buy it . [Mark Zawacki, technologyreview.com, Nov 7]
I am told that the magazine Science updates its website evry thirteen seconds; and while I type this sentence I am falling behind again. -- Ian Morris, historian, Why the West Rules -- For Now, 2010
How tweet it is. Shares of Twitter rocketed up more than 70% above their IPO price. dotcom re-born?
Merrimack Pharma up 45% [Nov 7, 13]
Business incubator Upstart Labs, which gave startups office space and helped them grow and attract venture capital, announced it will close at the end of the day. The incubator has invested its $1 million fund. It decided not to raise an additional fund due to the number of incubators now serving Portland startups, said co-founder Jenn Lynch. ... Upstart was founded in late 2011. Its biggest successes include Chirpify (no SBIR), which helps make Twitter a sales channel. [Matthew Kish, Portland Business Journal, Oct 31, 13]
Marquette University is eliminating its graduate certificate in entrepreneurship program because of lack of student interest, the school confirmed [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Nov 5, 13]
When cities invest. a Chinese polysilicon factory broke ground on 67 acres [in Pocatello, ID] in 2007. Then, as the rest of the nation tumbled into recession, the plant rose up in shimmering promise, leaving this tough-edged railroad town — blue collar and union in a sea of southeast Idaho potato farms — feeling pretty good about the future. ... The decision by the city to buy the land and lease it back almost free seemed like a bargain at $1.4 million, given the potential payoff. Subcontractors and suppliers from around the nation and world were also arriving to build the $700 million plant, .... And the hundreds of production jobs in the end would be a big step toward the dream of a high-technology future, picking up where railroad and manufacturing jobs had faded. Now, 18 months after shutting completely, the factory, which was to produce materials used in solar panels, stands ghostly and silent. It never went into full operation, and in the global collapse of silica prices, it probably never will, solar industry experts said. [Kirk Johnson, New York Times, Nov 5]
The medical-device industry, struggling to adapt to a thriftier health-care system, is getting squeezed by a venture-capital drought. Investment in the medical-device and equipment industry is on pace to fall to $2.14 billion this year, down more than 40% from 2007 and the sharpest drop among the top five industry recipients of venture funding, according to an analysis of data compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association. Venture money received by the biotechnology sector declined 28% over the same period, while software startups recorded a 75% increase. [Joseph Walker, Wall Street Journal, Nov 5, 13]
There is tried and true science, which, from an adventurous dissident’s point of view, is boldly going where others have gone before but extending the prevailing knowledge by a couple of decimal places (a safe approach for dissertation writers and grant seekers). [Michael Pollack, reviewing Gene Shinn's autobio, New York Times, Nov 4]
Microsoft has pulled a Windows update [RT 8.1 update from the Windows Store] from its website after it caused some customers' devices to crash. ... Microsoft says RT 8.1 is an operating system for tablets and light, thin personal computers. It only runs built-in apps or apps downloaded from the Windows Store. [Boston Globe]
The [San Francisco] Bay Area job market is at a five-year high, having recovered nearly all the jobs erased by the Great Recession and heading toward the sky-high employment levels of the dot-com boom, according to the Bay Area Council's annual economic forecast. [George Avalos, Oakland Tribune, Oct 15]
It's worth noting that about half of all revenues and profits for our large cap companies are coming from overseas. [Joshua Brown, thereformedbroker.com, Oct 15]
Thinking Boston? many mid-sized biotech and medical technology companies, transitioning from research to full-scale commercial businesses, are making the reverse move. For them, the fastest growing cluster may be Lexington, better known as the birthplace of the American Revolution. [Robert Weisman, Boston Globe, Oct 11] If you prefer living conditions in, say, Dubuque or Moses Lake, remember that having a lot of other smart people and smart money around helps with getting innovations and innovative companies off the ground. On the other hand, if all you want is government subsidy, where you locate doesn't make much difference, except being near the flagpole for some DOD agencies.
Forbes published another list of the best companies at something, this time the 100 Most Promising. loaded with IT&software companies and devoid of any SBIR winner in "market-failure" types of technology. Software doesn't (or shouldn't) qualify for market failure government handouts in America because the technical risk is near zero and only business risk is uncertain.
As one foreign executive who has spent decades in China puts it, “the defining ideology in China is the ideology of nationalism. Its view is, ‘foreign capital should be here as long as it is useful to us’. It’s not an intellectual commitment to open markets and a level playing field.” [The Economist, Oct 11]
Medtronic opened a $10 million “brainstorming” center in Galway, Ireland, where doctors will collaborate and test cardiac devices. The facility will feature a 3-D printer and space for physicians to work with product engineers and test procedures, The Irish Times newspaper reports. .... operates similar brainstorming centers in China, Japan and Switzerland. [Katherine Grayson, Minneapolis / St Paul Business Journal, Sep 17, 13]
Bubble time. No profits? No problem. Investors are showing increasing hunger for initial public offerings of unprofitable technology companies and the potential for big gains that they bring. [Telis Demos, Wall Street Journal, Oct 11] Fear and greed alternate.
From a laboratory in New Orleans emerged the comfy wrinkle-free shirt that American white-collar workers—and cotton growers—craved. Scientist Ruth Benerito, who died Saturday at age 97, developed the "easy-care cotton" process that led to wash-and-wear clothing, also popularly known as permanent press. .... Dr. Benerito was a chemist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture [Stephen Miller, Wall Street Journal, Oct 8]
Tesla's stock declined for the second straight day after a video of a burning Model S on a Washington highway went viral. [Dan Nakaso, San Jose Mercury News, Oct 4, 13] Instant info puts visual and incendiary failures on display. But only for fifteen minutes of fame.
Got it, sell it, now. Now that the U.S. has edged past Russia as the world's largest oil and gas producer, the drumbeat to export some of that oil bounty is expected to get louder as U.S. production continues to grow. [Patti Domm, CNBC] For-profit resource extractors have no incentive to preserve assets for the long term. Tomorrow, like yesterday, is another country.
What's the most destructive force in the tech world, the thing that has nearly killed BlackBerry, pushed Dell to go private, and made a mess of Microsoft ? .... you and me and everyone we know. [Farhad Manjoo, Wall Street Journal, Oct 3]
Addicts Get More Connection. An FAA advisory committee has concluded passengers can safely use hand-held electronic devices, including those connected to onboard Wi-Fi systems, during all portions of flights on nearly all U.S. airliners, according to one of the group's leaders. [Andy Pasztor and Jack Nicas, Wall Street Journal, Oct 3]
Merck said it plans to slash its 81,000-strong workforce by 20% over the next two years, a stark show of the diminishing research-and-development capabilities of some of America's biggest health companies. [Wall Street Journal, Oct 2, 13] Keeping up profits and "share value" takes priority over long-term preservation of a capacity to generate and exploit new scientific advances. What would Hewlett and Packard have done, before their company abandoned the H&P way and gambled on commodity personal computers?
Think your tech is just what a system maker needs? Read all the trouble Boeing is having with its new Dreamliner's established technologies.
For decades, China has followed a state-led innovation model, where science and technology ministries identify priority areas, fund them generously and send thousands of students overseas to study in those areas. .... But many Chinese economists and scientists say the central-planning tack has come up short on new ideas, noting that these fields are well-trod technologically by the West. [Bob Davis, Wall Street Journal, Sep 30] Another market-loving Western analysis of China's innovation shortcomings.
MIT Production in an Innovation Economy (PIE) Commission released its findings from two years of research on how to remove the barriers that prevent the U.S. from turning its strengths in science and research into jobs, businesses and products. In order to ensure that American innovations reach the marketplace, the U.S. must rebuild its productive capabilities, with particular focus on improving the support ecosystem for smaller advanced manufacturing firms [SSTI, Sep 26] The experts have piles of recommendations, but for government the rule will be anything that benefits a political agenda - shrink government, lower taxes, ditch regulations, grant subsidies, etc - that people can understand and take into the voting booth. Sic transit gloria democracy.
In the quest for smaller, faster and more powerful electronics, researchers at Stanford University unveiled the first working computer built entirely from carbon nanotube transistors. [Wall Street Journal, Sep 26]
Need free money? Are you looking to raise startup capital that has no financial strings attached? Winning a business contest is one way to gather funds you don't need to pay back or forfeit equity to get. The same goes for small-business grants [including SBIR]. .... Not only did Dr. Baxter get the money, but she says applying for the grant helped her flesh out a strategy. Her six-employee business sells the device online for about $40 and is on track to post $1 million in sales this year. It has been profitable since 2010. "People comment to me all the time about how clean our books are and how well-documented everything is," she says. "That's all because of what I did for the grant." [Sarah E. Needleman, Wall Street Journal, Sep 21]
In a world where the big divide is no longer between developed and developing countries but rather between high-imagination-enabling countries and low-imagination-enabling countries, we remain the highest-imagination-enabling country in the world — and we have the innovative companies, start-ups and venture capitalists to prove it. [Thomas Friedman, New York Times, Sep 24, 13]
Capital over labor. With soaring wages and an aging population, electronics factory managers say the day is approaching when robotic workers will replace people on the Chinese factory floor. .... fill a growing labor shortage as the country's youth become increasingly unwilling to perform manual labor. [Paul Mozur and Eva Dou, Wall Street Journal, Sep 24]
Four or five will do. “It’s very hard to write regulations that will keep people from acting foolishly, particularly when acting foolishly has proven very profitable over the preceding few years,” he said. “Humans, they all think they’re Cinderella at the ball, and they think, as the night goes along, the music gets better and the drinks flow, they all think they’re going to leave at two minutes to 12 and of course there’s no clocks on the wall and they’re still dancing, so it will happen again.” “But,” he added slyly, “buy when it happens.” He doesn’t worry about keeping up with modern technology. He buys what he knows, like Coca-Cola, which he drank all evening. Evoking Ted Williams “waiting for the right pitch,” he counseled that: “You don’t need 20 decisions to get very rich. Four or five will probably do it over time.” [Maureen Dowd, opining on Warren Buffet, New York Times, Sep 22]
US Textile Plants Return, With Floors Largely Empty of People. [New York Times, Sep 20] Technology automated manufacturing to substitute uncomplaining machines for labor of any persuasion. From the water powered mills of New England to the electrical power of the cheap labor South, to the cheaper labor of Asia, back to the US with no labor. Who are the winners? US Treasury collects taxes that would be otherwise sheltered offshore; technologists of computer controlled machines; manufacturers making profits without dealing with health costs of employees.
European regulators put their stamp of approval on Genzyme's multiple sclerosis drug candidate Lemtrada, giving the Cambridge biotechnology company its second MS treatment on the market in the European Union only weeks after it was first approved there. [Boston Globe, Sep 17]
Cheaper car batteries. Two executives at top automotive battery companies said this week that the cost of lithium-ion batteries used in electric and hybrid vehicles are on a steady decline and are likely to be about half of today's price by 2020. However, one cautioned the costs of the electronics systems that monitor and control the batteries could remain high because of a lack of standardization among hybrid auto makers. [Mike Ramsey, Wall Street Journal, Sep 18]
General Dynamics, DRS Technologies and others will discuss their needs this week at the Resource Rendezvous, an event organized to help state companies increase their chances of winning federal grants and research agreements with defense contractors. Seventeen companies from the Upper Midwest also have been selected to pitch their science and technology-based products at the event .... Presenting companies include Ingeneus (Milwaukee, WI) formed in August that is developing a tool for DNA analysis of hypertension; Isomark (Madison, WI; no SBIR) with a technology for detecting infection as soon as two hours after onset; and Matrix Product Development (Sun Prairie, WI; SBIR) with a technology using battery-operated tags for hazardous waste material tracking. .... To register or get more information, visit www.wisecurity.org or call Joy Sawatzki at (608) 442-7557. [Kathleen Gallagher, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Sep 16, 13]
Steve Zylstra, president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council, will be helping to set policy for a national discussion of technology businesses as the chairman of the Technology Councils of North America .... was General Manager of General Pneumatics (Scottsdale, AZ; $3.8M SBIR in 1980s and 1990s) ... became President & CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council and the Southwestern Pennsylvania Industrial Re-source Center (SPIRC) in April 2000. [Hayley Ringle, Phoenix Business Journal, Aug 16, 13]
Public-private seed stage investor CincyTech announced four new investments on Monday from its recently closed $11 million Fund III. ... $250,000 in Off Track Planet, which is launching a new travel discovery app .... $250,000 to Impulcity is a mobile app for iPhone and Android phones that alerts users to nearby concerts and events .... $250,000 in Choremonster provides a platform for parents to encourage and reward chore completion for their children ... $100,000 in Ahalogy, part of an $800,000 second stage seed financing round for the company, formerly known as Pingage. helps brands manage content and build followings on the Pinterest social network. [Andy Brownfield, Cincinnati Business Courier, Aug 26, 13] All zero tech risk, pure business risks.
Global competition at home. Dr. Nizam Razack was the first doctor in the world to use Mazor Robotics Renaissance Guided System to implant a battery-operated device in a Parkinson’s patient’s brain. The procedure, done Aug. 19 at the Florida Hospital Celebration Health campus. Since then, several more of the robotic implants have been done, and more are coming next week. .... Tel Aviv, Israel-based global robotics company now calls [Orlando, FL] its U.S. home [Abraham Aboraya, Orlando Business Journal, Sep 11, 13]
Rising market. Middle-age Americans, in particular seek ways to remain physically active. The number of patients ages 45 to 64 who had a hip replacement more than doubled from 2000 to 2010, according to a Star Tribune analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The increase was more pronounced for knee replacements, rising 213 percent. [James Walsh and Jim Spencer, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Sep 15]
An efficient new solar-cell technology uses the same inexpensive manufacturing method as many silicon cells—suggesting that it could be easily adopted by industry. The technology uses a class of materials known as perovskites ... Perovskite solar cells could be manufactured for as little as $0.15 per watt, he says, about a quarter of the price of their silicon counterparts. http://scim.ag/perovcells [Science, Sep 13]
Scientists with Southwest Research Institute have developed the first electric vehicle aggregation system using the Society of Automotive Engineers’ standard for bidirectional charging systems. In laymen’s terms, this technology can allow electric vehicles to be recharged, but also transfer power back onto the grid. [James Aldridge, San Antonio Business Journal, Sep 10, 13]
The rich got richer. Last year, the incomes of the top 1 percent rose nearly 20 percent compared with a 1 percent increase for the remaining 99 percent, according to a new analysis of IRS figures. [Paul Wiseman, AP, Sep 10]
Cardiac stem cells have been converted into blood vessels in the damaged hearts of mice, with a new technology developed by researchers at Harvard University and Sweden. T.... Only one treatment was required to effect this long-lasting change, by tipping the fate of the stem cells to differentiate into blood vessels. ... The study was reported Sunday in Nature Biotechnology. [Bradley Fikes, utsandiego.com, Sep 8, 13]
Existing companies, not research universities or entrepreneurship programs, are the most fertile source of startup businesses in most metropolitan areas. a key takeaway from a new study conducted by the Kauffman Foundation, which also found that most areas with higher-than-average startup activity have been strong entrepreneurial centers for at least 20 years. ..... Economic development strategies need to take the importance of spinoffs into account, but that doesn't mean areas should give tax breaks to big companies in hopes they'll spawn startups, Stangler writes. [Kent Hoover, Portland Business Journal, Sep 4] Business subsidies in general are more political show than economic effect. SBIR has been chugging for three decades and still canot prove itmade any difference over what would have happened nyway.
Get online. More than 1,700 Oregon businesses have participated in Google's Oregon Get Your Business Online event since it launched last year. The program offers free advice to local businesses to help them launch a website and grow their business online. There's certainly demand. According to Google, 57 percent of Oregon small businesses lack a website. [Suzanne Stevens, Portland Business Journal, Aug 23]
small businesses aren’t adding workers like they used to ... Goldman economists found small firms (under 49 workers) have indeed underperformed medium and large companies whether underperform is defined as “a slower rate of job growth during the recovery relative to other firm size classes or a failure to regain the absolute magnitude of job losses incurred during the recession.” .... Many mom-and-pop stores can’t compete against big box retailers. [Kathleen Madigan, Wall Street Journal, Sep 5] Beware: if the magic fades, the politicians will follow.
The Stanford Technology Ventures Program has launched a new program for Ph.D. students that provides training in entrepreneurship and innovation. But unlike other entrepreneurship programs the Accel Innovation Scholars Program takes a holistic approach, training students to prepare for roles that support regional innovation ecosystems. The year-long program, housed within Stanford’s School of Engineering, was created to service doctoral program students who are eager to learn how to evaluate the commercial availability of new technology and bring commercially viable products to the marketplace. [SSTI, Sep 4]
Atlanta's innovation culture was a big reason AT&T put its newest Foundry in the city, the wireless carrier's chief said at the $3 million center’s grand opening .... helps AT&T tap independent developers, venture capital firms and startups to develop new applications and services for its network .... third-party developers get access to the infrastructure — data, hardware, software and engineers — needed to build the technologies [Urvaksh Karkaria, Atlanta Business Chronicle, Aug 27]
A Chinese state-owned travel technology company has announced plans to locate its North American research and development center in Duluth, Ga. Beijing-based TravelSky Technology Ltd. develops information technology solutions for China's air travel and tourism industries. [Urvaksh Karkaria, Atlanta Business Chronicle, Aug 27]
Apple has purchased AlgoTrim, a Swedish company that makes data compression codecs for use with mobile media, according to the Swedish tech news site Rapidus. .... it creates compression technologies that let devices create more vivid and true-to-life media while using less computing power, [Jon Xavier, Silicon Valley Business Journal, Aug 28, 13] Were there no US small firms to compete with new technology? Did any small firms even try to get SBIR to develop such technology? The SBIR advocatesshould be tasked to answer such a question with some other story than "we deserve more money". Don't worry though; Congress shows no interest in whether SBIR actually achieves anything.
Where's the action? The joint report by entrepreneur advocacy groups Engine Advocacy and the Kauffman Foundation pegged the Colorado cities Boulder and Fort Collins as the U.S. cities most densely packed with high-tech startups. .... About 50 percent of tech startups still fail within five years. However, the report found that those surviving create jobs at about twice the rate of the rest of the private sector. [Lauren Hepler, Silicon Valley Business Journal, Aug 14, 13] young high-tech firms--those aged one to five years--contribute positively to net job creation overall. The opposite is true across the private sector as a whole, where the substantial job losses stemming from early-stage business failures--about half of all firms fail in their first five years--make young firms as a whole net job destroyers. [Ian Hathaway, Engine Advocacy blog, Aug 14] The Top Ten Top 10 Metro Areas for High-Tech Startups, by Density: 1. Boulder, CO; 2. Fort Collins-Loveland, CO; 3. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA; 4. Cambridge-Newton-Framingham, MA; 5. Seattle, WA; 6. Denver, CO; 7. San Francisco, CA; 8. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD; 9. Colorado Springs, CO; 10. Cheyenne, WY. Note that density is a normalizing figure; business success for tech startups need a decent size total of tech startups and other contributors like large R&D firms, universities, mobile labor pool, etc.They need some way to create local ecosystems where risk-taking, innovation, and the simultaneous existence of collaboration and competition are encouraged and supported. Unfortunately, I have seen no evidence that the SBIR agencies take into account the chance that the new tech could actually commercialize in its present home. Most agencies merely want the product or the knowledge of the technology. Engine Advocacy call itself the voice of startups in government.
visibility; government wants knowledge. The
U.S. lags 13 other nations in the support businesses provide to
academic researchers, according to a study compiled by Times Higher
Education. South Korea ranks No. 1 on the World Academic Summit
Innovation Index. Businesses invest an average of $97,900 per scholar
in that country for R&D work on their behalf. In the U.S.,
businesses are providing only $25,800 per academic researcher.
[Kent Hoover, Puget Sound Business Journal, Aug 26, 13]
Stand by for more competition. Vani Kola .. an Indian immigrant [made] a name for herself then with a business-to-business software startup she launched from the Sunnyvale library. She cashed out her stake in that company, RightWorks, in 2000 when the company was valued at $1.25 billion and has since moved back to India.[where she is] Helping run a Bangalore-based venture fund backing a growing number of companies started by Indians who believe their best bet is to make their mark in the United States. [Mike Cassidy, San Jose Mercury News, Jul 27, 13] Meanwhile the USG spends 3% of its R&D spending on making itself smarter and ignoring entrepreneurial ideas that could create new industries.The SBIR opportunity to create a competitive world is going largely to waste.
Economics remains lost in an imaginary and mythical world where people are rational and the markets are efficient. That's their story and they're sticking to it with religious conviction if not fervor. The investment world isn't a lot better, even though it is supposed to be "marked to market" every single day. As William James famously noted, many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices. [Joseph Calhoun quoting Bob Seawright, realclearmarkets.com, Aug 29] Liberty! Set the markets free. The good news and the bad news is that we already did that experiment, wherein we found we could not stand the resulting monopolies.
Biotech has outperformed the S&P 500 by some 20% this year. Mark Schoenebaum, at ISI Group, argues many biotech firms trade above levels justified on a net present value basis—unless one ramps up assumptions about R&D productivity. .... the sector attracts growth junkies. At about 20 times forecast earnings, large-cap biotech stocks trade at a premium to pharmaceutical peers but shy of previous peak valuations. And, notes Barclays, adjusted for expected growth, valuations have been falling the past 10 years, from a price/earnings-to-growth ratio of 1.78 to nearly 1. [Wall Street Journal, Aug 28] Forecasting profits for products not yet proven in a world of human response to new molecules is a true guessing game. Investors need strong constitutions and risk-spreading strategies.
The gener8tor start-up accelerator, cold contacts 160 people each month to help Wisconsin entrepreneurs ....vet technologies, becoming a mentor, or investing in some of our young companies [Kathleen Gallagher, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Aug 27] The website describes its companies as business risk situations, not tech risk.
Competition. The Brazilian government has opened an office [Startup Brasil] in San Francisco to help that country’s technology startups grow and tap into the United States market. [Eric Young, San Francisco Business Times, Aug 26, 13] Surely the SBIR advocates can turn such a development into a plea for more SBIR. They have done well over three decades with a lot weaker story.
The availability of cheap labor has translated into slower investment in technology. The stock of privately held tech equipment and software—which measures companies' accumulated tech spending less depreciation—was already advancing at a meager pace before the recession hit in late 2007, Commerce Department figures show. Then it slowed some more. Indeed, the 10 years ended 2011 (the last period on record), were the weakest period for tech investment since World War II. ... So it is likely that in the years ahead, U.S. companies will be shelling out more on labor and technology investment. That signals better times for workers—which helps consumption—and opportunities for companies in the business of developing and building technology. [Justin Lahart, Wall Street Journal, Aug 27]
Graphene, an atom-thick flexible material that's stronger than steel and speedier with electrons than silicon, has ignited a global scientific gold rush to understand it and patent its every imaginable use. ... : Head NV introduced a graphene-infused tennis racket this year. Apple, Saab AB and Lockheed Martin have recently sought or received patents to use graphene. Where's the opportunity for entrepreneurs? It is still far too expensive for mass markets, it doesn't lend itself to use in some computer-chip circuitry and scientists are still trying to find better ways to turn it into usable form. [Gautam Naik, Wall Street Journal, Aug 24]
In 2011, for the first time, 50% of recent scientific papers became freely available though some kind of "open-access" journal or website, a new study commissioned by the European Union concludes. That could mark a tipping point in scientific publishing, and a major landmark for advocates of open access. But some observers are skeptical of the study's methods and results. [Jocelyn Kaiser, Science, Aug 21]
"Possibilities are evolving faster and faster and faster, but our willingness to accept the good is, if anything, slowing down," says tech advocate and Segway inventor Dean Kamen. [WSJ, Aug 23]
United's Global Services program is among secretive, invitation-only clubs for some of the world's top fliers—those who typically amass hundreds of thousands of miles a year and are the most valuable to airlines. [WSJ, Aug 23] Since it takes two hours just to fly a thousand miles, plus the admin time to reach the plane, what do these people do with their short time on the ground?
Connecticut United for Research Excellence, the state's main bioscience industry group, has added a Chinese company founded by two people who received their graduate degrees in the U.S. and worked at a major pharmaceutical company in Ridgefield. HLK Biotechnology is the first Chinese firm to join the network. HLK, based in a high-tech industrial zone of Shenzhen in the Guangdong province, says it hopes to act as a portal between Connecticut and Chinese bioscience companies. .... Connecticut United for Research Excellence now has 92 members [Hartford Courant, Aug 16]
M+W Americas has acquired Gehrlicher Solar America (Springfield, NJ.; no SBIR) [the US subsidiary of one of the world's largest independent solar integrators, Gehrlicher Solar AG]. M+W U.S. is headquartered in Watervliet NY and was the architecture and construction firm that built GlobalFoundries’ Fab 8 computer chip factory. Gerhrlicher will be a stand-alone company within M+W Americas. The company also has workers in Boston, Arizona and Mexico City. Terms of the deal were not announced. The New Jersey company is expected to have more than $150 million in revenue this year. [Albany Times Union, Aug 21, 13] M+W Group is a leading global engineering and construction partner, headquarterd in Germany.
The 46 startups that debuted publicly at yesterday’s [Y Combinator Demo Day in Mountain View, CA] pitchfest were, as a group, as daring and impressive as any I’ve seen (and I’ve been going to YC demo days since 2010, when they were a lot smaller and less organized). There were companies out to replace e-mail, go Google Glass one better, and change the very protocols underlying the Internet. ..... My picks for the companies to keep a close eye on: Amulyte, Ixi Play, Hum, True Link, SoundFocus, Crowdery, and CoreOS [Wade Roush, xconomy.com, Aug 21]
The Forward Technology Festival, with more than 20 events and thousands of attendees, has grown into one of the state's largest entrepreneurship gatherings. ...runs through Saturday at a variety of Madison area locations .... Madison now has at least four new co-working spaces where technologists can pay a monthly fee for tools and collaboration opportunities, and technology firms including Google and Zendesk are expanding their presences in Madison Info at forwardfest.org. [Kathleen Gallagher, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Aug 20]
The San Francisco Chronicle is launching a new series called Making the Pitch. The idea is to approach tech companies with critical questions about their businesses — both strategic and technological — and find out from executives what exactly they are doing to solve those problems. And then start a discussion on exactly how viable those solutions are. [posted by Caleb Garling, SF Chronicle, Aug 20]
Over-capacity gets even more productive. Auto makers are now cranking out cars nearly around the clock, using new manufacturing technologies and more flexible work schedules at auto plants that barely sleep. [Wall Street Journal, Aug 17, 13] Need a market beyond SBIRs? Raise somebody's productivity.
Once the leader, now the past. Like countless gee-whiz companies that captured and lost imaginations and dollars, BlackBerry, a giant of the pre-iPhone era, has faded with remarkable speed. After enduring years of dwindling sales, the company said on Monday that it was exploring “strategic options” — business code for searching for a savior. For the moment, few seem to want to buy BlackBerry or, for that matter, its newest products. [Ian Austen, New York Times, Aug 12] Progress is cruel.
More advice for beginners. Bill Aulet is convinced anyone can be an entrepreneur. The director of the Martin Trust Center For MIT Entrepreneurship recently published a how-to for budding business owners to guide them through the ups and downs of launching anything from an internet startup to a pizza shop: “Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 steps to a successful startup.” Aulet, a former IBM executive who also helped launch several start-ups, spoke to the Globe’s Michael Farrell. Full story for BostonGlobe.com subscribers. [Michael B. Farrellcan, Boston Globe, Aug 11]
SXSW Vegas version. From Sunday through Wednesday , V2V [will focus] on the startup world and creative markets, with time set aside for networking and plenty of interactions. New businesses, entrepreneurs, hackers, venture capitalists and marketers are expected to attend. .... it’s not the [annual] Austin, Texas, event. Las Vegas’ version is all about the entrepreneur looking for help and the venture capitalist looking for the next great idea. [Laura Carroll, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Aug 9]
If it's new tech, it must be good? Google touts Glass as a breakthrough making technology more convenient and less obnoxious in social situations. Critics deride Glass as another disturbing example of a how enslaved people are to their devices. ....... All in all, Glass looks like it’s going to emerge as device that advances technology in ways bound to excite gadget lovers and information junkies while annoying plenty of others who may wish there was an app to transport them to a simpler time. [Michael Liedtke, AP, Aug 11] It will be even better than iPhone at distracting wearers from their fellow humans nearby and calling it progress.
By the end of this year, the number of mobile-connected cellphones, tablets, laptops and other wireless gadgets will exceed the world’s [7B] population. That forecast by Cisco Systems highlights how the surge in wireless communications in places like the United States threatens to overwhelm the airwaves that carry sound, data and video to all these mobile devices. [Mike Freeman, utsandiego.com, Aug 11] And the biggest waste of spectrum will be tittilating UTube videos.
Dragon Innovation (Boston, MA; no SBIR) has helped some of the most notable names in the early stage hardware world get their products made. Now, the Boston-based manufacturing consultancy [with former iRobot guys] wants to help promising entrepreneurs get funded. ... testing its own crowdfunding website dedicated to hardware startups, giving its clients a more customized tool for lining up pre-orders of the robots, consumer electronics, and other gadgets they hope to build. .... reserved for Dragon Innovation clients who pay for early stage services like design help and cost estimates. [Curt Woodward, xconomy.com, Aug 8, 13]
Boosted by the tech rebound, the average price of a single-family home in the heart of Silicon Valley topped $1 million in July, according to the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors. [San Jose Mercury News, Aug 8] Need a measure of where tech success pays off?
What appears to be low demand is actually the symptom of lower labor share [falling 5% since the crisis] muting the money multiplier effect of investment. [Edward Lambert, angrybearblog.com, Aug 8]
Got it, sell it. Exporting liquified natural gas would improve security and the trade balance, and generate profit and jobs in the United States and importer coutnries. [CEO of major oil company] First, the establishment cries for "energy independence", and then when they get a windfall of supply, they argue to export it. Profit first, national security objectives a distant maybe. But that is the nature of a limited liability corporation that exists only for profit. Where you stand depends on where you sit.
GE has spent the last two years on a crowdsourcing bender, pledging about $20 million in prizes for the best new products, designs and processes created by the general public for internal projects that would have been conducted in secret a few years ago. .... "We're trying to find thought leaders in [3D printing] -- people who may know through a technique they've devised or a piece of software that they've found or just their own experiences what is the best way to design with additive for real industrial parts," Furstoss explains. "We're really at the birth of industrial additive technology. This is a way for us to build support for that community of makers." [Travis Hessman, Industry Week, Aug 6]
LED lights, the more energy efficient alternative to standard lighting, become less efficient with higher electrical currents. This problem is known as “efficiency droop,” and RPI researchers cite the cause of the problem at the electron level in their paper “Identifying the cause of the efficiency in GalnN light-emitting diodes by correlating the onset of high injection with the onset of the efficiency droop.” .. see the published paper in the June 27 Applied Physics Letter. [Rachelle Krednester, Albany Times Union, Jul 31]
Cancers that become resistant to an important class of drugs might be made vulnerable by tweaking the immune system, a team led by UCSD researcher Napolene Ferrara has found. ... A chemical called interleukin-17 involved in the immune response to infection promotes resistance to the drugs in lymphoma, lung and colon cancers, according to a study published Sunday in Nature Medicine. [Bradley Fikes, utsandiego.com, Aug 4]
It's not just the broader economy holding tech back. True, the economy is growing slower than expected this year in the U.S. and in the world at large, but that doesn't explain why big tech disappointed more than other industries. ... The unpleasant truth for tech investors is that a lot of big-cap, low-value stocks are having trouble jumping over the modest bar Wall Street has set for them. [Kevin Kelleher, CNN Money, Aug 2]
Carl June (University of Pennsylvania) and others have engineered patients' own T cells to proliferate inside their bodies and seek and destroy cancer. In a small number of patients, the strategy has worked beyond the doctors' wildest expectations, although it doesn't work in everyone and there can be serious side effects. Now the researchers are on a quest to turn this experimental therapy into a treatment success. [AAAS, Jul 31]
We didn't know how much we needed it. Henry Ford was born 150 years ago, July 30, 1863. He is remembered now for building a great many automobiles, for saying that history was “bunk” ... [He once said] “I invented the modern age.” You’ll notice he didn’t say, “I built a hell of a lot of cars.” .... he said years later: “There was no demand for the automobile. There never is for a new product.” [Richard Snow, Bllomberg, Jul 30]
Want innovation? Go where it happens. In roughly the past two years, Target, General Electric, Ford, Johnson & Johnson and other big companies have opened outposts in or near Silicon Valley in search of ideas and exposure to new technologies not likely to be created in places like Fairfield, Conn., or Detroit. ... to tap some of Silicon Valley's culture based on risk taking, speed, innovation and both hypercompetition and collaboration. [Rachael King and Steve Rosenbush, Wall Street Journal, Jul 25] J&J (as the cool kids call it) is striving for a startup vibe at its newly christened Boston Innovation Center in Kendall Square. [Boston Globe, Jul 25] If Congress and the Executive Branch really wanted innovation in SBIR, they would change their way of doing business. But since SBIR is merely a political payoff in search of a rationale, pushing money to the political class with no appropriations fights will suffice.
Carly Fiorina, the first woman to lead a Fortune 20 company, discusses small business, regulation and the overall health of the economy. "There are fewer small businesses starting and more failing right now than at any time in the last 40 years," she says. [Wall Street Journal, Jul 25]
Boulder CO has emerged as one of the country's best start-up incubators, and as a result, pulls in more venture capital per capita than all but two other U.S. metro area, according to a recent analysis by urban studies theorist Richard Florida. ... Start-ups are critical to a region's economic health, as they create most net new jobs, according to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, one of the country's key entrepreneurship analysis and support organizations. Wisconsin ranks among the worst-performing states in terms of its rate of entrepreneurial activity and the size of its decline in entrepreneurial activity over the last decade, according to a Kauffman Foundation report released earlier this year. ... Feld also says communities must take a long-term view of at least 20 years, the start-up community must include anyone who wants to participate and there must be activities and events that continually engage entrepreneurs. [Kathleen Gallagher, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jul 20] Since 20 years is far too long for elected politicians, seed programs have to rely on private efforts.
Arizona State University’s Flexible Display Center reached a milestone this month when it manufactured the world’s largest flexible color organic light-emitting display prototype after 10 years of work. .... the 14.7-inch display by U.S. Army Research Lab scientists. ... center is a partnership with the [DOD] and multiple display industry players. [Hayley Ringle, Phoenix Business Journal, Jul 19]
Intel has purchased Israeli startup Omek Interactive for $40 million, according to the sources with knowledge of the deal cited by the tech blog Geektime. ... makes software that allows computers to recognize gesture-based commands [John Xavier,Silicon Valley Business Journal, Jul 16, 13]
5 things every business founder should know: 1. Your idea is probably not new. 2. Whether you like it or not, you are married to your co-founder. 3. Your biggest competitor is inertia. 4. Changing behavior is difficult and arduous. 5. Not all employees share your commitment. [Francine Hardaway, Guest blogger- Phoenix Business Journal , Jul 2]
“We’re going to innovate, we’re going to create, we’re going to jazz this sucker up and keep right on going,” Powers told the crowd. “We’re going to disrupt, we’re going to converge, whatever it takes…to make new things happen.” ... Companies of all sizes, as well as researchers, will be able to test their products and new technologies at the center. [Austin Business Journal, Jun 12] the Pike Powers Laboratory and Center for Commercialization in tall hat country Austin.
An estimated 30,000 people in Washington [state] will start their own businesses in 2014, thanks to new freedom they will have under federal health reform. [says] a report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. .... potential entrepreneurs are holding out on their dreams because they can’t afford to lose employer-funded health insurance. [Valerie Bauman, Puget Sound Business Journal, Jun 13] Some will need and deserve government subsidies to reduce technical uncertainty; the rest should have to compete for private investment that reduces business risk or capital cost.
Two life sciences projects — one focused on Alzheimer's disease, the other on cognitive disorders — grabbed $50,000 each and will set up shop in San Francisco as part of an initiative by Johnson & Johnson and the Consulate General of Canada. .... CanDo: A series of apps that, for example, help users break down tasks into simple steps using visual aids such as photos. The project — submitted by Celina Berg, a postdoctoral fellow at CanAssist in Victoria, B ... 3D Nuclear Telomere Imaging: Using a simple cheek swab and three-dimensional imagaing and quantitative software, the project from Sabine Mai, a professor at the Manitoba Institute for Cell Biology, looks to determine whether an Alzheimer's patient has a mild, moderate or severe form of the disease. [Ron Leuty, San Francisco Business Times, Jul 16, 13]
About 575 U.S. employees of Pratt & Whitney left their jobs Monday after accepting a buyout that the company offered .... Major programs such as the Joint Strike Fighter and the company's PurePower geared turbofan engine have yet to reach production levels, as older engine programs, such as the military's F-22, have wound down. [Brian Dowling, Hartford Courant, Jul 15] The downstream market of military technology depends hugely on large aerospace manufacturers making expensive military hardware. Slicing military budgets leaves the big makers, and their subcontractor suppliers, at the mercy of political earmarking of purchases.
A place to start innovating. Carlsbad (CA)’s new community biotech center and incubator opened, ... occupies a city-owned building on Faraday Ave. that the city is leasing for a nominal rate. Curious “citizen scientists” and individual scientists can rent use of the center’s space and lab equipment, said Joseph Jackson, a co-founder of Bio, Tech and Beyond, the non-profit leasing the building. In addition, the center will host seminars on biotech for the public. [Bradley Fikes, utsandiego.com, Jul 15]
A nonprofit [called Mill City Innovation & Collaboration Center] that aims to connect health care organizations with technology companies is opening an innovation center in Minneapolis ... targeting issues surrounding chronic disease and primary care. [Katherine Grayson, Minneapolis / St Paul Business Journal, Jul 12, 13] Need a 24/7 city to talk med-tech?
Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution lays out a compelling argument in the Financial Times (registration required) that the action in the Great Reset is coming from metropolitan areas, not paralyzed [federal government] D.C. .... metro Seattle competing for world talent and capital against Singapore, Shanghai, Amsterdam and the Bay Area. In the United States, the 100 largest metro areas generate three-quarters of the nation’s gross domestic product and hold two-thirds of its population. Katz writes, “More importantly, they contribute upwards of 90 per cent of educated workers, advanced industry jobs, patent creation and trade-oriented freight flow – assets that the nation needs for growth.” [Jon Talton, Seattle Times, Jul 15] Advocates of federal government intervention in building cities should remember that since the US Senate has two members from every state, the Dakotas demand their "fair share: of whatever is being handed out.
One may be able to recognize good science as it happens, but significant science can only be viewed in the rearview mirror. .... DNA restriction enzymes, once the province of obscure microbiological investigation, ultimately enabled the entire recombinant DNA revolution. [Mark Kirschner, Science, Jun 14] Nevertheless, budgeteers want predictability of results from spending. Science has to say "we don't know but you will love the results if you can stay elected long enough."
Technology to commodity. A shift in consumer tastes to tablets continues to take its toll on the personal computer industry, with China's Lenovo Group emerging as sales leader in a shrinking market. [Don Clark and Shira Ovide, Wall Street Journal, Jul 11]
A warning to Internet-surfing coffee shop patrons: Make sure your computer and phone are charged ahead of time. Customers are finding that power comes at a premium — or not at all — in some shops that have disabled or removed electrical outlets. Other coffee purveyors are limiting, or just plain eliminating, wireless Internet in an effort to get customers unplugged and keep tables turning over. [Steve Raabe, Denver Post, Jul 5] Business people especially should know the fairness of giving product revenue in return for services.
Conergy AG has become
the latest victim of a global solar panel price war, which has already
cost tens of thousands of jobs in the country in recent years.
[Raleigh News & Observer, Jul 5]
China is increasing its investments across the U.S. and Ohio has captured its share of dollars, according to data from New York-based research firm Rhodium Group. From 2000 through the first quarter of 2013, China invested $107 million in Ohio across 17 deals. Among nearby states, Indiana had eight deals with $137 million, Michigan had 48 deals worth $1 billion [Dayton Business Journal, Jun 12, 13] What policy should the USG pursue on foreign investment in US companies? Bring your money, same terms as US investment in Chinese companies, caveat emptor, let the market rule, subsidize US investors? Can we trust our political system to operate from any principle other than re-election.
Biotechnology companies are enjoying their best run with initial public offerings in a decade, amid an upswing in new drug approvals, strong performance by some already public biotech firms and legal changes. .... Last year, the [FDA] approved 39 new drugs, a figure not reached since 1997. [Jonathan Rockoff and Telis Demos, Wall Street Journal, Jul 2]
Marshfield Clinic Applied Sciences [Chippewa Falls, WI], formed in 2006 to manage the intellectual property developed by scientists, clinicians and staff at Marshfield Clinic, will become the seventh member of the Cleveland Clinic's Healthcare Innovation Alliance Network, Marshfield Clinic said. The network provides access to Cleveland Clinic Innovations' expertise in commercializing tecnology. Cleveland Clinic Innovations has been involved in 57 spin-off companies and more than 400 licensing agreements. .... Spin-offs from the Cleveland Clinic have raised more than $650 million from investors, according to Cleveland Clinic Innovations. [Guy Bolton, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jun 28]
Johnson & Johnson cuts the ribbon on its Boston Innovation Center, the latest step in a broad initiative by the drug giant to help drive biotech innovation in certain life sciences hotspots around the globe—and strike deals t to fatten up its pipeline. Within the past three months, J&J has opened similar innovation centers in London and Menlo Park, CA, and plans to christen a fourth in Shanghai ..... announcing partnerships with a research center (Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York), two local startup biotech companies (Rodin Therapeutics (Cambridge, MA; no SBIR) and Vedanta Biosciences (Boston, MA; no SBIR)), and a non-profit organization (LabCentral), showing the breadth of exactly what it hopes to achieve. [Ben Fidler, xconomy.com, Jun 27]
Samsung Electronics Co Ltd launched its first OLED TV, taking the ultra-thin technology into a nascent market despite tenacious production challenges that keep costs high while prevailing LCD screens only get better and cheaper. The world's biggest TV manufacturer has staked its display future on OLED - organic light emitting diode - technology and its success with smaller screens has bolstered its smartphone market share and earnings. But big screens are likely to take a much slower road to profits. [Miyoung Kim, Reuters, Jun 27]
Foreign competition. Startups from Portugal, the Netherlands, and other countries recently made the rounds in New York, looking for potential collaborators, investors, and new ways to set up shop in the United States. These individual efforts—run by organizations such as VentureOutNY and the Dutch consulate—may seem small but could slowly swell into an innovation front when viewed together. [João-Pierre S. Ruth, xconomy.com, Jun 24] Is SBIR helping US small firms in the international competition for tech innovation? If US-based capitalists are inviting foreign firms into the US, it suggests that SBIR is not doing well at prepping small US firm technology for the US investors.
Cincinnati has a new business accelerator adding to the local companies that help entrepreneurs turn their ideas into full-fledged businesses. .... Differential got its start in January, when Tim Metzner, Ry Walker and a few others from the local startup community launched it. [Steve Watkins, Cincinnati Business Courier, May 22, 13]
why not a space on "America's Front Yard" celebrating entrepreneurs? That's the goal of the National Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which will officially launch today at the Clinton Global Initiative America meeting in Chicago. But this building wouldn't be a museum -- it would be a "museum in reverse," according to organizers. It wouldn't just celebrate the past -- it would "envision the future" through "imagination-inspiring events, educational collaborations and design labs." [Kent Hoover, Cincinnati Business Courier, Jun 17]
Cincinnati has been ranked in the top 10 cities that could be on the brink of becoming the next Silicon Valley by Bright.com. The list was based on technology job openings and consistent tech sector growth over the past year. Greater Cincinnati was ranked No. 10 on the list behind Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, the Texas Triangle, Baltimore, Chicago, Kansas City, Mo., Tampa and Jacksonville. [Cincinnati Business Courier, May 13]
If at first you don't succeed, you're running about average. - M. H. Alderson
Most passionate of all was Mariana Mazzucato, a professor of economics at the University of Sussex, in England. Her gripe was with the familiar characterization of the private sector as the sole source of innovation and creative thinking and of the state sector as a Kafkaesque world of inefficiency, bureaucracy and frustration. The reality, Mazzucato said, is that the state is responsible for some of the most essential, and initially risky, innovations in our world today, ranging from the Internet to “the cool, revolutionary things in your iPhone.” The state, she argued, is a “market maker,” whose ability to take bold, risky bets is critical for economies to grow at the global cutting edge. [Chrystia Freeland, Reuters, Jun 17]
Clay Christensen was right—it’s very difficult for large, established companies to keep innovating, because after a certain point, they can’t muster the courage to disrupt their existing revenue streams. In fact, as a tech journalist who’s been watching the field for almost 20 years now, I’m tempted to say that innovation only comes from startups, period. [Wade Roush, xconomy.com, Jun 14] That was sort of the official theory behind SBIR. But the inventing Congress put the decision making power in the hands of the established government powers who naturally captured it for their own ends. And since their was no need to fight an annual appropriations battle, their was no incentive to demonstrate its value (or lack of value).
About small businesses, Gilder makes the oft-repeated assertion that they create all the jobs. Surely he knows that’s not true. Taking nothing away from the genius of venture capital and entrepreneurialism more broadly, a major reason that small businesses create the jobs they do has to do with them clustering around big business that constantly destroy redundant work with profits in mind so that new ones can be created. [John Tamny, reviewing Gilder's latest opus Knowledge and Power, Forbes, Jun 16]
North Shore InnoVentures, a technology incubator based in Beverly [MA], said that six startup companies in the clean technology and life sciences sectors have joined its program over the last few months. .... Lariat Biosciences (no SBIR), is developing a non-invasive diagnostic to detect early signs of cancer based on circulating free DNA within the bloodstream. ... Other startups recently joined include Akita Innovations, RAN Biotechnologies, Quad Technologies, and ZS Genetics, none has SBIR. .... A total of 21 companies are now in [residence]. [Chris Reidy, Boston Globe, Jun 5]
Start-up Silicon Valley. SVForum names [as Most Likely to Succeed] Algorithms.io, Bugcrowd, FLASHiZ (Luxembourg), WHILL (from Japan), E3 Clean (Athens, OH), OnFarm (Fresno, CA) as the winners of honor that draws attention of venture capitalists and angel investors. [San Jose Mercury News, Jun 5, 13] None has SBIR.
Where have the jobs gone? Ozgur Orhangazi of Roosevelt University has found that investment in the real sector of the economy falls when financialization rises. Moreover, rising fees paid by nonfinancial corporations to financial markets have reduced internal funds available for investment, shortened their planning horizon and increased uncertainty. [Bruce Bartlett, New York Times, Jun 11] What could government do? Spend more money, says one camp. Hassett has been the economic advisor to four Republican presidential campaigns, including Mitt Romney's. Yet there he was in April, telling the Congressional Joint Economic Committee that the long-term unemployed (those jobless for more than six months) have become so numerous and faced such grim prospects that it was time to expand spending on jobs programs now. His proposals included direct hiring of the long-term unemployed into federal jobs, expansion of relocation assistance and tax incentives for firms that hire from this group. [Michael Hiltzik, LA Times, Jun 11]
Nanoparticles shaped like rods adhere more tightly to endothelial cells lining blood vessels than nanospheres, according to a new study led by scientists at UC Santa Barbara and the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. The finding could help develop drug delivery technologies targeted at specific cell types, the authors say. The study was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [Bradley Fikes, utsandiego.com, Jun 10]
Real GDP has increased only 1.8% over the last four reported quarters, within a range that has been in force since the first quarter of 2010. The current quarter is shaping up as no better. .... We have continually pointed out that following a huge buildup of consumer debt it would be difficult to generate a normal recovery in either the U.S. or the rest of the world, and there is little that governments can do other than to choose between undergoing a major crisis or to endure prolonged sluggish growth. [Comstock Partners, Jun 6] Meanwhile, our politicians are busy gouging each others' eyes over economically meaningless hot buttons.
Entrepreneurship is back: Nearly 13 percent of Americans were starting or running new businesses in 2012, the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity in the U.S. since at least 1999.That’s according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, an annual report published by Babson College [Kent Hoover, Puget Sound Business Journal, May 31]
Entrepreneurship is back: Nearly 13 percent of Americans were starting or running new businesses in 2012, the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity in the U.S. since at least 1999.That’s according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, an annual report published by Babson College [Kent Hoover, Puget Sound Business Journal, May 31]
A report of proof-of-concept centers from authors Samantha Bradley, Christopher S. Hayter, and Albert N. Link explores the burgeoning role of proof-of-concept centers (PoCC) in supporting the country's innovation infrastructure. The report suggests that shifting dynamics in the global economy will continue to increase the importance of PoCCs in supporting regional innovation and national competitiveness. The authors define PoCCs as providing a specific set of services that stimulate the commercialization of early-stage technologies by improving the transfer of knowledge from universities and development of technologies derived from public R&D funding that boost economic development. Services include providing seed funding, business development services, incubator space, market research, IP and licensing services, and providing connections to outside funding sources. [SSTI, Jun 6]
The Milken Institute's State Technology and Science Index is the fifth version of index since its initial release in 2002. ... Massachusetts tops the ITIF's overall index ranking, but the high-ranking states in each category varied more than Milken's index, reflecting ITIF's broader focus on the overall economy. DE, WA, CA, and MD rounded out the top five states. [SSTI, Jun 6]
Bloomberg will announce the formation of Bloomberg Beta, a $75 million venture capital fund, which has already begun using Bloomberg L.P.’s money to place bets on young start-ups like Codecademy, a Web site that provides online coding tutorials, and Newsle, a Web service that alerts users to news about friends. [Nicole Perlroth, New York Times, Jun 5] More zero-tech risk, competitive investments to reduce business risk in endless chatter; where are the investors in wealth-creating, new exportable technology? In the late 1960s, 32 percent of private sector jobs were in manufacturing industries. By 2006, it was only 12 percent. [George Perry, realclearmarkets.com, Jun 4] Except for medical technology, SBIR has little track record of creating wealth, and there's no good reason for government market-failure intervention in software and infotech apps.
RxFunction startup (embedded with the Sister Kenny Research Center, Minneapolis, MN) that has developed a high-tech shoe insert called the Walkasin has landed a $1 million [SBIR] grant that it will use to conduct clinical trials. [The device] can detect whether a person is about to lose his or her balance and fall. [Katharine Grayson, Minneapolis / St Paul Business Journal, May 30, 13]
Cardio3 BioSciences (Belgian company in Rochester, MN) , a regenerative medicine startup licensing technology from Mayo Clinic, has raised $24 million in capital through a private placement. ....developing a technology that can reprogram bone marrow cells to grow heart tissue. [Katharine Grayson, Minneapolis / St Paul Business Journal, May 17, 13]
China's budding empire. in the steel and solar- panel industries, China has gone from a net importer to the world’s largest producer and exporter in only a few years. It has been able to flood the market with products well below market price — and consequently destroy industries and employment in the West and elsewhere. [Heriberto Araújo and Juan Pablo Cardenal, New York Times, Jun 2] The accunulated profits from selling to WalMart and from Chiners savers who have no pensions plans.
Productivity in demand. New robot painting machines, part of Boeing's lean-manufacturing push, have been key to increasing the 777 production rate to 100 jets per year, up 16 from the previous rate. Manually, it takes a team of painters 4.5 hours to do the first coat. The robots do it in 24 minutes with perfect quality. ... The painting robots join two other automation machines on the 777 line. An automated drilling machine makes the holes in the floor grid, customized for each airline customer’s configuration, three to four times faster than doing it manually, Clark said. Another automated drilling machine, called Flex Track and supplied by Electroimpact of Mukilteo, crawls on circular tracks around the circumference of the fuselage, drilling the holes for the major joins. [Dominic Gates, Seattle Times, May 29] Where the painters' jobs going? Some into making robots.
More U.S. small-business owners report letting employees go than hiring them on average over the past year, for a net hiring index of -12 in April, according to the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index survey. [Gallup Economy, May 28] Don't worry, you can rely on the politicians to continue calling small biz the job growth engine that will save the country. Political myths are so comfortable when dealing with economically clueless voters.
The new R&D ... means Repurchases & Dividends. Buybacks, payouts, more buybacks, more payouts - it's like Candyland for the 20% of America that owns 90% of the stock market and everyone else can go wait in the Home Depot parking lot where we'll pick them up to dig us a swimming pool later on. [Josh Brown, thereformedbroker.com, May 30] With corporations awash in cash and interest rates near zero, they prefer jacking up their stock price by handing cash to stockholders rather than investing in real R&D for ther next generation of technology. Great deal for management's stock options.
Make more here. Motorola Mobility, once a pioneer in shifting manufacturing to China, is opening a smartphone factory in Texas, the company said, joining a small but growing movement toward bringing technology jobs to the United States. The decision follows announcements by major tech firms, including Apple and Lenovo, planning to add U.S. manufacturing capacity after more than a decade in which the flow was almost exclusively in the other direction [Craig Timberg, Washington Post, May 30]
A new flu, H7N9, has killed 36 people since it was first found in China two months ago. A new virus from the SARS family has killed 22 people since it was found on the Arabian Peninsula last summer. ... Still, better surveillance means that such threats are being caught sooner, giving time to develop countermeasures like vaccines and making it far less likely that a virus like the 1918 flu will ever again kill millions. ... First, rapid gene sequencing is now done in many laboratories. Second, accurate symptom descriptions are instantly available. Third, countries that used to hide their outbreaks now admit them. [Donald McNeil, New York Times, May 27]
A potential new drug for an inherited form of heart failure
discovered by a team including scientists at The Scripps Research
Institute. The study builds on previous work on the disease, published
a year ago. The drug candidate, called AG10, inhibits
of amyloid protein tangles that form in familial amyloid
cardiomyopathy, when tested in in serum from patients with the disease.
Testing in rats showed that the orally taken compound showed no signs
of toxicity. [Bradley Fikes, utsandiego.com, May 27, 13]
By criss-crossing the country, [Startup America Partnership] has created a national network of nearly 13,000 startups, including new ventures in Maine, Idaho, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Mississippi, among other regions. Together, these businesses have generated total annual revenues of $6 billion and created more than 110,000 jobs, according to the group's estimates. [Angus Loten, Wall Street Journal, May 25] Then what? SB advocates (and politicians) love to trumpet start-ups as job creators, and then end any accounting for net economic gain over any decent period.
“One thing that experts know, and that non-experts do not, is that they know less than non-experts think they do.” It comes from Kaushik Basu, currently chief economist at the World Bank and one of the world’s most thoughtful expert-economists. [Dani Rodrik's blog, Apr 25]
Five Orlando technology entrepreneurs have launched a program aimed at helping grow other startup companies in Orlando. Starter Studio will be based in the 8,500-square-foot offices of Envy Labs LLC and Code School LLC [Bill Orben, Orlando Business Journal, May 23] If they need a model, they should look up Randy Frey who founded Autonomous Technologies and is now engaged in new enterprise after improving laser control in laser eye surgery. The new company is LensAR Inc, doing femtosecond laser cataract surgery.
Although only a simple metal box, it has transformed global trade. In fact, new research suggests that the container has been more of a driver of globalisation than all trade agreements in the past 50 years taken together. [The Economist, May 18, 13]
Nature's adapts to survive. Insecticide sales are surging after years of decline, as American farmers plant more corn and a genetic modification designed to protect the crop from pests has started to lose its effectiveness. [Ian Berry, Wall Street Journal, May 22]. More bio-innovations needed to compete in the race between farmers and feeders.
Intellectual-property claims against tech startups are rising. A 2012 study from PricewaterhouseCoopers found that the tech industry experienced significant increases in "identified" decisions in patent cases from 2006 through 2011. [Pui-Wing Tam, Wall Street Journal, May 17]
SBA will host a Google+ Hangout May 22, 3PM on how to use federal government to increase exports. Details
A new study from Accenture, “Why ‘Low Risk’ Innovation Is Costly,” found that fewer than one in five chief executives believes his strategic investments in innovation are paying off ... There may be a classic negative feedback loop at work here. If frustrated CEOs are not seeing their more risky R&D investments produce needle-moving results fast enough, they may turn to incremental improvements rather than big killer ideas. To wit, nearly two out of three of respondents said they were investing in product-line extensions. [Bernhard Warner, Bloomberg Business Week, May 16]
At ATX Hackerspace, members are engineers and mechanics, artists and musicians, solving technical problems, creating businesses and nurturing hobbies.“Hackerspaces are your local community workshops for mad scientists and tinkerers,” said Matthew Vaughn. ..... provide members access to tools that can be too expensive or unwieldy for private ownership. [Kelsey Jukam, Austin American Statesman, May 11, 13]
Intercity competition. Seattle Mayor [up for re-election] Mike McGinn is turning his attention toward Seattle’s tech community, which he’s going to promote by hiring a liaison to interact with tech startups and market the city as a technology hub. .... no shortage of advocates for tech startups in Seattle, which has dozens of public and private organizations that promote, mentor, consult and fund new ventures. Seattle also consistently ranks as one of the best places in the world for tech jobs, McGinn noted . .... He still needs City Council approval for the program’s $145,000 annual cost [Brier Dudley. Seattle Times, May 9, 13]
Cleveland, a city long eager to reinvent itself, may succeed at last with health care. It is home to good hospitals, including the famous Cleveland Clinic. Local groups such as BioEnterprise are trying to foster a new generation of health entrepreneurs, with some success. Last year 43 biomedical start-ups attracted $227m in venture-capital funding. [The Economist, May 11, 13]
The Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a statewide business organization based in Worcester, has launched an initiative to help speed up the development of manufacturing start-ups, the group announced Tuesday.It has started a so-called “virtual incubator” in which it will offer advice and counseling to entrepreneurs and the newest manufacturing start-ups that are already located in Massachusetts or interested in opening here. [Michael Farrell, Boston Globe, May 7]
About a year ago Endolite (Miamisburg, OH; subsidiary of UK company) launched a new microprocessor controlled foot/ankle product called the Élan. The revolutionary device allows amputees more flexibility and greater control when they walk. Since then, the 65-employee prosthetic maker saw annual sales jump 65 percent to $24 million. [Joe Cogliano, Dayton Business Journal, Apr 26, 13] Other biotech firms doing decently in Dayton area without SBIR: AtriCure, NovoSource, X-spine Systems, Midmark.
Solar module maker LDK Solar (China), which lost half a billion dollars in the fourth quarter, made a deal to issue 25 million new shares of its stock and sell them to Fulai Investments Ltd., raising $25.75 million. [Stephen EF Brown, San Francisco Business Times, Apr 22, 13] Suntech (China) also lost big, market cap of $13B in 2011 falling to $100K over two years [Steve Mufson, Washington Post, May 3, 13] China and the US competed to subsidize home companies, and created a world-wide over-capacity in a market with shrinking pricing. The result has been the production of cheaper renewable energy at the expense of taxes to pay for the bankrupt companies' debt. But the homne cooking governments will not be annmouncing with fanfare the failure of their "investments" in political opportunism.
Baker, Bloom, and Davis have constructed an Index of Economic Policy Uncertainty. ... used a macro-econometric model to estimate that net of other factors, the rise in policy uncertainty since 2007 has reduced employment by more than 2 million jobs below the level it would otherwise have reached [William Galston, The New Republic, May 2] Uncertainty, exploited for fear, in policy is good for generating political activity but bad for investment.
The October 2012 issue of Nature Biotechnology offers several articles that “Focus on Commercializing Biomedical Innovations.” From the opening “Editorial”: “Investment in biomedical innovation is not what it once was. Millions of dollars have flfl ed the life sciences risk capital pool. . . . Never has there been a more pressing need to look beyond the existing pools of funding and talent to galvanize biomedical innovation.” [The Fernandez, Stein, and Lo paper , Journal of Economic Perspectives, Winter 2012] Of course, the biotechies have a solution - more government money.
The McKinsey Global Institute has published, Manufacturing the Future: The Next Era of Global Growth and Innovation November 2012. The sector contributes twice as much to productivity growth as its employment share, and it typically accounts for the largest share of an economy’s foreign trade; across major advanced and developing economies, manufacturing generates 70 percent of exports.” . [Journal of Economic Perspectives, Winter 2012]
According to [Economist Richard] Nelson, we are much surer today than we were in 1962 that technological advance is a fundamental source of long run productivity growth, and that the causes that give rise to technological advance are not purely serendipitous or random. [David Grover, JEL, Mar 2013]
Businessman and philanthropist Len Blavatnik has donated $50 million to Harvard University to help spur the creation of new, innovative drugs. Harvard will form two related initiatives, hoping to turn university research into viable business projects that don’t stall because they run out of money. The first initiative is the Blavatnik Biomedical Accelerator, which will single out promising early stage technologies, help boost their value, and ultimately prepare them to be licensed or developed commercially by players in the life sciences industry. The second initiative is the Blavatnik Fellowship in Life Sciences Program at Harvard Business School, which will expose MBA students with life science experience to the projects supported by the Biomedical Accelerator..... Blavatnik, who earned an MBA from Harvard in 1989, is the founder and chairman of industrial conglomerate Access Industries. His foundation partly paid for Harvard’s original Biomedical Accelerator Fund, which has financed 37 projects since its debut in 2007. Half of those projects have turned into standalone companies or alliances with pharmaceutical partners. [Ben Fidler, xconomy.com, Apr 29] The project's biggest challenge will be getting tenured faculty and the university patent department to act like market-driven innovators instead of inventors.
From 1950 to today,US international trade has expanded from 9% to 31%
of GDP [data from Bureau of Economic Analysis offered by Mark
Wynne, Federal Reserve of Dallas, www.dallasfed.org] A
starts as cotton in Texas, gets woven in Shanghai, shipped to and sold
in New York, winds up in a Washington Goodwill shop, and is shipped to
used-clothing store in Tanzania where it eventually dies. [NPR report
brandished by Janet Koech, Dallas Fed annual report]
techno-utopias that, at least since the middle of the 19th century, have periodically captured the collective imagination of the general public in the West -- and today litter bookstores with their rah-rah optimism. Too bad few remember Cicero's tart observation that he did not understand why, when two soothsayers met in the street, both did not burst out laughing. But if the history of utopian fantasies has taught us anything, it is that people find it hard to accept the fact of their unreality, preferring instead to hew to their hopes, whether profound, as with Marxism, or preposterous (and commercially self-interested), as with the vision of the carefully ordered futuristic cities famously laid out for a receptive public at the General Motors pavilion at the 1939 New York World's Fair -- just as Adolf Hitler was about to blitzkrieg Poland. [David Rieff, Foreign Policy, May 2013]
33% of American employees have science or technology positions .. but only 16% of American graduates have beckgrounds in science and engineering. [whereas competing industrial societies have roughly double that fraction] [Darrell West, Invention and the Mobile Economy, Brookings, Mar 5]
universities focus too much on outputs as opposed to outcomes. Those indicators represent proxy measures of getting material to the market as opposed to whether particular research ideas actually are having an impact and being successful in the marketplace. If a patent is awarded, a license issued, or a startup business established, it does not guarantee that the product is used or generates revenue. In judging performance, most current university reporting approaches are inadequate for determining the efficiency and optimum use of research investments. There is no way through tabulations of patents and startups to measure money in versus money out on university research investments. [Darrell West, Invention and the Mobile Economy, Brookings, Mar 5] Patents are used as indicators because they are easy to measure, like Phase I success rates for SBIR projects.
An interesting statistic on patents provided by Prof Adam Mossoff, George Mason U: the litigation rates on patents today is about what it was in 1800 - 1.5%.
“There are no mistakes, only opportunities.” Although this is one of Tina Fey’s rules for improvisation, it can also apply to science. There are many inventions that we take for granted today that were born from “happy accidents.” [Susan Borowski, AAAS, Apr 26] Politicians who want proven relevance and guarantees of "success" (whatever they mean as success) don't want research, they just want confirmation of their constituents' beliefs. Science by its nature, though, will frequently unconfirm their beliefs as the truth of how nature works is revealed by science in action. Advocates for science cannot issue any guraantee except a growing knowledge of nature, but can point to the long history of advances coming from science over the centuries from Euclid and Pythagoras through penicilin to stem cells to who knows where.Gov. Rick Perry’s $1.6 billion tax cut proposal for businesses had a shelf life of about three days. ... the House tax-writing committee [deleted it] because, at $1.6 billion, it would cost too much. [Austin American Statesman, Apr 29] Must be getting ready for the next Republican Presidential primary campaign.
It: No One Has Any Idea What's Going On. ..
"now-you-know-it-now-you-don't" moments are more common than people
think in economics. .... take productivity. For most of the last
decade, it was assumed that the American manufacturing sector became
more productive, as employment shrank by output grew. But maybe not. As
The Washington Post pointed out, many economists now think the
productivity numbers are grossly inflated, since determining whether,
say, a car assembled in Ohio with Japanese parts should be counted as
domestic or foreign manufacturing is a messy subject. Cost savings from
outsourcing can mistakenly show up as domestic output.
Housel, Motley Fool, Apr 18] In every economic pontification, look to
the base of any percentage, the accuracy of any data, and the biases
of any presenter. Especially from a think-tank, look to the sugar
Robots need attention, too. A Colorado doctor is facing charges of unprofessional conduct after a run of mistakes made with a surgical robot, the same machine that has enjoyed tremendous popularity in Cincinnati but whose safety is under federal review. .... [the doctor] allegedly “cut and tore blood vessels, left sponges and other instruments inside patients after closing, injured patients through improper padding and positioning, subjected some to overly long surgeries, and had to abort kidney donations because of mistakes,” the [Denver Post] reported. The Colorado Medical Board also charges that [the doctor] failed to record the errors in patient charts. ... The last I counted, Cincinnati-area hospitals had about 20 da Vinci robots, which are made by Intuitive Surgical [James Ritchie, Cincinnati Business Courier, Apr 12, 13]
Fuel from Soybeans. A Chicago-area company with visions of becoming a biodiesel producer plans to build its first plant near Seymour, based on a new technology from India.
Germany's Osram is launching a new LED light bulb that costs less than 10 euros ($13.10) to battle rivals, such as Cree and Samsung, for a share of the fast-growing market. ..... only six weeks after Cree announced it would sell a new LED bulb replacing 40 watt bulbs for less than $10 in the US [Reuters, Apr 15, 13] When technology becomes a commodity.
Two years ago, [China] was one of the hottest areas in tech investing. Venture capitalists were lining up to throw money at it. But now, after disappointing IPOs, investor ardor has cooled. ... last year, venture capitalists largely abandoned China, in large part because of underwhelming stock offerings by Chinese firms on both domestic and U.S. exchanges. [Peter Delevett, San Jose Mercury News, Apr 13]
More jobs lost to the internet. Today,there are about 60,000 pharmaceutical sales representatives, down from a peak 104,000 in 2006, according to ZS Associates, a sales and marketing consultant .... as many physicians no longer have the time to take the calls and some doctors refuse to see pharmaceutical representatives out of concern about improper promotions. Growing numbers of doctors prefer digital marketing. [Jonathan Rockoff, Wall Street Journal, Apr 12]
notion that economics is a science with irrefutable laws appeals to
(who have long tried to elevate the profession out of the realm of
and description and into the realm of science) and to the widespread
desire for certainty. .... even
if there are laws of economics, we haven’t been
observing them for long enough to know what they actually are. And
vagaries of human behavior and the mercurial nature of states, people
institutions, the notion that there’s some grand mechanistic, master
that explains all and predicts everything is at best a comforting
at worst a straitjacket that precludes creativity, forestalls
innovation and destroys
dynamism. [Zachary Karabell, The Edgy Optimist blog, Apr 11]
According to [Microsoft's Craig] Mundie, the emergence of tablets, smartphones, interactive TVs and other devices is changing the very infrastructure of society. As we begin to connect those devices, it will accelerate an evolution in the way we work, socialize, create and relax. [Jim Shelton, New Haven Register, Apr 8]
Come enjoy beautiful Boulder, Colorado, America’s best place to live—on us. That’s the message a handful of entrepreneurs and supporters are trying to spread with this year’s Boulder Startup Week, which will run from May 15 to 19. The event, now in its fourth year, has evolved into a festival that’s equal parts party, networking event, informal symposium about technology and entrepreneurship, hackathon, and job fair. [Michael Davidson, xconomy.com, Apr 5]
How do we explain America’s sudden mid-20th-century ascent to technological glory? The credit goes not to freedom but to something more prosaic: money. .... But American corporations have been moving their R&D operations offshore. According to the National Science Foundation, fully 27 percent of all employees in United States multinational corporations’ research departments were based abroad as of 2009, up from 16 percent in 2004. [Eamonn Fingleton, New York Times, Mar 30]
industrial production has grown twice as fast as the economy as a whole in this recovery, and manufacturers are adding jobs again. But economists see those gains as too small relative to what was lost in previous years to suggest a full-blown revival. ... no statistical evidence of a broader renaissance at this point," says Daniel Meckstroth, chief economist with the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation, .... Simply put, America's factories are dying faster than they're being born. [Timothy Aeppel, Wall Street Journal, Apr 1]
An innovative product or service has no commercial value until a talented businessperson finds a customer for it. ... There are approximately 6 million small businesses in the United States, and they are the very backbone of the country's democracy. ... They're not even in it for the money. Most small-businesspeople are in it for one reason: freedom. [Jim Clifton, Gallup CEO, Mar 25] Life-style biz is nice for the individual, but does little for the economy.
Our dollars return. Foreign investments in the U.S. dwarfed American investments abroad by the biggest margin on record last year, leaving the U.S. more vulnerable to external shocks but suggesting the nation remains a magnet for foreign funds. [Wall Street Journal, Mar 27] If we continue our large trade deficits, all our good businesses will have foreign owners.
Portland has invested a lot of time and energy creating a vibrant startup scene to attract young creative types to the city. .... the Under 30 CEO website ranked Portland (OR) the No. 7 best city for young entrepreneurs, citing the city's "relaxed culture, numerous outdoor activities and an overall high quality of living." The top city was Austin, [followed by] San Francisco, Louisville, Ky., New York, and Nashville [Suzanne Stevens, Portland Business Journal, Mar 20]
UC San Diego researchers say they've found an immune system molecule that directly kills chronic lymphocytic leukemia cells without harming healthy ones. The molecule, called a monoclonal antibody, is being readied for human clinical trials “in the not-too-distant future,” lead researcher Thomas J. Kipps said. [Bradley Fikes, utsandiego.com, Mar 25]
Nice theory waiting for confirming data.The logic goes like this: Labor costs in China are rising. Here in the United States, productivity is soaring while energy costs are dropping. So companies will return home. In an Atlantic magazine cover story, Charles Fishman dubbed this “The Insourcing Boom.” The only problem? This boom hasn’t shown up in the data — at least not yet. .... [Says] economist Jan Hatzius’s conclusion in a new research note for Goldman Sachs. [Brad Plumer, Washington Post, Mar 26]
a powerful new type of computer that is about to be commercially deployed by a major U.S. military contractor is taking computing into the strange, subatomic realm of quantum mechanics. ....Lockheed Martin – which bought an early version of such a computer from the Canadian company D-Wave Systems two years ago – is confident enough in the technology to upgrade it to commercial scale, becoming the first company to use quantum computing as part of its business. [Quentin Hardy, New York Times, Mar 24]
Oil companies initially welcomed [biomass fuels], but now they deride cellulosic ethanol as a "phantom fuel" and are calling for such mandates to be scrapped. [Robert Service, Science, Mar 22]
little value. researchers
little evidence that R&D tax credits actually encourage new
research activity rather than simply capture investment that would have
happened in another state.[SSTI, Mar 20] The
to SBIR that merely captures what might have been even better done by
an open competitor.
Denver [at Number 8] is better than both Chicago and Seattle in at least one respect, according to a ranking of the best cities [over 500K population] for young entrepreneurs. .... based on such factors as culture, local resources, atmosphere and overall appeal to someone in their 20s. ..... higher ranking than Denver were Austin, Louisville, Ky., New York, Nashville, Boston, and Portland, Ore. [Denver Business Journal, Mar 20]
No war, no inflation. chronic deflation is more likely [than inflation]. ... Most people have only experienced inflation. The last meaningful episode of deflation was in the 1930s. That’s also the last time the U.S. was truly at peace. Deflation is a peacetime phenomenon. ... In the 95 wartime years since 1749, wholesale price increases averaged 5.7 percent. In the 168 peacetime years, they fell 1.2 percent annually on average. As the U.S. withdraws from Iraq and Afghanistan and as defense spending declines, peacetime conditions are likely to prevail. Furthermore, we tend to have biases that cloud our perception of inflation. When we pay higher prices, we think inflation is at work, but we believe lower prices are a result of our smart shopping and bargaining skills. [A Gary Shilling, Bloomberg, Mar 20]
AAAS is now
part of a broad
coalition of defense, academic, public health, high-tech, and science
groups -- representing more than 3,500 organizations -- bringing
defense and nondefense communities together for the first time to speak
with one voice about the potential impacts of sweeping budget cuts to
R&D funding, [AAAS, Mar 20] Showers of
tears for ther
first day of spring. If not comfortable academics, who merits
cut? A small cut in research funding for academic compesation
could match the cuts being imposed on the federal workers who judge and
supervise the funding.
Dutch disease: an odd economic phenomenon that often afflicts countries rich in natural resources. Back in the 1960s and ’70s, the Netherlands discovered a large natural-gas field and began selling the gas abroad. That, in turn, drove up the value of the Dutch currency. And that currency rise, in turn, crippled Dutch manufacturers by making their exports more expensive. [Brad Plumer, WashPo, Mar 19] With US methane now dirt cheap to extract, and a political struggle over a pipeline to deliver Canadian oil to Texas ports, capitalism cannot resist the Drain America First urge to export gas and oil to higher price markets. The same way we export non-renewable coal. Since today's politicians will be dead when the supply runs dry, they advocate selling whatever we can to make jobs for voters. As dead as the 19th century politicians that encouraged the quick exhaustion of the great Ohio methane supply. Long term is the next election.
The steady growth of the 7-year-old Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center of Bucks County is paying off in jobs and economic activity both locally and across the state. A report shows the biotech center and its affiliated organizations generated $579 million in economic impact and 573 jobs from July 1, 2009, through Dec. 31, 2012. [John George, Philadelphia Business Journal, Mar 8]
Don't need no smartie furrin' enginurs. In a damp, salty place like Florida, explains Andrea Sanchez, steel and concrete can decay extremely quickly. She should know: while pursuing a doctorate in civil engineering at the University of South Florida she is working on a project funded by FDOT to model the lifespan of reinforced concrete in bridges exposed to sea air. With luck, her work will keep Florida’s drivers safer and more punctual and the state’s coffers fuller. But she will probably not be around to see the results. Ms Sanchez is Venezuelan, living in America on a student visa. She would like to stay on after she completes her doctorate next year, but will have to leave unless she can find a firm that is willing to put up with the hassle and expense of obtaining a new visa for her. [The Economist,Mar 16]
A med-tech facility that last year was determined to have zero value has value after all .... Its buyer, Baxter International, may be planning a big Twin Cities expansion. ... Genmab (Denmark and Princeton, NJ) had bought the property in 2008 for $240 million from PDL Biopharma (Incline Village, NV; no SBIR) which opened the facility in 2004. ...Genmab shut down the plant less than two years after buying it ... Baxter last year bought med-tech firm Synovis (Deerfield, IL; no SBIR) for $325 million. And Brooklyn Park documents hint that Baxter could move 200 jobsthere, with another 200 coming in a future expansion. [Mark Reilly, Minneapolis / St Paul Business Journal, Mar 5, 13]
Hanhai zPark is an 80,000-square-foot incubator for tech startups that opened last June in San Jose. backed by investors from China, ...plans to open a biotech incubator twice the size in South San Francisco, near Genentech’s campus, by the middle of 2013. They’re searching for a third Bay Area property to turn into a 200,000-square-foot space for clean tech companies next year. .... meant to house young companies eager to do business in China and Chinese startups expanding to the U.S. .... About a three-quarters of the tenants are American companies, many founded by Chinese immigrants or Americans of Chinese heritage, Wang says. The rest are Chinese companies exploring the U.S. market. [John Tozzi, Bloomberg Business Week, Mar 13]
Patents, gotta have them? Not according to many economists who cannot find any correlation between patents and innovation. Four articles in the Winter 2013 issue of Journal of Economic Perspectives. Economists are trained to punch holes in myths by studying real-world data.
Productivity has increased almost 23 percent since 2000, but the hourly wage of the median worker rose 0.5 percent. Median hourly compensation, which consists of all wages and benefits, increased 0.4 percent. [Jon Talton, Seattle Times, Mar 11] Jobs per unit of GDP keep falling as working age population keeps rising.
Should you China? Here's an inexpensive and fairly accurate way to determine whether your products or services can succeed in China without having to get on an airplane or spend thousands of dollars doing a market study. Simply answer the four questions below and if you can answer three out of the four positively then your chances of succeeding in China may be pretty good. Of course, one can't tell for sure until a deeper dive is done, but I've had a better than 80% accuracy with this initial, low-budget analysis. Article [Stanley Chao, Industry Week, Mar 4]
Vanity Fair still ranks the tech and media moguls and calls it The New Establishment, but, as Kotkin notes, the big winners in the current economy are the “Material Boys” — the people who grow grain, drill for fuel and lay pipeline. .... Shai Agassi’s company, Better Place, for example, has generated glowing magazine profiles, but it has managed to lose more than $500 million while selling astoundingly few cars. He stepped down as the chief executive, and his replacement lasted only a few months. It turns out that the things that are sexy to politicians and paradigm-shifting to conference audiences are not necessarily attractive to consumers. .... Meanwhile, the anonymous drudges at American farming corporations are exporting $135 billion worth of products every year and transforming the American Midwest. [David Brooks, New York Times, Mar 12]
Google to lay off 10 percent of workforce, another 1,200 employees at acquisition Motorola Mobility. .... already announced 4,000 layoffs at the company last year, ... as it seeks to make its $12.5 billion purchase profitable. The Wall Street Journal reported that an internal email on the move said "our costs are too high, we're operating in markets where we're not competitive and we're losing money." [Jeremy Owens, San Jose Mercury News, Mar 8, 13] Eventually, even the techiest innovations must return a decent profit from raising productivity.
Long wait for algae fuel. Exxon's $600 million foray into creating motor fuels from algae may not succeed for at least another 25 years because of technical hurdles, said Chairman Rex Tillerson. So far, scientists haven’t been able to develop a strain of algae that reproduces quickly enough and behaves in a manner that would produce enough raw material to supply a refinery, Tillerson said [Joe Carroll, Bloomberg, Mar 7]
[small biz] Expectations are low. The year-end survey of owners by the National Small Business Association found that 38 percent anticipate growth opportunities for their companies this year. That's down from the 47 percent who predicted growth in 2012, the trade group says. Sixty percent expected to keep their staffing levels stable this year. "I'm right in there with other small business owners -- I have no intention of hiring," says Mark Hagar, owner of Specialized Printed Products in Fort Wayne, Ind. [Joyce Rosenberg, AP, Mar 7]
Portland’s technology startups have a message for venture capitalists: Pay attention! The city’s startup scene continues to thrive.The latest development: Jive Software says it’s easier to recruit in Portland than the Bay Area, where it moved its headquarters two years ago. ... The region is home to almost two dozen incubators, including three that have generated national headlines: the Portland Seed Fund, Portland Incubator Experiment and the new Upstart Labs. [Portland Business Journal, Mar 8]
Don't fight 'em, buy 'em. Companies are taking advantage of the stock market's record-breaking rally to raise funds. The rush to sell shares is a sign of U.S. corporations' desire to boost growth by investing and acquiring rivals after years spent licking the wounds inflicted by the financial crisis. [Telis Demos, Wall Street Journal, Mar 7]
Chinese firms could soon be challenging US companies that focus on medical sensor and diagnostic technology, a new report from Lux Research Inc. suggests. ... “The Emerging Diagnostic Landscape in China,” lead author analyst Zhihao Yu, ... $183 million in funding is set to transform China’s diagnostic market. [Chris Reidy, Boston Globe, Mar 5]
Pratt & Whitney discovered nearly two years ago that one of its foreign business units [in Israel] had fraudulently adjusted test results on tens of thousands of engine parts to bypass additional inspection, the company said .... changed test results for more than 40,000 forged disks over 15 years, Pratt said. In jet engines, the disks serve as hubs to which compressor and turbine blades are attached. [Brian Dowling, Hartford Courant, Mar 4]
Site Selection magazine announced the Dayton [OH] region was ranked as the No. 1 market in the country — in areas with 200,000 to 1 million residents — when it comes to new and expansion projects.[Joe Cogliano, Dayton Business Journal, Mar 1]
how an imaginative leap changed the world: London, 1665, was the last great year of the Plague. The king was getting tired of people claiming they were dead and not paying their tax, so the English came up with a great idea: You needed a certificate to die. Then somebody said, "Each week, why don't we write down all the reasons people died this week, and we'll issue that as a weekly summary for the king." Here's what happens next: They see a pattern in the data—and nobody had ever seen a pattern in data before. They had seen patterns in your palm. They had seen patterns in the sky. But this was patterns in the data. Then they realize, people aren't dying because God is killing them. They're dying because there's some kind of statistical probability projection going on. So, from this one book, three industries—statistics, life insurance and public health—are born. [Jay Walker (inventor of Priceline), Wall Street Journal, Feb 26]
The first bionic hand that allows an amputee to feel what they are touching will be transplanted later this year in a pioneering operation that could introduce a new generation of artificial limbs with sensory perception. ... Dr Micera said that the hand will be attached directly to the patient’s nervous system via electrodes clipped onto two of the arm’s main nerves, the median and the ulnar nerves. .... This should allow the man to control the hand by his thoughts, as well as receiving sensory signals to his brain from the hand’s sensors. [Steve Connor, The Independent, Feb 17]
A new report by [MIT] urgently recommended that the nation rebuild its “industrial ecosystem” of manufacturers, suppliers, research, and skilled labor to support multiple industries, not just clusters of companies dedicated to one particular sector. The report said manufacturers with the ability and talent to produce the ideas of entrepreneurs are in increasingly short supply, as US corporations have shifted production offshore and outstourced many other functions, such as research and development, over the last 30 years. [Megan Woolhouse, Boston Globe, Feb 22] Nice theory, but we have a free market economy where capital at every level decides independently where and how to produce. Individual firm profit rules the decisions, not national wishlists If Americans really cared, they would stop buying foreign made products that cost less than domestic products. WalMart is so sure that such switching won't happen that it jsut declared its quarterly dividends thourgh January 2014. We are the sum of all our decisions.
The technology revolution, Gore writes, “is now carrying us with it at a speed beyond our imagining toward ever newer technologically shaped realities that often appear, in the words of Arthur C. Clarke, ‘indistinguishable from magic.’ ” This is not a truth universally acknowledged — some economists, such as [economist] Tyler Cowen, argue that innovation has stalled and that our low-growth economies are the result — and that is part of what makes “The Future” interesting. [Chrystia Freeland, reviewing Gore's The Future, Washington Post, Feb 22]
People are revising their memory of the financial crisis, as if they were looking into a rearview mirror made of rose-colored glass. Financial planners report that clients are increasingly saying 2008 and 2009 were no big deal. .... "The mentality is, 'I want to wait for the market to pull back so I can buy stocks at lower levels.' The Fed's on our side, companies are making money and the growth environment is OK." [Wall Street Journal, Feb 23] Americans just don't put much faith in history, and if you don't understand the mechanism, you have no basis for predicting the future.
I believe that books, once they are written, have no need of their authors. If they have something to say, they will sooner or later find readers; if not, they won’t. .... [I] will do nothing for “Troubling Love,” she tells her publisher, because she has already done enough: she wrote it. She won’t take part in conferences or discussions, and won’t go to accept prizes, if any are awarded.[Elena Ferrante , Italian novelist] Many sci-tech beneficiaries of SBIR adopt the same attitude about their discoveries: throw it over the transom of commerce and write another SBIR proposal. And the government abets that behavior because the agencies have no performance targets for SBIR except spending at least the mandated amount of money on the small businesses.
Like all management concepts, outsourcing tactics over the last decade generated a lot of wealth and made companies more efficient, but it has resulted in some disastrous outcomes. The textbook example presently is Boeing and its 787 airplane; [can-turtles-fly.blogspot.com, Feb 20] Boeing didn’t outsource just the manufacturing of parts; it turned over the design, the engineering, and the manufacture of entire sections of the plane to some fifty “strategic partners.” Boeing itself ended up building less than forty per cent of the plane. ..... at Boeing [the engineers] were increasingly marginalized by the bean counters [James Surowieki, The New Yorker, Feb 4] If you envision your tech marvel as a component of a grand tech end product, remember that the maker might want you and your company in-house. You would then have to choose between being independent and being rich.
The Michigan Corporate Relations Network has issued a request for proposals from tech entrepreneurs looking to speed up their commercialization efforts. Under the Small Company Innovation Program (SCIP), small- to medium-sized companies can receive matching funds for research projects at one of the organization’s participating universities [Sara Scnmid, xconomy.com, Feb 15]
A recent academic article from NIST research analyst Gregory Tassey suggests that a major overhaul of U.S. economic policy is needed to ensure the country's long-term economic growth. A set of policies based on strategic investment in technology development and commercialization could boost the nation's productivity and help reverse the trend of falling incomes. These investments should not focus simply on short- and middle-term research missions, such as national defense or renewable energy, but on a wide variety of technology areas with the potential for long-term growth. [SSTI, Feb 13] In-house government economist, whose normal mission is economic rationale for NIST programs, opines on politically loaded subject.
Less future, more present. As Robert D. Atkinson and Stephen J. Ezell note in their book “Innovation Economics,” American firms are also lagging in their commitment to research and development. Between 1999 and 2006, for example, German firms increased research-and-development spending by 11 percent, Finnish firms by 28 percent and South Korean firms by 58 percent. During that same period, U.S. spending increased by a paltry 3 percent. ..... For decades, government invested heavily in long-range projects like railroads and canals. Today, Americans have inverted this way of thinking. Instead of sacrificing the present for the sake of the future, Americans now sacrifice the future for the sake of the present. Federal spending is the most obvious example. [David Brooks, New York Times, Feb 12]
According to Yale economist Robert Shiller, who looks at 10-year earnings rather than one-year earnings to smooth out cyclical fluctuations, the historical average for the market price/earnings ratio is 17.5, and the current figure is 22.8. Over time, prices usually revert to the mean. [John Casssidy, Fortune, Feb 25]
Jobs, wealth, and redistribution. The challenge of our high-tech economy is how to take a hefty slice of wealth from the machines and offer ordinary people the reality of jobs with decent wages and compensation. That would be progress. .... We’re at an inflection point comparable to the First Industrial Revolution in the 18th century and the Second Industrial Revolution a century later. The opportunities offered by the wealth-generating capacity of machines, bits and bytes, algorisms, and artificial intelligence will fundamentally shift our societal concerns from “how best to generate growth” to “how best to distribute wealth.” “The productive part of the economy will be in great shape, but the distribution of it will be the main problem,” says W. Brian Arthur, visiting scholar at the Palo Alto Research Center’s Intelligent Systems Laboratory. [Chris Farrell, Bloomberg Business Week, Feb 11] It's easy to talk about inflection points and jobs, but designing policy to adapt to their change isn't somothing that politicians can do well. Voters want "right" answers now from politicians who have no such answers. Robots and algotithms have changed everything we think we know about economics. But when it comes to adapting society to a lot less labor per unit of GDP, we have no good answers and our gauzy understanding of history and economics does not serve us well in a Facebook age.
After being burned by a series of high-profile failures, Chinese companies are learning to navigate the delicate political and regulatory landscape for takeovers in the U.S. ....Chinese firms are stepping up their investments in the U.S. by targeting smaller companies, going after minority stakes and avoiding the most sensitive acquisition targets. [Sharon Terlep, Wall Street Journal, Feb 9]
The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, a quasi-public agency of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, said that it has awarded a $5 million capital grant to support the launch of LabCentral, a state-of-the art 27,000 square-foot facility that is scheduled to open in Cambridge in November. A goal of LabCentral is to foster biotechnology startups by enabling them to rent small amounts of lab space. [Chris Reidy, Boston Globe, Feb 7] How industry concentrations make better homes for innovation with a market future.
Banyan Biomarkers ($1.7M SBIR) couldn’t find enough skilled employees to develop its disease diagnostic products in its Gainesville, Fla., headquarters. So it’s hiring them in Carlsbad [CA] .... conducting a pivotal clinical trial of a test to detect signs of traumatic brain injuries, Streeter said. It is also researching tests for stroke, Parkinson’s disease, depression and liver disease. .... [CEO] Streeter said that when Banyan moved beyond research into product development, San Diego’s highly developed “ecosystem for diagnostics” became attractive. Streeter knows the county from his years as a biomedical executive at PhotoThera (Carlsbad, CA; no SBIR). Other states, especially Texas, have long tried to lure biomedical companies from San Diego, but they don’t have the region’s advantages for innovation, Nordhoff said. The pool of qualified research and development specialists is deeper in San Diego. [Bradley Fikes, utsandiego.com, Feb 4, 13] Not in no-income-tax, petroleum-focused Texas.
Forbes list of the 100 Most Promising Companies had no SBIR awardees in the appropriate business categories. IT Software & Services has the greatest number but that stuff is low tech risk, all busines risk. which should not be funded by government money.
Mr. Brodd said Boeing’s tests in 2007 might have miscalculated the likelihood of the problems because “when you’re making stuff for the first time, you don’t know” all the possibilities. [Christopher Drew and Jad Mouawad, New York Times, Feb 7] Government sponsored Incubators are the new, new, thing.
Nancy Zimpher, chancellor of the 64-campus state university system [is] determined to invigorate the New York’s economy by creating business incubators in 10 regions across the state. [Pam Allen, The Buusiness Review (Albany), Jan 18, 13]
A Russia-size farm. Innovations on biomass production are needed for the biofuels market to boom, a new Lux Research Inc. report concludes. “Using today’s technologies, an area the size of Russia would need to be cultivated to replace all of petroleum use for chemicals and fuels – feedstock innovation will be needed to keep growing biomass’s market share,” said Lux Research, a Boston-based firm provides strategic advice and intelligence for emerging technologies. [Chris Reidy, Boston Globe, Feb 5]
Boom again. Silicon Valley's job growth is so robust that it has banished the specter of the recession and returned to its dot-com boom levels, and has increasingly become a region dominated not only by San Jose and the South Bay, but by San Francisco, which has evolved into a new tech hub. Those are among the findings released on Tuesday from the 2013 Silicon Valley Index, a closely watched annual study produced by San Jose-based Joint Venture Silicon Valley and Mountain View-based Silicon Valley Community Foundation [San Jose Mercury News, Feb 5.]
"This is not an unusual thing," [industry group Biocom CEO Joe ]Panetta said. "About two weeks ago we hosted a group called Life Science Tennessee. We are very open here about providing opportunities for legislators to come and see what's going on," Panetta said. "We're not that concerned about them poaching our companies, because we know there's always a need for our companies to expand outside of San Diego." .... Panetta said he set up the appointments himself, as he routinely does when representatives of other states visit San Diego. The meetings are a service to San Diego biotech and medical device companies that need to expand elsewhere, Panetta said. [Bradley Fikes, utsandiego.com, Feb 1, 13]
More robots, fewer jobs. The developed world has learned over the past decade that a steady supply of cheaper, foreign-made goods does not guarantee prosperity. What impact will (perhaps only moderately) cheaper goods have if coupled with reduced employment as human labor is displaced by machines? If we are unable to find a higher use for the displaced human labor, we are actually worse off. [Gregor Macdonald, gregor.us, Feb 5] Who will buy the better and cheaper goods made by jobless industry? Will your productivity-raising tech breakthrough speed an economic decline? Will you seek government support for undermining the society - anyway, what's a government for?
Recent moves by Japan's two largest automakers suggest that the electric car, after more than 100 years of development and several brief revivals, still is not ready for prime time - and may never be.... The reality is that consumers continue to show little interest in electric vehicles [Shirouzu, Kubota, and Lienhart, Reuters, Feb 4]
Monteris Medical (Canada), which sells a laser technology that treats inoperable tumors, closed on $7.8 million in capital, the company announced ....led by Business Development Bank of Canada, and Southwest Michigan First (SWMF) Life Science Fund, to support commercialization of a new version of its technology [Katherine Grayson, Minneapolis / St Paul Business Journal, Jan 7, 13]
Orthopedics medical-device maker Zimmer Spine is closing a facility in Texas as part of a plan to consolidate operations in the Twin Cities and Memphis, the Austin Business Journal reports. [Katherine Grayson, Minneapolis / St Paul Business Journal, Jan 11] And surrendering all those great Texas low taxes for the business advantages of an industry hub, and a state with respect for science.
Five robots that want your job. takes the robot about 35 minutes to transform a solid log into the full set [of furniture]; teach English in schools; hotel luggage handler; manage warehouses; pharmacy system sorts prescriptions for patients. [Anika Anand, Upstart Business Journals, Jan 24]
3M opened a research center in northern Taiwan, billing the facility as its first "green" R&D center in Asia. [Mark Reilly, Minneapolis / St Paul Business Journal, Jan 23] A place where Chinese grads from US tech schools will feel at home and productive? How do you say Scotch Tape in Mandarin?
if we’re to sustain the kind of public institutions and safety nets that we’re used to, it will require a lot more growth by the private side (not just more taxes), a lot more entrepreneurship, a lot more start-ups and a lot more individual risk-taking — things the president rarely speaks about. And it will all have to happen in the context of the Great Inflection. ... The world went from connected to hyperconnected in a way that is impacting every job, industry and school, but was largely disguised by post-9/11 and the Great Recession. [Thomas Friedman, New York Times, Jan 30] SBIR was meant to incent high tech start-ups (along with a bunch of political goals), but by-and-large was re-captured by the federal agency managers who used it to do what they would have done if the money had never been diverted from the main line R&D programs.
A novel organic molecule discovered by a team including researchers at the University of Washington could be a less expensive, flexible, nontoxic alternative to traditional silicon semiconductors in certain applications. Details of this organic ferroelectric molecule—known as, deep breath, diisopropylammonium bromide—have been published in the journal Science. [Benjamin Romano, xconomy.com, Jan 24, 13] Such a finding would be a good candidate for one or more of the university scientists to get SBIR money to reduce the technical uncertainty (will it work?) to a mere business risk (will any money care?).
Poor Richard's Almanack (Ben Franklin in drag) says "Bad news travels faster than good news." It has also been said that bears make headlines while bulls make money. There is truth to both of these statements and they are apt explanations for what's taking place right now. [Joshua Brown, thereformedbroker.com, Jan 26] Financial gloomsters, especially politicians seeking office, multiply faster than compound interest. A contrarian says things aren't as gloomy as the politicians would have you believe, especially the House Tea Party set : In a report to clients, analysts at Goldman Sachs argue that the United States still has the world's strongest economy - and will have for years. There is a growing "awareness of the key economic, institutional, human capital and geopolitical advantages the U.S. enjoys over other economies," contend Goldman's analysts. [Robert Samuelson, Washington Post, Jan 28] Economist A Gary Shilling attributes the problem to deleveraging that will have run its course within five years. I foresee about five more years of deleveraging, bringing the total span to about 10 years, which is about the normal duration of this process after major financial bubbles.
Boeing 787 is a flying collection of innovations. Airlines, eager to save money and woo fliers, ordered a record numbers of Dreamliners, now totaling 848 planes. .... Today, Boeing is struggling to master its innovations. The Dreamliner's body and wings, made of plastic reinforced with carbon fiber, have proven unexpectedly hard to produce and attach. Power-distribution panels running the plane's advanced electrical systems have overheated and ignited in flight. Most recently, lithium-ion batteries that provide auxiliary power—and were themselves a first in commercial aviation—have caught fire, prompting regulators world-wide to ground all 50 Dreamliners in service. [Daniel Michaels, Wall Street Journal, Jan 24] With plane makers pushing the envelope on new technology, safety experts have questioned whether federal regulators had the expertise or the manpower to properly oversee those developments. [Jad Mouawad and Christopher Drew, New York Times, Jan 24] The free-marketers have an approach - [don't need no gubmnt meddling] let the market punish faulty products by shunting business to the competition. Except the free competitive markets do not exist for the oglipoly market for airplanes. And the 19th century taught us that unrestrained markets lead to monopolies.
researchers at Stanford have created novel nanostructures that greatly increase the number of times one of these [battery] chemistries can be recharged, even to levels high enough for many commercial applications. Whereas previous research reports have celebrated the ability to recharge a lithium-sulfur battery 150 times, the Stanford researchers recharged their battery 1,000 times and still retained substantial energy storage capacity [Kevin Bullis, MIT Tech Rvw, Jan 8]
The step that makes the most sense for the U.S. is to become the producer of the machinery that will power the next global manufacturing revolution. That is where the most complex and sophisticated products are, and that is the work that can pay higher wages. ..... My guess is that developments around information technology, 3-D printing, and networks will allow for a redesign of manufacturing. The world will be massively investing in it. [Ricardo Hausmann (interviewed), MIT Tech Rvw, Jan 4]
Technology still leaking. Boeing's newest and most sophisticated jet, the 787 Dreamliner , suffered a new mishap when a fuel leak forced an aircraft to return to its gate minutes before taking off from Boston, a day after an electrical fire broke out on another plane [New York Times, Jan 8]
Great technology still dangerous. A Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft with no passengers on board caught fire at Logan International Airport in Boston on Monday when a battery in its auxiliary electrical system exploded, officials said. [Reuters, Jan 8] Not the first electrical problem after commercial introduction.
India has proposed sweeping curbs on the import of technology products ranging from laptops to Wi-Fi devices to computer-network equipment. The proposed regulations, which were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, would create an expansive "Buy India" mandate requiring a large percentage of the high-tech goods sold in the country to be manufactured locally. [Amol Sharma, Wall Street Journal, Jan 8] Protective subsidies, from tariff walls to SBIR, of all kinds are popular with politicians.
Zhong Lin Wang at Georgia Tech reported a new type of generator that uses everyday static electricity ... When PMMA and Kapton rub against one another, friction generates electrical charges [Robert Servcie, Science, Jan 4]
Lithium sulphur batteries. Yi Cui Stanford University reported a possible way around sulfur's problems. ... encapsulated tiny nanoparticles of sulfur inside a shell of titanium dioxide (TiO2), leaving extra space inside each shell. They then packed their coated nanoparticles together to form a cathode. When they ran their battery, they found that TiO2's high conductivity made it easy to shuttle electrons in and out. [Robert Servcie, Science, Jan 4]
researchers at the University of Michigan may have found a way not only to drop the cost of producing GaAs cells, but also to drop the cost of the power they produce to near that of grid power from fossil fuels. [Robert Servcie, Science, Jan 4]
Beware Boise and Nashville. Promising Businesses a Better Life Elsewhere. States Are Sending Recruiters to California to Lure Companies With the Prospect of Lower Taxes and Fewer Regulations screams the (anti-tax and regulation) Wall Street Journal headline. But business life in California, eastern Massachusetts, Minneapolis, Houston, and like places have something that business cannot get elsewhere: a large pool of talent, suppliers, and capital relevant to the business. Taxes, after all, are the price of civilization and places with low taxes do not generally have the thriving community that business success needs.
US small-cap stocks surged to a record Wednesday as investors turned their focus to U.S. economic improvement and the smaller, nimbler companies that could be best-positioned to benefit. [Wall Street Journal, Jan 3]
A mere shadow. Despite developing a reputation as a reliable PC manufacturer in recent years and generating top revenues in the industry, H-P had an awful year in the stock market. The company will close out 2012 down over 45 percent, making it the worst performing large cap stock in the market. [Clay Wyatt, Benzinga.com, Dec 31]
industry and not demand carry full cycle economic expansion ....
new culprit west. string of states are tightening ferociously concert,
disregarding feedback effects on each other. [euroland] slashing for
doctrinal reasons, thrall calvinism. ... [thanks
banks] 2013 .... even so, there is enough monetary fuel in
global economy to pack a punch int" 2013 [Ambrose
Telegraph, Jan 1, 2013]