Miscellaneous Stories 2015

Stories that earlier appeared in Nelson's News
Note: Carl Nelson Consulting, Inc is not an investment adviser and may hold a financial interest or client relationship in companies discussed.

Looking for other older stories? Visit the archives

On a regular basis, the Gallup organization asks random samples of Americans how much confidence they have in a variety of prominent institutions. For decades, that confidence has been eroding, almost across the board. The last time a majority of Americans expressed “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in churches and organized religion was in 2009. For the Supreme Court, it was in 2002. For public schools, 1987. For newspapers, 1979. Not one survey, dating back to 1973, has found a majority confident about “big business,” television news or Congress. ...  Ridley’s answer is to wait for new tools of technology that empower individuals — such as social media — to render institutions irrelevant by allowing people to bypass them. (Who needs government when you have Twitter?) ... But his argument, in the end, isn’t libertarianism, which draws its strength from a faith in the power of individuals. It’s nihilism.   [Jim Tankersley reviewing Ridley's Evolution of Everything, WashPo, Dec 31]

The longevity of English institutions and customs is not merely picturesque, but also a living record of safety, prosperity, strength, civil peace, and political and economic stability. Laws grew thick and strong, like a great forest, and men sheltered contentedly beneath them.  [Peter Hitchens, reviewing Tombs, English and their history, New York Times,  Jan 2, 16] Students of American history should realize that it goes back a lot longer than 1604 in Jamestowwn.

Babies born in the United States today are expected to live about a quarter of a century longer than babies born a century ago. However, there are large variances within the United States and life expectancy depends largely on where children are born and live. ...  worst place: Gadsden, AL 73. [John Ogg, 24/7 Wall St., Dec 28] The baby's consolation: lower taxes than most places.

Technology and Internet companies that went public in the U.S. raised $9.5 billion in 2015, down from $40.8 billion in 2014, according to Dealogic. The number of IPOs in the sector dropped by more than half, to 29 from 62.  ...  Four technology startups with billion-dollar-plus valuations are preparing for initial public offerings in early 2016, a sign that the tech IPO market is poised for a turnaround after one of its slowest years on record.  [Maureen Farrell and Telis Demos, Wall Streeet Journal, Dec 26, 15]  These potential money machines are all pure business risks with little uncertainity that the technology will work as intended. As such, of course, they are not legitimate candidates for goverment subsidy; nor are they likely to seek the helping hand of free government money.

Made elsewhere. a combination of keen Asian competition and Californian regulation gradually shifted the chip and computer manufacturers out of Silicon Valley, which has lost roughly 80,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000. The new Valley is predominately post-industrial. For example, only 30 of about 16,000 production workers for the iPod are based in the US.  [Joel Kotkin, newgeography.com, 12/21/2015]

The boom in Silicon Valley gives an impression of a golden age of dynamism—in some industries, such as taxis, startups are indeed causing revolutions. Overall, however, American capitalism is more sluggish than it was. Small firms are being started at the slowest rate since the 1970s. Young firms’ weight has shrunk, measured by their number and share of employment. [The Economist, Dec 5, 15]

Amateur Hour.  The U.K. has led the way opening up a new ultra-risky market in which fledgling companies pitch shares to amateur investors online. ...  Buying shares in unlisted companies is a long-shot bet: Few if any of these companies will ever have a public offering that will allow investors to cash out at a hefty profit. ... The U.S. is following the U.K.’s lead, with the Securities and Exchange Commission set to allow armchair investors to get in on an act long reserved for “accredited investors” ...  Sanity checkIn the U.K. the rules are more relaxed. Retail investors must certify they won’t invest more than 10% of their portfolios, excluding housing, pensions and life assurance, on crowdfunded companies. Websites make investors pass a multiple-choice test to show a basic understanding of the risks involved.  ... Tax breaks are a major incentive. The U.K. offers 30% tax relief on investments up to £1 million ($1.49 million) and allows investors to offset any losses they incur against their income.  [Max Colchester, Wall Stret Journal, Dec 23]

Tech jobs myth. Some assume that the high-tech sector will produce large numbers of high-paying jobs in the future. But employment in this area does not seem to be increasing; the sector’s share of total employment has been essentially constant since statistics became available about three decades ago. Unlike the transition from an agricultural to an industrial society, in other words, the rise of the knowledge society is not generating a lot of good new jobs.  [Foreign Affairs, J/F16]  Never mind, the politicians still genuflect at the small biz altar of growth engine.

Unlively startups in unlively economy. We confidently assume that we have the world's most entrepreneurial nation, and the proof seems overwhelming. Google, Facebook and Twitter are but three (relatively) recent startups that have become corporate titans. ...   there's a double whammy: fewer startups and slower growth at the survivors. ...  What's clear is the startup slump is consistent with other business behavior, specifically weak investment spending on new plants and machinery.   Compared with the past, companies seem more reluctant to invest in the future. [Robert Samuelson, Investors Business Daily, Dec 17]

startup Vayyar  (Israel) makes sensors that use radio waves to create 3D mappings of things like root systems or piping.  ... said   it has raised $22 million in venture financing  ...  works with chip-manufacturers to produce a sensor that companies can then plug into devices to produce 3D images in a variety of scenarios. ...  already works with a number of companies that use its sensors — the startup launched in 2011 — and to date has raised $34 million. [Matthew Lynley, techcrunch.com, Dec 16, 15]

Winning the Talent Wars.  How Indiana is attracting today’s best workers through regional improvements, low taxes and top-notch education.  [Wall Street Journal advert]

Markets for health care are the perfect example of the old saying that “every dollar of waste is someone’s income.” Changes in incentives will be resisted by a broad coalition that includes not only health-care providers but also other groups with an ideological or financial interest in the status quo, such as labor unions.[ Daniel P. Kessler, Wall Street Journal, Dec 11, 15] 

SSTI also reports:  Economists Say Silicon Valley Startups Not Really Creating New Jobs.  Politicians love praising the economic power of Silicon Valley, but various economic studies indicate that technology startups — while increasing productivity and perhaps transforming the structure of our economy — do not necessarily create all that many jobs. Because digital businesses require only limited capital investment, employment opportunities created by technological change may continue to stagnate as the US economy is becoming increasingly digitized. [SSTI, Dec 9]

As numerous guests have pointed out this year, Marriott has been removing desks from many of its hotel rooms. ... in a bid to appeal to Millennials. Bill Marriott claimed that younger guests - Millennials want a hotel that has the feel of a “Silicon Valley startup,” whatever that means. [Saqib Shah, yahoo.com, Dec 11]

Economists such as Robert Gordon of Northwestern University argue that this slump in productivity growth reflects the stagnation of technology. Gordon argues that all of the epochal advances, from running water and electricity to the internal combustion and jet engines, have been made. The positive effect of instant messaging and video gaming on productivity and living standards pales in comparison. [Barry Eichengreen, project-syndicate.org, Dec 10]

Bill Maris, the head of Google Ventures said that the venture arm of Alphabet, what was formerly Google, is cutting back on seed-stage investments, the Wall Street Journal reported.  Maris said seed-stage deals offers less opportunity for Google Ventures, and that that part of the venture market is overheated.   [Michelle Quinn, Silicon Beat- San Jose Mercury News, Dec 7, 2015]

The venture capital arm of agribusiness giant Monsanto recently joined a $6 million Series A round of financing for a Spanish biotech company.  According to private equity news source FinSMEs, Monsanto Growth Ventures led the investment in the Madrid-based Plant Response Biotech, which aims to identify and develop molecules and traits that regulate plant responses to stress.    [Ben Unglesbee, St. Louis Business Journal, Nov 30, 15] The call of the cheaper Euro.

“If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous,” Gibbon writes, “he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian [96 AD] to the accession of Commodus [180 AD].” In that span, “the various modes of worship which [then] prevailed in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true; by the philosophers as equally false; and by the magistrate as equally useful. And thus toleration produced not only mutual indulgence, but even religious concord.”  .... [Gibbon published his ddecline of Rome] in six volumes between 1776 and 1788  [Joseph Epstein, Wall Street Journal, Nov 28]

The biggest banks in the U.S. are making far fewer loans to small businesses than they did a decade ago, ceding market share to alternative lenders that charge significantly higher rates.  {Wall Street Journal, Nov 27]

Cooperation. Ian Ross, who worked at Bell Labs on transistors in the 1950s, termed this the “‘precompetitive era,’” when “information was freely exchanged.”  At this time, companies like Texas Instruments and Fairchild Semiconductor were merely startups, and their employees would swing by Bell Labs just to attend seminars and see what was new (p.251-2). [Jordan Bell-Masterson reviewing Jon Gertner's The Idea Factory, Kauffman Foundation, Nov 17, 15]

CVD diamond revives.  Diamond Foundry (San Carlos, CA; no SBIR) is not the first company to try to use chemical vapor deposition, to grow diamonds by depositing layers of carbon atoms in a high-energy plasma field.  ....  spent years developing a new manufacturing technique based on a plasma source with a new “shape” that is 10 times as powerful as what has previously been used by manufacturers of synthetic diamonds, R. Martin Roscheisen, a founder of Nanosolar  (San Jose, CA; $1.7M SBIR) said.   By modifying the shape of the plasma field to what he described as a pancake, the group was able to make the reaction that formed the diamond structure more efficient  ...  the founders of Nanosolar, a large start-up that raised about half a billion dollars in its first six years, began exploring ways to build that would apply their expertise to new technologies. ...   A group of engineers and scientists, led by , announced that they had developed an advanced approach to making diamonds, using technology derived in part from making silicon chips and solar cells, to be used by a new company.   [JOHN MARKOFF, New York Times, Nov 11, 2015]  SDIO/BMDO/MDA SBIR funded several CVD diamond projects starting in the late 1980s.

Got a great new drug idea? Pharmaceutical manufacturing is one of the most profitable industries in the world. Last year, JNJ's pharma business earned 36% operating margins. However, it is a notoriously difficult business to get started in. According to the Office of Health economics, it now costs upwards of $2 billion and 10 years of time to launch a drug compared to about $200 million in the 1970s. Spending on R&D often reaches close to 20% of sales for pharma companies, and there are no guarantees that the drug pipeline will develop as expected.  [http://seekingalpha.com, Nov 6]

Toyota is investing $1 billion in a research company it is setting up in Silicon Valley to develop artificial intelligence and robotics, underlining the Japanese automaker’s determination to lead in futuristic cars that drive themselves and apply the technology to other areas of daily life. 

A 2015 Goldman Sachs study shows that large firms—500 employees or more—have grown at a pace consistent with past recoveries, but small businesses have remained stagnant. The study concludes that, since Dodd-Frank, small businesses—which rely largely on small banks—have been unable to find the credit necessary for growth, while large firms have access to credit through the capital markets.   [Peter Wallison, Wall Street Journal, Nov 4] No matter what the economic problem, AEI will finger government as the cause. Any disgraceful behavior by private enterprise will the attributed to government incentives for the comfort of AEI's sponsors.

the best thing to look for on Amazon is a three-star book because that means some people don’t like it. If it’s something that everybody agrees is good, it’s probably not original.  [Nobelist Robert Shiller, techbnologyreview.com, Nov 2]

successful businesses find raising money quick and easy through private means, which gives them no incentive to rush. Using technology to create a secondary market for shares might also means that the biggest no longer need to go public because the ability to extract liquidity from private firms is becoming much simpler. For now, at least, public markets are seen less as a place to raise money and create enterprises than as a mechanism to cash out if and when the time is right.  [The Economist, Oct 24]

THIS month marks the 100th anniversary of the General Theory of Relativity, the most beautiful theory in the history of science  [Walter Isaacson, NY Times, Oct 31]

The U.S. is arguably the best-performing major economy in the world right now, and with less systemic risk thanks to the successful recapitalization of the banking system. Investors are hopeful that capital will continue to flow into the U.S. from overseas  [Michael Farr, Farr Miller and Washington, Oct 29]

Need a legal precedent, free?  Harvard’s Law School librarians are slicing off the spines of all but the rarest volumes and feeding some 40 million pages through a high-speed scanner. They are taking this once unthinkable step to create a complete, searchable database of American case law that will be offered free on the Internet, allowing instant retrieval of vital records that usually must be paid for.  ...   Its trove includes nearly every state, federal, territorial and tribal judicial decision since colonial times ... Complete state results will become publicly available this fall for California and New York, and the entire library will be online in 2017, said Daniel Lewis, chief executive and co-founder of Ravel Law, a commercial start-up in California that has teamed up with Harvard Law   [ERIK ECKHOLM, New York Times, Oct 28]

Like a challenge? As if developing new high tech wasn't enough challenge.  The Challenge Cup wants to focus on startups that work [to make a major impact on heavily regulated industries] in education, energy, cities, food, health, money, security and transportation. Competing companies must have less than $2.5 million in venture funding and $2.5 million in revenue at the time of application. ... Cincinnati is one of 45 cities – and the only one in the Midwest – to host the Challenge Cup, a competition sponsored by Washington, D.C.-based startup accelerator and investor 1776   [Andy Brownfield, Cincinnati Business Courier, Oct 27, 15]

Good jobs begging. About 67 percent of companies in the Albany, New York, area plan to add technology jobs in the last few months of this year. The challenge lies in finding enough skilled workers to fill these positions. That's according to a new quarterly measure of the region's tech scene, compiled by Linium Staffing. [Chelsea Diana, Albany Business Review, Oct 12, 15]

Thumb on the scale. The original trial, known as Study 329, is but one high-profile example of pharmaceutical industry influence known to pervade scientific research, including clinical trials the [FDA] requires pharma companies to fund in order to assess their products. For that reason, people who read scientific papers as part of their jobs have come to rely on meta-analyses, supposedly thorough reviews summarizing the evidence from multiple trials, rather than trust individual studies. But a new analysis casts doubt on that practice as well, finding that the vast majority of meta-analyses of antidepressants have some industry link, with a corresponding suppression of negative results.  [Roni Jacobson, Scientific American, | October 21, 2015]

Stuck in the last century. The Trans-Pacific Partnership has stirred the most opposition in the one country that gives up the least sovereignty: the U.S., [Greg Ip, Wall Street Journal, Oct 21, 15]. Even though the ratio of global trade to GDP has quadrupled in 60 years, it's still only 4%. It's classic politics of diffused future gains and concentrated immediate losses in a representative democracy.  Politicians, after all, are rarely leaders, they follow public opinion and respond to cries for help.

An extra-muscular beagle has been created through genome engineering ... a beagle with double the amount of muscle mass by deleting a gene called myostatin ...   Lai and 28 colleagues reported their results last week in the Journal of Molecular Cell Biology, saying they intend to create dogs with other DNA mutations, including ones that mimic human diseases such as Parkinson’s and muscular dystrophy   [Antonio Regalado, technologyreview.com, October 19, 2015]

Slower China, maybe. China's economy decelerated in the latest quarter but stronger spending by consumers who are emerging as an important pillar of growth helped to avert a deeper downturn. The world's second-largest economy grew by 6.9 percent in the three months ended in September, the slowest since early 2009 in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, data showed  [JOE McDONALD, AP, Oct 19] Caveat: China's statistics may be second to Russia's in the scale of political manipulation.

Where's the action? This summer, the median rent for a one-bedroom in San Francisco ... soared higher than Manhattan’s, sent skyward by a housing shortage fueled in part by the arrival of droves of newcomers here to mine tech gold. ...  the rent refuge is here in Oakland, where the rates are increasing as well — so much so that young professionals are living in repurposed shipping containers ... Each resident pays $600 a month to live in a container, which can be modified with things like insulation, glass doors, electrical outlets, solar panels and a self-contained shower and toilet.   [SARAH MASLIN NIR, New York Times, Oct 13, 15]

Center City incubator Seed Philly is closing the doors after three years in operation. ...  [Founder and CEO Brad] Denenberg Denenberg said Philadelphia has the "tools necessary to be competitive," including talented people, thought leaders and entrepreneurs, but that "we haven’t been able to cement the bonds that connect each of these pieces together."    [Kenneth Hilario, Philadelphia Business Journal, Oct 12, 15]

Adaptimmune Therapeutics (Oxford, England), a biopharmaceutical company developing cancer immunotherapy treatments, is planning to expand its presence in Philadelphia at a new 46,000-square-foot facility at the Philadelphia Navy Yard – a project that will create 110 new jobs over the next three years. ...  is receiving state support for the project, including a $150,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s Pennsylvania First Program  [John George, Philadelphia Business Journal, Oct 9, 15]

Immigration Dividend. Much of the growth of the last two decades has stemmed from the vast capacity that was delivered by the Internet and the personal computer, each of which was accelerated by immigrant ingenuity. Silicon Valley, especially, was transformed. In a state where Asian immigrants had once faced great hardship, they helped to transform the global economy. The 2010 census stated that more than 50 percent of technical workers in Silicon Valley are Asian-American.  [Ted Widmer, New York Times, Oct 5, 15]

Santa Clara County is the strongest job market in the nation, fueled by a technology boom that isn't letting up, according to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, that showed over the 12 months that ended in August, total payroll employment in Santa Clara County expanded by 5.5 percent.  [George Avalos, San Jose Mercury News.com, Oct 2, 15]

It is a dangerous myth that we are better historians than our predecessors. We are not. But we come to Roman history with different priorities – from gender identity to food supply – that makes the ancient past speak to us in a new, as well as an old, idiom. ...  Roman history is always being rewritten, and always has been. It is a work in progress, and the myths and half-truths of our predecessors always demand correction – as our own myths will no doubt be corrected by our successors in due course.    [Mary Beard, The Guardian (UK), Oct 3]

Quirky Inc.(founded 2009), an invention startup, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy, showing the challenges of picking winners when it comes to consumer products and investment opportunities. ... raise $170 million from several firms ...  though it is poised to accept a $15 million [Flextronics International Ltd (Singapore)] offer for its Wink subsidiary, a software platform for smart-home products.   [By Stephanie Gleason and Ted Mann, Wajj Street Journal, Sep 22, 15]

Rachel Jackson invented a medical device, got it approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is now selling it in 16 stores and pharmacies across the country. ...  is a full-time corporate attorney and has only taken on $30,000 in outside investment thus far.  ... Rachel's Remedy's core product aims to solve the discomfort, often severe, that women experience while breastfeeding. ...  Jackson invented a moist-heat/cold treatment with a waterproof pouch that can help with clogged ducts, engorgement, mastitis and general milk stimulation. The technology, for which a patent is pending, is the only FDA-cleared product of its ilk for nursing mothers.  [Dan Miner, Buffalo Business First, Sep 21, 15]

A seller's market.  While Deloitte is on the hunt to hire 1,000 new employees here — many in IT and systems engineering — small tech companies like DiSTI Corp. can’t find the qualified talent to fill their software developer positions. ... Small companies are blaming the bigger firms like Lockheed Martin, Harris Corp. and EA Tiburon for soaking up all the tech talent and driving up salaries.   [Matthew Richardson, Orlando Business Journal, Aug 14]

Don’t Coronate [X] Just Yet.  From the verb to crown came the noun coronation; to revert to the verb, the writer (from the New York Times yet) comes the back-formation typical of the Pemtagon, to coronate. BTW: how many use to orientate as the verb that goes with orientation?

General Electric is currently bidding on $11 billion of projects that require export financing. GE has reached an agreement with the French export credit agency (COFACE) to provide a line of credit for global power projects. ... GE will move approximately 500 jobs from Texas, South Carolina, Maine and New York to France, Hungary and China.  ... The U.S. remains the only major economy in the world without an Export Bank. Since the U.S. Export Import Bank (Ex-Im) authorization expired July 1, GE has commenced talks with several foreign export credit agencies (ECAs) to secure financing for its customers.  [company press release, Sep 15] The free-market Republican corporate welfare hawks got their way at least temporarily, with consequences for not playing the international game of public financing for national exports. Could SBIR be their next corporate welfare target, or is the small biz lobby tougher than GE?

the biggest reason for optimism is the emergence of China Inc as a powerhouse of innovation. If the country is to sustain strong growth in the future, it must rely on fresh waves of entrepreneurialism and innovation of the kind that have recently propelled it forward. As this report has shown, such dynamism has not, and will not, come from stodgy state firms. It can be delivered only by the private sector.  [The Economist, Sep 12] How to slow China's innovation: convince them that government subsidized "innovation" in small high tech biz will juice their growth rate.  Hey, that story sells in the halls of Congress as SBIR is permanently insulated from open competition and is managed by a safety-first government.

Aiming by kirigami.  researchers have shown that by cutting solar cells into specific designs using kirigami, a variation of origami which entails cutting in addition to folding, they can allow the cells to track the sun’s angle without having to tilt the whole panel. This could have a substantial payoff: solar panels with tracking mechanisms can generate 20 to 40 percent more energy per year than those without trackers.  [Mike Orcutt, technoogyreview,com, Sep11, 15]

New innovation fad. Durham, for example, has resurrected itself as a hot spot for the creative class – filling its downtown warehouses with hundreds of entrepreneurs anchored by significant investment by Duke University. This includes the newly announced “Durham Innovation District” that will feature one million square feet of office, retail, and residential space, functioning as a downtown research hub with an emphasis on life science companies. [Christopher Gergen is CEO of Forward Impact and Stephen Martin, a director at the nonprofit Center for Creative Leadership, Raleigh News & Observer, Sep 13, 15] Innovation Disrict is an invention of Brookings Institution authors Bruce Katz and Julie Wagner. 

Startup slowdown.   Now, investors are wary of writing big checks to startups. A possible slowdown in consumer demand for tech products and services, as well as losses on stock investments, are affecting price tags for big startups and drying up cash for smaller deals, investors say.  ....  The downward pressure on price tags is hurting small startups even more, as their very survival is at stake. [Wall Street Journal, Sep 14]   In China, that is.

Gigantic printers. A Dutch startup is even planning to print a bridge. MX3D, a company spun out by a furniture-maker, will use an external 3D printing system it has developed to print a footbridge across a canal in Amsterdam ....Skanska, a giant Swedish construction company, is working with Loughborough University in Britain to develop a high-performance concrete-printing robot. ...  Winsun, a Chinese company, has built a number of 3D-printed houses, including a five-storey apartment building ... A self-contained process to do that is being developed by Behrokh Khoshnevis at the University of Southern California [working with NASA]. Called contour crafting, the process uses robots to print an entire building using locally gathered materials. ...  Stratasys (Eden Prairie, MN, no SBIR), an American producer of 3D printers, said recently that one of its machines had been used by Airbus to make more than 1,000 parts, typically for interior use, for the first A350 XWB airliner. ...  GE says only 3D printing will be able to make the fuel nozzles for its next generation of jet engines.  [The Economist, Sep 5, 15]

The name of Poet was almost forgotten; that of Orator was usurped by the sophists. A cloud of critics, of compilers, of commentators, darkened the face of learning, and the decline of genius was soon followed by the corruption of taste. [Edward Gibbon, 1776, long before modern politics, on Roman literature, quoted by Epstein, Commentary, Sep 2015]

Patents not needed?  most of the wonders of the modern age, from mule-spinning to railways, steamships to gas lamps, seemed to have emerged without the help of patents. If the Industrial Revolution didn’t need them, why have them at all? ... A growing amount of research in recent years, including a 2004 studyby America’s National Academy of Sciences, suggests that, with a few exceptions such as medicines, society as a whole might even be better off with no patents than with the mess that is today’s system. ...  When changes in the rate of innovation do occur, they seem to have little to do with patents. Mr Boldrin and Mr Levine observe that in industries from chemicals to carmaking to computer software, waves of innovation began with a surge in inventiveness with lots of participants. Patents only started to be filed years later, once the innovation had died down and the incumbents in the maturing industry were seeking to exclude new entrants, as well as to protect themselves from their rivals’ lawsuits. Patents were a result of successful innovation; its cause was competition.  [The Economist, Aug 8]

UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering is giving Bay Area companies the chance to mentor and mold the newest talent coming out of the UC system. Last week, the engineering school opened the headquarters for the new Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation in the 24,000-square-foot Jacobs Hall. The haven for "makers" and "tinkerers" has five design studios and was created to give artists and engineers from all over Berkeley’s campus a space to collaborate and innovate.  ...Jacobs Hall has a price tag of just under $25 million ...The largest donation, of $20 million, was made by Dr. Paul Jacobs, executive chairman of Qualcomm    [Teresa Mathew, San Francisco Business Times, Aug 28, 15]

Thermodynamics demands its price.  A new method for taking carbon dioxide directly from the air and converting it to oxygen and nanoscale fibers made of carbon could lead to an inexpensive way to make a valuable building material—and may even serve as a weapon against climate change.   ....  says Stuart Licht, a professor of chemistry at George Washington University.  The problem is that it’s very expensive to make carbon fibers  [Mike Orcutt, technologyreview.com, Aug 19]  It's even doubly hard when the carbon comes from separaing it from carbon in carbon dioxide which was formed by giving up all the energy that came from the burning reaction. Thermodynamics demands its price. The reason the raw material is so cheap to collect from the air is that it has no energy value.

Can the UK really take on the might of Silicon Valley? [American ex-pat Eileen] Burbidge has no hesitation. “With regards to fintech, I don’t merely think the UK can ‘take on’ Silicon Valley. I know for certain that we can lead it and the rest of the world – and that we are in fact already doing so. There is no question that most technology innovation in financial services is coming from London.”  [The (UK) Observer, Aug 23, 15]

Start-Up Chile has put a country best known for its vast copper mines on the radar of global techies, who have nicknamed Santiago, its capital, “Chilecon Valley.” Almost 18,000 start-ups from 130 countries have applied. And about 1,050 firms from 77 countries, 20% of them Chilean, have been accepted into a program that requires them to operate here for at least six months. ...  But since Start-Up Chile spent $40 million on grants, its economic achievements have been limited. About 80% of the foreign firms that are accepted leave after meeting the required six-month stay.  [Ryan Dube, Wall Street Journal, Aug 23]

Computers from laptops to supercomputers could get a major speed boost next year, thanks to a new kind of hard drive developed by Intel. Intel Optane drives, as they will be called, are based on a new way to store digital data that can operate as much as 1,000 times as fast as the flash memory technology inside hard drives, memory sticks, and mobile devices today.  [Tom Simonite, technologyreview.com, Aug 18, 15]

Data showing weak corporate investment, [business economists] argue, fail to capture powerful new trends in technology and business practices. They also say the nature of production has changed: Technology and connectivity are making machines more efficient. Software and data processing also are reducing the need for traditional capital-goods equipment. [Wall Street Journal, Aug 16] It's a great world for software developers to improve existing hardware, a world where tech risk is low and government help not needed.

 Rainmaking. The [state funded] Oregon Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network (RAIN) is partnering with Portland entrepreneur and investor Nitin Rai on a new regional seed fund in an effort to close the funding gap for startups around the state.  Rai will oversee what will be a regional early-stage fund. While the fund will likely be larger, between $2 million and $4 million will be focused on companies in RAIN's geographic area of the south Willamette Valley and mid-coast region.  [Malia Spencer, Portland Business Journal, Aug 14]

Drain America First. Energy companies eager to export American crude oil scored a victory when Washington [U.S. Commerce Department] agreed to allow them to trade oil with Mexico, in a further erosion of the four-decade ban on selling U.S. crude overseas. [Wall Street Journal, Aug 14] Capitalism's short term approach to natural resources. The government could have handed profits to the oil companies by buying for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, but that would have meant Spending!, a Republican anathema. The government could devote some spending to another natural resourse extraction industry hangover: The leak of toxic sludge from an old gold mine in Colorado highlights the challenge of cleaning up the thousands of abandoned mine sites in the West.

International firms poured $236 billon into the United States in 2013, a 35% increase from the year before—more than any country in the world. ...  What’s attracting this gusher of capital? The report by the Organization for International Investment notes America’s strengths: a world-class system of higher education, a skilled and productive workforce, an entrepreneurial culture of innovation and risk taking, a transparent regulatory environment; and, the largest venture capital and private equity market in the world. [Paul Brandus, marketwatch.com, Aug 16]  Don't believe politicians who cry disaster that only they can redeem with a simple solution.  Watch the actions of people who put their own money and future at risk.

Leave [stock] market predictions to the true professionals: fortune tellers. Listening to predictions is an amusing parlor game, but it can cost you money.    [Michael Sincere, Market Watch, Aug 13]

Where's the productivity?  The things at which Google and its peers excel, from Internet search to mobile software, are changing how we work, play and communicate, yet have had little discernible macroeconomic impact. Productivity—the goods and services a worker produces in an hour—grew just 0.4% per year over the past five years, one of the slowest stretches in the period since World War II. This is troubling, because over the long run productivity determines our standard of living. ...  One explanation is that as knowledge accumulates, truly transformative discoveries become harder. A 2012 article in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery found that the number of new drugs approved per $1 billion spent on research and development had halved roughly every nine years since 1950.    [Greg Ip, Wall Street Journal, Aug 12]  The bottom line is that we do not know how to make more new jobs on the scale of post-WW II growth, no matter how many politicians claim economic magic. Don't believe a word of what they say about economics; they just don't know.

FitzRoy became a national celebrity, called the “Clerk of the Weather” in the newspapers. Within six months, his storm warning project had evolved into full-blown weather predictions issued under a new term of his own: forecasts. Despite huge popular appeal, they remained highly controversial. Religious men doubted whether anyone could pretend to know the mind of God, while scientists attacked the admiral’s lack of theory and penny-pinching members of Parliament complained about the cost of telegraphy. ... These climate disputes continue to resonate in part because meteorology is among the most difficult of sciences. It is one of the few fields of applied science that demands prediction  [PETER MOORE, NY Times, AUG. 7, 2015]  We excoriate what we do not want to hear as we try to force-fit science into our beliefs.  And when that does not work well, attack the science.

we've never had it so good in many ways. economist Max Roser, based at the University of Oxford, spends his time digging through data on human living standards across countries and decades, and makes jazzy graphs and slides for his website OurWorldInData.org [Joseph D'Orso, Reuters, Aug 10]

Competition everywhere. In July, I took an Uber from Denver to Aspen for $240, less than half the cost of any timely alternative. It was scenic and fun, and I connected with the driver. Compare that to my United Airlines experience for that reverse route months earlier, when I paid double what I paid Uber, plus got hit with $250 in excess-baggage fees and was told a two-day-old policy barred me from checking my bags to another airline. (Thus, I missed my connecting Delta flight.) Yes, Uber was a great substitute for United. [Gary Shapiro. The American Spectator, Aug 6]  Uber is the kind of competitor that works well until something goes wrong, leaving the customer with no workable recourse like system backup or rescue capacity.

Blood test worry?  If 12 blood tests are performed on a healthy person, there is almost a 50% probability that a least one result will be outside the normal range. 

Six start-ups have been chosen by the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce to compete for an all-expenses-paid trip to Silicon Valley to pitch their story to top investors.  One has potential for substantial return:  Swallow Solutions (Madison, WI; no SBIR) develops products for people with swallowing difficulties. The company raised $1 million of outside funding in 2013. [Kathleen Gallagher, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Aug 5, 15] The rest all seem low risk, low capital barrier, jobs of decent engineering.

Starting a tech firm has never been easier. Not only does it cost less, but there are more “angel” investors who are willing to write small cheques to breathe life into founders’ ideas. It’s the next stage that demands nerves and deep pockets. Most entrepreneurs and venture capitalists subscribe to the view that technology markets work on a winner-take-most basis. Businesses like Uber’s thrive on “network effects”; the bigger their presence, the more it makes sense for drivers and passengers to do business with them, rather than their rivals. Thus the company that establishes itself early enjoys disproportionate rewards. “First prize is a Cadillac Eldorado…Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired,” explains Stewart Butterfield, the boss of Slack, a two-year-old software company with a $2.8 billion valuation, quoting from David Mamet’s play “Glengarry Glen Ross” [The Economist, Jul 25, 2015]

drumming up capital without the help of the public markets is unprecedentedly easy. In the face of low interest rates, investors have scrambled to find any sort of yield. Mutual funds such as Fidelity and T. Rowe Price are investing in unicorns in late-stage rounds, as are hedge funds, sovereign-wealth funds and large firms.  [The Economist, Jul 25, 2015]

Margaret Hutchinson, a resourceful chemical engineer who in the 1940s developed a fermentation method to mass-produce [penicillin]. ... made the drug available to millions of GIs, died fairly anonymously on a winter’s day in Massachusetts  [Jon Gertner reviewing Guru Madhavan's Applied Minds:How Engineers Think, Wall Street Journal, Aug 3]

Great Man Illusion. Musk’s success would not have been possible without, among other things, government funding for basic research and subsidies for electric cars and solar panels. Above all, he has benefited from a long series of innovations in batteries, solar cells, and space travel. He no more produced the technological landscape in which he operates than the Russians created the harsh winter that allowed them to vanquish Napoleon  [Amanda Shaeffer, technologyreview.com, Aug 3] 

The eurozone is stuck in permanent depression. The wheels are starting to come off the Chinese economy. The Brics, all the rage just a few years ago, have lost much of their shine  ...  [The US] economy is growing at a decent rate again. ...  The trouble is the 2016 presidential race is likely to be a catastrophe for American competitiveness. From Donald Trump on the Right, to Hillary Clinton on the Left, all the leading candidates are pushing policies that are likely to set the economy back a decade or more.   Whoever wins in 2016 is likely to bring a lot of anti-business baggage into the White House. None of that will make much difference next year or the year after. But if the US doesn’t have a Ronald Reagan or even a Bill Clinton who can reverse its declining competitiveness soon, then it will be a huge problem for the 2020s – because there won’t be an American engine to keep the global economy moving forward.  [Matthew Lynn, The Telegraph [UK], Aug 3] Unfortunately, democracy encourages irresponsible and empty political speech to get voters' attention.  Platitudes outshout workable economics.

In the past, new industries hired far more people than those they put out of business. But this is not true of many of today’s new industries.  [TIME, 1961]  Every tech advance in productivity moves capitalism away from human employment and towards responsive devices.  Yet, as politicians bemoan the need for jobs, it nevertheless finances tech advance in productivity.  Meanwhile, half the politicians want to reduce the societal safety net for the masses without enough work to afford necessities of life. What is a rich capitalistic society to do?   David Autor argues that the interplay between machine and human comparative advantage allows computers to substitute for workers in performing routine, codifiable tasks while amplifying the comparative advantage of workers in supplying problem-solving skills, adaptability, and creativity.  [J Economic Perspectives, Sum 15]  Since Autor is an academic economist, he can limit the problem he studies as he sees fit, in this case to just the capitalists and the well-educated knowledge workers. The rest can take in each other's laundry.

World's most wired city. As part of hosting the Summer Olympics in 1992, Barcelona had converted its abandoned textile-factory district into a tech hub called @22, which now houses dozens of startups, and laid a network of fiber-optic cables that today covers 310 square miles. The existing fiber-optic cables alone cut the upfront cost of the smart-city programs from what might have been 300 million euros to about 30 million euros, according to Ferrer. ... Juniper Research this year ranked Barcelona its No. 1 smart city ... The tech companies that build this new infrastructure stand to gain even more. IBM, Cisco, and Microsoft, all of which have invested heavily in developing and manufacturing pieces of the infrastructure, see cities as a key to growth. Navigant estimates that by 2023 technology companies will do about $27.5 billion a year in smart-city business.  [Vivienne Walt, Fortune, Jul 29]

As Theodore Sturgeon famously observed, 90 percent of science fiction is crap, but then again 90 percent of everything is crap.  In the world of online investment opinions, Sturgeon was an optimist.  [Barry Ritholz,washingtonpost.com, Aug 1]

Five professors at UCal Davis have won grants [$50K each] from the university to bring their research to the marketplace. ...  selected from a total of 35 applications.   ... an artificial arterial graft, a drug candidate to treat multiple sclerosis, microscope technology that examines tissue without the need for glass slides,  a wireless, wearable pressure sensor for the management of varicose veins under compression therapy, an imaging technology for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease.  ...  The STAIR grant program, in its second year, is managed and run by Venture Catalyst, a unit of the university’s Technology Management and Corporate Relations division.  [Mark Anderson, Sacramento Business Journal, Jul 30, 15] STAIR wants to facilitate demonstration of early proof -of-concept and commercial potential or feasibility for technologies being developed with the intent of commercial translation. ...  including an objective to promote SBIR/STTR grant applications by subsequent startups benefiting from license rights to the underlying technologies   [STAIR website]  Nice sounding objectives of hope from a little money but no economic evaluation yet.

Goldman Sachs, arguably the most powerful bank in the world, quietly, without fanfare, is making a play to become one of the most influential investors in technology startups. According to research firm CB Insights, the Wall Street bank has participated in 132 fund-raising rounds in private technology companies since 2009, with 77 of those deals made in the past 2.5 years alone.  Its activities rival those of the top venture capital firms in Silicon Valley   [Bloomberg Markets, Sep 2015]

Maturity. Just three of every 20 devices sold this year will run Microsoft’s Windows, researcher Gartner estimated in a forecast of PC, tablet and smartphone sales. ... Microsoft has billed Windows as a service ... With Windows 10, Microsoft has tried to stop chasing device types. Instead, the aim is to create an operating system so good that people will want it to follow them from screen to screen, analysts say.  [Matt Day, Seattle Times, Jul 25]

 Lagging in tech. Teitelbaum vehemently denies that we are lagging in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, now commonly abbreviated as STEM. Still, he writes that there are facts to be faced:   In less than 15 years, China has moved from 14th place to second place in published research articles;  General Electric has now located the majority of its R&D personnel outside the US;  Only four of the top ten companies receiving US patents last year were United States companies; The US ranks 27th among developed nations in the proportion of college students receiving undergraduate degrees in science or engineering.  .... A decade ago, the Business Roundtable was urging that we “double the number of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics graduates with bachelor’s degrees by 2015.” We’re now at that year, but the number of degrees awarded in those fields has barely budged.  [Andrew Hacker, New York Review of Books, Jul 9, 15]

start-up accelerator gener8tor has launched an effort to pull more promising ideas out of Wisconsin’s universities and turn them into companies. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jul 23]

 The great virtue of capitalism is that it adapts to ruinous conditions and even finds ways of turning them to advantage. The United States in the mid-nineteenth century was badly suited for a single currency and a single economic structure, as evidenced by the Civil War, which was provoked as much by single-currency tensions as by moral abhorrence to slavery. Italy would probably be better off today if Garibaldi had never launched unification.  But once unification has happened, the pain of dismantling the political and economic settlement usually overwhelms the apparent gains from a break-up. [Anatole Kaletsky, project-syndicate.org, Jul 23]

What's your treatment worth? A Houston philanthropist couple [Laura and John Arnold Foundation] plans to announce that they are providing a $5.2 million grant to a Boston nonprofit, the Institute of Clinical and Economic Review, to expand the group’s research evaluating whether new drugs are worth their price tags. ICER research has already made a mark: Some U.S. drug-plan managers credited the nonprofit last year with helping them secure big discounts on expensive new hepatitis C drugs, after ICER concluded the therapies would only be cost-effective at half their price.  [Peter Loftus, Wall Street Journal, Jul 20, 15]

 When one has a heart-to-heart talk with many seemingly rational people, they turn out to have crazy theories. These people influence markets, because all other investors must reckon with them; and their craziness is not going away anytime soon. [Robert Shiller, project-syndicate.org, Jul 15]

Almost everyone has heard of Einstein, Hawking and Higgs, but how many people could name a single experimenter, still less one who has altered the course of science by designing a revolutionary device?  One such experimenter was Ernest Lawrence (1901-58), the American who invented a surprisingly compact device that could accelerate tiny particles to high energies by cleverly deploying a combination of electric and magnetic fields. Known as the cyclotron, the original design is a forerunner of today’s most powerful particle accelerators ...  Like many talented American physicists in the 1920s, he beat a path to the doors of the great European experimenters who had founded nuclear physics using brilliant desktop experiments.  ... Lawrence died after an operation in 1958, at age 57, apparently exhausted after decades of workaholism.   [Graham Farmelo, reviewing Big Science by Michael Hiltzik biography of Lawrence, Wall Street Journal, Jul 10, 15] 

IBM says it has achieved a breakthrough in shrinking computer chips, creating a test version of the world's first semiconductor that shrinks down the circuitry by overcoming what's been "one of the grand challenges" of the industry.  [AP, Jul 9]

Seattle is funding its first-ever manufacturing incubator to encourage small start-up companies within the city. ...  Applications due Sept. 4 [Steve Wilhelm, Puget Sound Business Journal, Jul 2, 15]

when it comes to support for world-changing science, today’s tech leaders think small. The world awaits the first Nobel Prize for a Google, Apple, or Amazon scientist  ...  It could be a long wait, given the paltry spending by leading tech companies on the kind of basic science that fuels revolutions and changes civilization.  ...  today’s accomplishments from Silicon Valley firms are all about products: self-driving cars, clever Apps, thinner smartphones, drones, robotic warehouses, virtual-reality goggles, or a $100,000 electric car.  [Mark Mills, city-journal.org, Jul 1] Most of SBIR has the same short-term focus because the federal agencies organize their SBIR as a copy of their mainstream R&D. And a major contributer to that approach is the greed of the small biz lobby for more federal prime contracts - a goal with no relevance to breakthrough technology. The more of agencies tech programs diverted to social programs, the more the pressure from mainstream R&D to re-capture the money. Read the drivel from the SBIR advocates on "success."

Microbeads banned. [Wisconsin] bans manufacturers from using tiny plastic beads in products after studies showed they are turning up in the Great Lakes and other waterways.  The small bits of plastics — known as microbeads — are added to products because of their abrasive qualities. They are flushed down sinks and toilets and eventually find their way into streams, rivers and lakes. Scientists say the beads carry harmful environmental effects because they resemble fish eggs. Fish and other aquatic life eat them, absorbing toxins and potentially harming shorebirds — and possibly humans who consume the fish.  [Lee Bergquist, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jul 1, 15]

Competition for innovators.  downtown San Jose’s office vacancy rate stands at 15.61 percent, while North San Jose’s is 13.83 percent, Palo Alto’s is 5.65 percent, San Francisco’s is 5 percent and Mountain View’s is 2.15 percent, according to Newmark Cornish & Carey’s Clark Steele, Santa Clara director of research. ... “Not every tech worker is 24 years old, single and wants to pay thousands of dollars a month for a studio,” he said. ... It’s the moment to say, ‘come down to San Jose.’”  [Angela Swartz, Silicon Valley Business Journal, Jun 26]

Contract research company Parexel is eliminating 850 positions, abiut 5% of its world force.. [company press release Jun 25]

New microbes and new techniques show promise for advanced biofuels, but the industry is still years away from real progress. ... Shrinking government funding, investor disenchantment, low oil prices, and concerns over the loss of food cropland to grow corn and sugarcane for biomass have combined to bring the industry close to a standstill.  [Richard Martin, technologyreview.com, Jun 29]

Micron Technology stock fell [18%] as the biggest U.S. maker of memory chips issued a sales forecast that missed analysts’ estimates because of weaker demand for personal-computer components. [Ian King, Bloomberg News, Jun 26, 15]

Shares of cybersecurity firms in the U.S. have surged to dizzying heights this year after a series of high-profile data breaches. Some analysts think the stocks have gotten too expensive.  [Wall Street Journal, Jun 28]

 90 startups at risk. Startups are staying private longer than ever, and the key to this phenomenon is that these big investors are willing to hand them money despite the fact their having not yet gone through the baptism by fire that is an initial public offering, which includes scrutiny from the Securities and Exchange Commission, sell-side analysts and the financial press. ...   “There’s one thing that’s crystal clear, which is that as soon as the market has a downturn, private unicorns will almost certainly disappear,” says Jason Lemkin, managing director of venture-capital firm Storm Ventures. “We’ll have a tenth as many as we have today.” If Mr. Lemkin is right, globally that would mean the demotion of about 90 startups. ... My bet is that the number who survive will be lower than many suspect.   [Christopher Mims, Wall Street Journal, Jun 28]

The Reproducibility Project: Cancer Biology, an ambitious, open-science effort to test whether key findings in top journals can be reproduced by independent labs, has stirred concerns in the community. Almost every scientist targeted by the project who spoke with Science agrees that studies in cancer biology, as in many other fields, too often turn out to be irreproducible.  [Jocelyn Kaiser, Science, Jun 25, 15]

Your idea not catching on? Alexander Fleming discovered the antibiotic effects of the mold penicillium in 1928. It was one of the most important discoveries of all time. But a decade later, penicillin was still a laboratory toy. John Mailer and Barbara Mason of Northern Illinois University wrote:      Ten years after Fleming's discovery, penicillin's chemical structure was still unknown, and the substance was not available in sufficient amounts for medical research. In fact, few scientists thought it had much of a future. It wasn't until World War II, almost 20 years later, that penicillin was used in mass scale.  ....  When Charles Townes invented the laser in the 1950s, it was dismissed as 'an invention looking for a job',   [Morgan Housel, Why It Feels Like We're Falling Behind, June 26, 2015] BTW, Fleming's modest little lab has been reconstructed in place in London.

“There is great uncertainty about how the economy works,” the BIS says. This is more than a throwaway line. Ignorance subverts confidence, and doubt hampers a vigorous recovery.   [Robert Samuelson, Washington Post, Jun 29] That economists disagree is well known: If all the economist were laid end-to-end, they would still not teach a conclusion. goes a popular aphorism. All of which means that evry economic entity is on its own to predict and unrpredictable future. And the Repubican Congress in its wisdom disdains investing in research in social questions like how does the economy really work.

double capacity of fiber-optic circuits The researchers said they had set a transmission record for a fiber-optic message, sending it more than 7,400 miles in a laboratory experiment without having to regenerate the signal. ... supported in part by Google and Sumitomo Electric Industries, a maker of fiber-optic cables, is a step closer to the vision of an “all-optical network,” according to Nikola Alic, one of the authors of the paper ... Last month, Cisco reported that annual transmitted global Internet data would pass a threshold of one zettabyte, or the equivalent of 250 billion DVDs, by the end of 2016.  By comparison, all of the information stored on the World Wide Web in 2013 was estimated to be four zettabytes. [John Markoff, New York Times, Jun 25, 15]

studies examining the effect of China’s entry to the World Trade Organization in late 2001 have made the case that between 1 million and more than 2 million of the 5 million American factory jobs lost since 2000 are traceable to low-cost imports. .... “The ‘aha' moment,” said Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist David Autor, “was when we traced through the industries in which China had surging exports to the local addresses of their U.S. competitors and saw the powerful correspondence between where China had surged and where U.S. manufacturing employment had collapsed.”  [Peter Gosselin and Mike Dorning, Bloomberg News, Jun 19]  Robotics at home and cheap labor in Asian factories eat away at US labor and the consumer economics that come from employed workers.

For the truly dedicated:  Antwerp introduces 'text lanes' for pedestrians who are glued to their mobiles  [The Independent, Jun 12]

Sorry, Seattle — it looks like the city isn’t going to be building its own fiber-optic network to bring you faster, cheaper internet any time soon.  The realization came as part of the feasibility study showed the pipe dream could cost $665 million. [Jacob Demmitt, Puget Sound Business Journal, Jun 9]  Free services have to be paid for by someone, just like any other free lunch.

Unseating Silicon Valley, Austin has moved up to be the No. 1 U.S. city for startups in the latest annual Kauffman Index report.  ...  Miami as No. 2, with Los Angeles as No. 4, followed by Denver, San Francisco, and New York City  [Michael Theis, Austin Business Journal, Jun 4]

Sensing that the next generation of industrial automation and robots is about to reshape manufacturing, a group of Milwaukee-area economic strategists would like to create a Midwest Smart Manufacturing Institute. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jun 8, 15]

Korea on  the march. the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology claimed a $2 million [DARPA] prize for developing a mobile robot capable of operating in hazardous environments. ...   Twenty-five teams  competed ...  The robots were graded on their ability to complete eight tasks, including driving a vehicle, opening a door, operating a portable drill, turning a valve and climbing stairs, all in the space of an hour.  ... Despite clear progress, the robots remain decades away from the science-fiction feats seen in movies like “Ex Machina”  [John Markoff, New York Times, Jun 6, 15]  While Silicon Valley is the largest and most enduring locus of tech innovation, a number of cities around the planet are nipping at its heels: Tel Aviv, Berlin, Bangalore. But Seoul is in a sense the Valley’s closest rival. American investors are beginning to catch on, and venture capital is starting to flow west, across the Pacific.   [JENNA WORTHAM, NY Times, JUNE 2, 2015]  Expect some political gnashing about helping foreign competition.

Wisconsin has dropped to dead last in the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation ranking for start-up activity, according to a report issued this week. ...  The top five states on the Kauffman list were: Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, Colorado and Vermont. The states with the lowest rankings for entrepreneurial activity were: West Virginia, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Alabama and Wisconsin. [Kathleen Gallagher, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jun 5]

If, 30 years ago, a visitor from the future had said that the Soviet Union had collapsed, Japan’s stock market had stagnated for a quarter century, China had become a superpower and North Dakota had helped turn the U.S. into a fast-growing source of crude oil, few would have believed it.  The next 30 years will be just as surprising. [Morgan Housel, WSJ, Jun 5]

A hiring surge in Silicon Valley and California, much of it driven by the tech boom, is helping to drive the Bay Area and the state closer to full employment levels, according to a report by a closely watched economic forecast.  [George Avalos, San Jose Mercury News, Jun 3]

Tech revolution with no patents.   the Internet as a whole has never been the subject of a courtroom patent contest because it was developed in government labs as a response to the military contingencies of the Cold War. No lawyers took part when ARPANET merged with other networks to become the civilian Internet. And when the British physicist Tim Berners-Lee decided in 1989 to develop a new protocol—the World Wide Web—to share his research resources globally, he chose to make it a free, unpatented gift to all. [Graeme Gooday, Boston Review, May 13, 2015]

about 250 Disney employees were told in late October that they would be laid off. Many of their jobs were transferred to immigrants on temporary visas for highly skilled technical workers, who were brought in by an outsourcing firm based in India. Over the next three months, some Disney employees were required to train their replacements to do the jobs they had lost.  ...  [one] former Disney employee who is 57 worked in project management and software development. His résumé lists a top-level skill certification and command of seven operating systems, 15 program languages and more than two dozen other applications and media. [New York Times, Jun 3, 15] So much for employer bleating on the need for foreign tech workers because US workers are insufficient. It's just capitalism and politics at work. 

The process of starting and building a business, however, is evolving fast. Thanks to cloud computing and smartphones, among other things, it has become much cheaper and easier to get going. This has led to an explosion of young firms seeking, at least initially, sums not worth a VC’s attention: first financing rounds in the tens of thousands of dollars are common, as opposed to the millions that prevailed during the dotcom bubble.  ...  At the same time, the low returns on many other investments have driven more money towards startups. In America alone VC funds raised more than $30 billion in 2014—nearly twice as much as the previous year, according to the National Venture Capital Association. They are now managing investments of $157 billion. But rival forms of finance for new firms are also growing fast. For instance, America now boasts more than 300,000 “angels” [The Economist, May 16]

"As long as we can make the most of talented people and give full play to innovation, China's development will have a promising future and the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation will be soon," Xi was quoted as saying by CCTV. ....  It comes amid worries that slowing growth could spark mass unemployment, creating social friction and adding to the estimated 150,000 incidents of unrest striking the vast nation each year.  [Christopher Bodeen, AP, May 28] Can a partly planned economy make the most of innovation?  Well, although politicians like to talk about innovation as though they invented it, valuable innovation is driven by the chance of economic exploitation.

The American who celebrates every “advance” of science or technology, who perhaps wishes to be young forever—this person, says Mr. Gray, is not much less delusional than the ISIS recruit who wants to bring forth the new caliphate or the Catholic nun who toils away in expectation of the afterlife. All of these figures are infected with the idea of history having a meaningful direction.  [Thomas Meaney reviewing Gray's the Soul of the Marionette, WSJ, May 28]

Krugman is too smart to buy into anti-technological counterhype, but he remains skeptical of 3-D printing and Big Data as transformative developments. He’s right that trendy technologies suck up oxygen when we could use more debate on, say, the Trans-Pacific Partnership or climate change. I’d also add that too much ink is spilled on pseudoscientific debates between techno-utopians and dystopians pondering how many A.I.s can dance on the head of a pin before they kill us all.  [David Auerbach,  software blogger, slate.com,  May 28]

Venture Bank (Bloomington, MN) is almost exclusively a small-business lender. And it has grown over 14 years to be one of the Twin Cities’ largest small-business lenders, even though it is smaller than several competitors. ...   thanks to a stick-to-its-knitting strategy, never strayed into commercial real estate development, ... “My little part of the economy is 4,000 business clients who average about 60 to 70 employees apiece,” [President] Zenk said. [Neal St Anthony, Minneapolis Star Tribune, May 22]

economists who predicted that the digital revolution would unleash unprecedented improvement in living standards have, so far, had it mostly wrong.  In 1987, the Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Solow was among the first to notice the unexpected gap between promise and reality.  ... A quarter-century later, the so-called Solow Paradox describes the condition of stagnating productivity and incomes amid technological plenty. ... the nature of computerization is qualitatively different from that of industrialization.  Rather than simply changing what workers help machines to make, the digital economy outright replaces workers with machines. By one estimate, nearly half of all occupations are at risk of being automated within 20 years.  The tendency of technology to disproportionately reward the most educated and tech-savvy among us explains much of the extreme concentration of wealth in America and elsewhere.    [Tom Saler,  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 23] Unhappily, just recognizing the dilemma does not solve it. Capitalism drives for efficiency without regard to external effect, while politics drives for election by overlooking inconvenient facts for an electorate generally ignorant of economics. The effect is to alternate between pro- and anti-capitalism solutions while the economics drive inexorably on.

SeedingSeed company HM Clause opened its life science innovation center startup incubator with four tenant companies. ... It is offering the lab space in partnership with the University of California Davis Venture Catalyst Start program. The incubator has space for up to 14 spots  [Mark Anderson, Sacramento Business Journal, May 8, 15]

The new headquarters for the Colorado Technology Association (CTA) and the latest gathering spot for startups and entrepreneurs opens in downtown Denver. ...  a public-private partnership between the city government and the Downtown Denver Partnership (DDP).  ...  will emphasize helping people learn how to start and expand a business.   [Greg Avery, Denver Business Journal, May 13, 15]

General Motors will spend [$1 billion] on a makeover of its iconic Warren Technical Center, an aging facility that has long served as one of the auto industry’s storied hubs of car design and engineering.  [Gerald Baker, WSJ, May 15]

Martin Ford’s “Rise of the Robots” offers a more prosaic reason for concern: Partially intelligent machines might render humans not so much extinct as redundant. “No one doubts that technology has the power to devastate entire industries and upend specific sectors of the economy and job market,” writes Mr. Ford, a Silicon Valley software developer turned futurist. [SUMIT PAUL-CHOUDHURY, Wall Street Journal, May 15]

Foreign funded startups. announcement of a new life sciences company in the Triangle, based on the growing confidence that scientists are within striking distance of an AIDS cure. The new venture, Qura Therapeutics, will be equally owned by UNC-Chapel Hill, a national hub for AIDS research, and GlaxoSmithKline, the world’s second-largest maker of HIV drugs, and will be housed on UNC’s campus. [John Murawski, Raleigh News & Observer, May 10, 15]  Meanwhile, Google’s first campus for startups and entrepreneurs in Asia opened in a glitzy neighborhood of South Korea’s capital, Seoul. [Seatle Times, May 10]  Capital more mobile than humans.

In a world saturated with excess automotive capacity and dominated by some of the most formidable engineering, manufacturing and marketing organizations on the planet—Toyota, BMW and Ford, to name just three—–there is no way that an amateurish circus barker like Elon Musk will ever make a profit selling electric vanity cars to the 1%.  [David Stockman, Contra Corner blog, May 8]  The same argument was probably made by about the first horseless carriages.

“If people weren’t so often wrong, we wouldn’t be so rich.” -- Charlie Munger.  If you do not know who Charlie is, you have missed the great wealth accumulation machine that is Berkshire Hathaway.

In this year’s presidential address to the American Financial Association, Luigi Zingales asked “Does Finance Benefit Society?”. He concluded that “at the current state of knowledge there is no theoretical reason to support the notion that all the growth of the financial sector in the last 40 years has been beneficial to society”.   ...  Neuroscientists have shown that monetary gain stimulates the same reward circuitry as cocaine – in both cases, dopamine is released into the nucleus accumbens. “In the case of cocaine, we call this addiction. In the case of monetary gain, we call it capitalism"  says Andrew Lo of the Massachsetts Institute of Technology.   [Buttonwood, The Economist, May 1]

Betamore leaders envision the nonprofit as the central node of an entrepreneurship network that spans the greater Baltimore area.  The nonprofit’s Federal Hill offices can be a place for startups to set up a small office, or gather for educational training. Meanwhile a new 44-member advisory board will connect all the key players — investors, business advisors, successful business leaders — across the region. A new website, Baltimoretech.org, is designed to be the virtual welcome mat.  ...  [website] users can create profiles and business pages, add to the events calendar and post job openings.  [Sarah Gantz, Baltimore Business Journal, Apr 26, 15]

Immunexpress, founded in 2006 in Australia and relocated to Seattle in 2010, is working on reinventing the way physicians test patients for sepsis, a type of infection with a high mortality rate. ...  uses gene expression to tell if a patient’s immune system is responding to a septic infection.  ...    The company has raised about $40 million   [Annie Zak, Puget Sound Business Journal, Apr 24, 15]

The Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation is now offering startups rapid prototyping and medical device help through two new partnerships.  CEI, a Phoenix incubator on the campus of GateWay Community College, has partnered with Tempe-based Phoenix Analysis and Design Technologies, or PADT, to provide inexpensive prototyping opportunities with 11 commercial quality 3-D printers. ... The $650,000 worth of 3-D printers was paid for through the original $2 million grant given to CEI to open back in 2013.    [Hayley Ringle, Phoenix Business Journal, Apr 21, 15]

Tech paradise full. Room to grow is evaporating in Silicon Valley as technology giants’ voracious appetites for expansion are running up against residents weary of clogged streets and cramped classrooms. ...  office vacancy is rapidly disappearing, causing rents to soar in the most popular communities.  [Eliot Brown, Wall Street Journal, Apr 27]

Global Glut.  The global economy is awash as never before in commodities like oil, cotton and iron ore, but also with capital and labor—a glut that presents several challenges as policy makers struggle to stoke demand.  “What we’re looking at is a low-growth, low-inflation, low-rate environment,” said Megan Greene, chief economist of John Hancock Asset Management, who added that the global economy could spend the next decade “working this off.”   [Josh Zumbrun and Carolyn Cui, Wall Street Journal, Apr 24, 15]

An aging industry.  Moore’s Law helped bring numerous startups into existence, as cheaper chip technology drove developments like personal computers, smartphones and the Internet. But the force that sparked so much innovation lately has thrown cold water on semiconductor startups.  In 2004, venture capitalists helped 62 chip startups get off the ground with seed or first-round funding, according to Dow Jones VentureSource. Since then, investors have become increasingly wary. Just four startups received first-round infusions in 2013 and seven in 2014, with no seed investments in chip companies either year. [Don Clark, Wall Street Journal, Apr 17]

New emerging market paradigm. As Antoine van Agtmael, the investor who coined the term “emerging markets,” said to me: China is making it harder to innovate in China precisely when rising labor costs in China and rising innovation in America are spurring more companies to build their next plant in the United States, not China. The combination of cheap energy in America and more flexible, open innovation — where universities and start-ups share brainpower with companies to spin off discoveries; where manufacturers use a new generation of robots and 3-D printers that allow more production to go local; and where new products integrate wirelessly connected sensors with new materials to become smarter, faster than ever — is making America, says van Agtmael, “the next great emerging market.”  [Tom Friedman, New York Times, Apr 15, 15]

Evidence suggests that entrepreneurship is in decline and that U.S. firms are becoming older, more entrenched and less dynamic.  In several studies, economists Robert Litan and Ian Hathaway of the Brookings Institution found that start-ups (firms less than a year old) had fallen from 15 percent of all businesses in 1978 to 8 percent in 2011. Meanwhile, older firms (16 years or more) had jumped from 23 percent of businesses in 1992 to 34 percent in 2011. Their share of jobs was even higher, almost three-quarters of all workers. ...  What's worrisome is the weakness of young firms and the apparent erosion of entrepreneurship.  [Robert Samuelson, Washington Post, Apr 13]  According to the small biz blather machine, SBIR was invented to prevent or cure a dearth of entrepereneurship by fair-share handing more government prime contracts to small biz.  Has it worked after thirty years? No one knows, and Congress is not about to ask.

They're coming. China plans to cut red tape and reduce costs for Chinese firms looking to spread their reach overseas to help boost growth and stave off a wider economic slowdown, according to a statement from the ruling State Council.  [Adam Jourdan, Reuters,  Apr 4] The Overseas Chinese have a long history of business abroad.

Every time we see a doctor and don’t die afterward, we demonstrate the inadequacy of counting deaths to track health. [Jeremy N. Smith. New York Times, Apr 2]

Entrepreneurship, at least as a cultural phenomenon, is booming ...  Even so, real rates of entrepreneurship in the United States remain in long-term decline, and we have seen only a tepid recovery since the Great Recession.  With such a disconnect between zeitgeist and macroeconomic fact, local policymakers can be left foundering  [and gasping for a poltically attractive program of economic vitalization] A Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation paper cites four major factors driving the making of a living, breathing entrepreneurial place: density of firms, fluidity of labor, connective networks, diversity of industries. [Dane Stangler, Jordan Bell-Masterson, The Governing Institute, March 27, 2015]  Politicians alert: pumping tax money into an incubator in a remote place is not likely to produce much reward in the favorite goal: jobs. It will just sound good on announcement day and last as long the subsidy.  I wonder what Orlando is expecting from its newest incubator project: The University of Central Florida looks to break ground sometime this year on a new on-campus research and incubator facility. The project is expected to cost $45 million and is estimated to be nearly 120,000 square feet. ...  "The university is committed to making this thing happen even if the state of Florida runs out of money."   [Matthew Richardson, Orlando Business Journal, Feb 25, 15]

Research and development spending is most effective at stimulating productivity when it is funneled through universities, according to research by two academics, Jonathan Haskel and Gavin Wallis.  [The Economist, Mar 14] SBIR, of course, is partly premised on the idea that small biz can do it better. Which is true for quickly getting technology into markets, but completely unproved for any other aspect of  R&D.

Asia’s wealthiest technology companies [China, Japan and South Korea] are leading a wave of investment in U.S. startups with the hope of gaining a toehold in Silicon Valley and taking some hot new products home. ...  Unlike the venture-capital firms they increasingly compete with for deals, these investors aren’t motivated by financial gains. They’re looking for a peek inside the next big thing and to eventually import technology back home, to the countries that together contain the world’s largest Internet audience.   [Douglas MacMillan and Rolfe Winkler, Wall Street Journal, Mar 12]  Note that the targeted firms are not facing tech uncertainty, only business uncertainty. 

ABQid is looking for its second group of companies to join the startup accelerator program in Albuquerque. The program, which started last year, graduated its first class of companies in November  [Dan Mayfield, Albuquerque Business First, Mar 2, 15]

[FDA] approved the first so-called biosimilar drug for use in the United States, paving the way for less expensive alternatives to an entire class of complex and costly drugs.  The drug, called Zarxio, produced by Sandoz, is used to help prevent infections in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. ...  Biologic drugs were first developed in the 1980s and were considered so specialized that making generic versions was seen as most likely impossible. But science has advanced, and as patents began to expire, drug companies started developing close copies and seeking F.D.A. approval for them. Companies with the original patents initially resisted, arguing that their drugs were so complex that it was not possible to make a copy, but that position eventually became untenable.   [SABRINA TAVERNISE and ANDREW POLLACK, New York Times, MARCH 6, 2015]  For a big market, ready capital will leap the barriers.

The next Silicon Valley is ..... Research from the Brookings Institution, based on figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, tells a rather more conventional story: Nerds love Silicon Valley. Among the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the United States, San Jose, Calif., ranks first in “advanced industry” employment as a share of total employment.  The gap between San Jose and the No. 2 metro area is large. Seattle, no tech slouch with Microsoft, Amazon, Zillow and others, has 16 percent of its work force in advanced industry compared with 30 percent for San Jose.  [Josh Barro, New York Times, Mar 5]  probably still Silicon Valley

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has created a seed fund to support multidisciplinary research at the private university. Jonathon Dordick, vice president of research, says his office pledged up to $100,000 each to four research projects last month.  ...  The four research projects involve building a 3-D model of plankton distribution, a computation tool that integrates data about microbiomes and the environment, a digital platform to combine research in science and humanities and predictive modeling tools to evaluate environmentally-friendly building designs.  ...  [NY State] University at Albany, a public university, began a similar program earlier this year to provide seed funding to researchers.   [Megan Rogers, Albany Business Review, Feb 13]

Humanoids more human.  Economist Erik Brynjolfsson had long dismissed fears that automation would soon devour jobs that required the uniquely human skills of judgment and dexterity.  ...  But recent advances—everything from driverless cars to computers that can read human facial expressions—have pushed experts like Mr. Brynjolfsson to look anew at the changes automation will bring to the labor force as robots wiggle their way into higher reaches of the workplace. .. The Port of Los Angeles is installing equipment that could cut in half the number of longshoremen needed in a workplace already highly automated.   ... Gartner Inc., the technology research firm, has predicted a third of all jobs will be lost to automation within a decade. And within two decades, economists at Oxford University forecast nearly half of the current jobs will be performed with machine technology.  [Timothy Aeppel, Wall Street Journal Feb 24, 15] 

A birthday. Philosophical Transactions published its first issue in March 1665. Although it was scarcely profitable—and wouldn’t be for nearly 300 years—it was successful, printing 1,000 copies every month in its early days. This year, with a subscription base of more than 4,000 academic institutions worldwide and around 5 million annual article downloads, the publication celebrates its 350th birthday as the oldest surviving scholarly journal.  [Jef Akst,The Scientist, Feb 1, 15]

Truly Brief Communications.   The Journal of Brief Ideas, a platform that publishes 200-word articles, launches in beta a citable online index of research articles that are 200 words or fewer....The journal is currently accepting submissions free of charge, but may institute a subscription fee down the line to cover costs..  [Dalmeet Singh Chawla, The Scientist, Feb 18, 15]

Good at Twitter, but. Despite having a higher rate of educational attainment than any previous generation, U.S. millennials (between 16-34 years of age) ranked lower than most of their international peers in literacy, mathematics and technology problem solving in a recent study by the OECD and the Educational Testing Service (ETS). Those born in the U.S. after 1980 tied for last among the 22 participating countries in numeracy and technology skills, and 16th in literacy. Top scoring Americans in this cohort ranked lower than their peers in most other countries, and bottom-scoring Americans ranked among the lowest in the whole study. [STTI, Feb 18]

Booming but slowing. [Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation CEO Wendy] Guillies cited data from a [new] report "The Future of Entrepreneurship: Millennials and Boomers Chart the Course for 2020." The report notes that venture and angel investment levels in recent years mirror those of the late 1990s and very early 2000s, and that startup valuations have skyrocketed. At the same time, data show that U.S. business creation is trending downward. New firm survival rates have fallen for nearly 25 years, and high-growth firms are exhibiting less dynamism – a factor that could portend lower economic growth. [Kaufman Foundation presss release, Feb 11]

Of the fastest growing "tech start-ups" in St Louis, none is tackling a high-risk, high economic payoff.  Number 1 does sales pipeline analytics. [facts from Brian Feldt, St. Louis Business Journal, Feb 17]  Naturally, capital flows to the highest quick payoff. 

U.S. network equipment maker Cisco Systems plans to invest $100 million in French start-ups, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls' office said  [Reuters, Feb 16]

"It's the most congenial business environment in the world."  says London Mayor Johnson. ...  the United Kingdom launched HQ-UK, a concierge service for U.S. tech companies looking to set up an international hub in London ... The new U.K. program is able to process visa applications for up to three people per company in 24 hours, plus special visas for key personnel. They also promise to give insider access to U.K. financial and technology consultants once a company starts setting up in the country.   [Ben Fischer, New York Business Journal, Feb 11]  

SOME of the world’s best businesspeople are giddy with optimism. They live in a world of digital wonders where every problem has a solution and every scarcity is yielding to abundance. Others are haunted by pessimism. They live in a world of “secular stagnation”, “jobless growth”, zero-sum competition and stability-threatening inequality.  ... The optimists’ headquarters is, of course, Silicon Valley. ..  The headquarters of the pessimism camp is Main Street.  [The Economist]

Georgia Tech plans to develop an incubator aimed at nurturing the next generation of medical device companies. ... part of a broader expansion by the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), a 30-year-old business technology incubator that has produced several Atlanta tech companies including Suniva (no SBIR), CardioMEMS (no SBIR) and Vendormate  (no SBIR).  ... ATDC's plan includes opening multiple satellite offices in Midtown, where it will focus on building startups in niches, such as microelectronics fabrication, advanced manufacturing and clean tech.    [Urvaksh Karkaria, Atlanta Business Chronicle, Feb 5, 15]

Capital formation is yesterday’s problem. Indeed, the world seems to be awash in capital, available at record-low interest rates. ...  Some of that capital, MGI suggests, should be deployed by the public sector to accelerate the pace of innovation. Research and development is one key area of public investment; the case for government intervention being strong, says the report, “when social benefits outweigh the private gains to the funder of the original research, as is often the case for early-stage, groundbreaking research.”  [William Galston, Wall Street Journal,  Feb  10, 15] The plea that government has to inject capital into innovation is nothing more than a plea for a handout to firms unable or unwilling to compete for that sloshing capital pool. There are a few instances of true market-failure in American innovation, but SBIR has not been the solution since most of the money goes to ordinary government R&D. The worthy "social benefits" do not accrue from DOD funding of rocket plume models, nor most of the rest of DOD SBIR.

An Ebola competitor. Guinea's government has authorized the wider use of an experimental drug to treat Ebola in treatment centers after successful initial trials, officials said on Saturday.  ....  The experimental Japanese drug - Avigan, or favipiravir - developed by Toyama Chemical, a subsidiary of Japan's Fujifilm, has been tested by French and Guinean teams in southern Guinea since mid-December.   [Reuters, Feb 8]

Four hundred thousand new businesses [with one or more employees] are being born annually nationwide, while 470,000 per year are dying.   ... The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the total number of new business startups and business closures per year -- the birth and death rates of American companies -- have crossed for the first time since the measurement began.  [Jim Clifton's, CEO of Gallup]   How should our politicians respond to the puncturing their myth of small  biz as the magic force for job creation? They won't change their opinion until we change our opinion, since they represent us. Many politicians use small biz help as a rationale for solutions that mostly benefit big biz and its managers.

Me, Inc downside.  More entrepreneurs in recent years have tried to bootstrap their companies, starting with very little capital and deliberately avoiding outside investors.  But as the economy improves, many of those relying solely on their personal finances—and business earnings—to finance young companies are coming to grips with the downside of that strategy. If they suddenly need investors’ capital to hire, expand and keep up with demand, they typically don’t have the connections to open the right doors. ...  A survey of founders and chief executives at 460 bootstrapped startups late last year illustrates the risk. Forty-two percent cited a “lack of capital” as their biggest obstacle to growth, up from about 35% the previous year, according to Mainsail Partners, a San Francisco, private-equity firm  [Angus Loten, Wall Street Journal, Feb 4, 15]  Alert!  The same warning applies to government subsidies, like SBIR.  The government agency does not care whether your company lives or dies, and it has no connections to private capital (which, in turn, usually prefers that you have no connection to the government). The subsidy programs are politically driven by companies who want to sell their services to the goverment in sheltered competition.

“It seems like there’s an inordinate amount of uncertainty in the world,” said Michael Fredericks, portfolio manager of the BlackRock Multi-Asset Income Fund, which has $10.2 billion under management. “It’s hard to have a lot of conviction.”  [Saumya Vaishampayan, Wall Street Journal,  Feb 5, 15]

Is SV too good? With waves of financing moving through Silicon Valley — pushing up valuations for hot start-ups and allowing talented engineers to command seven-figure salaries — the question that the panelists debated wasn’t whether the venture capital market was hot. It was how and when the cycle would end.  ...  One symptom of the boom is the rising cost of hiring a good developer, said David Friend, a principal at Bain Capital Ventures. On the one hand, he said, the advent of cloud computing has made it much less expensive to start a company. On the other hand, software developers are being poached by cash-rich companies for ever-higher salaries. “Now instead of buying expensive hardware, we’re buying expensive people,” Mr. Friend said.   [William Alden, New York Times, Feb 2, 2015]

Carl Djerassi, 91, the chemist widely considered the father of the birth control pill, has died.[AP, Jan 31] He also published several engaging dramas and novels with science themes.

What is it? A computer or a medical device. Watson, an artificial intelligence technology that IBM Corp. wants to sell to help doctors diagnose diseases, will largely escape the oversight of U.S.[FDA] regulators if the computer giant wins a two-year Washington lobbying push. [ANNA EDNEY , Bloomberg News, Jan 29] If it leads to medical decisions by physicians, shoudn't it have to meet some safety and effetiviness standards?  Doctors already have an effective unregulated diagnostic tool - the Internet.

Innovation Center. Microsoft will put an "innovation center" in downtown [Atlanta]'s Flatiron building which is being transformed into an entrepreneurship hub. ...  provide resources and support for students, entrepreneurs and startups, accelerating the creation of new companies, jobs and growth of the local software ecosystem.  ...   the second such center in the United States after Miami, and one of more than 100 worldwide. ...   will work closely with a new Women's Entrepreneurship Initiative, which will also be housed at the Flatiron building.  [Urvaksh Karkaria and Amy Wenk, Atlanta Business Chronicle, Jan 27]

Will interest rates ever rise again?  cheap money is here to stay. Just get used to it.  Central banks have been struggling to normalise interest rate policy. Increasingly, there is reason to doubt they ever will be able to.  ... the possibility that rates are stuck where they are for many years is very real. And if they are, it’s got big, and far from healthy, distributional consequences, further widening both the wealth and inter-generational divide, and increasing the propensity to financial crisis. [Jeremy Warner, The Telegraph, Jan 28]

San Jose CA ranks third in the world in per-capita gross domestic product (GDP) after Zurich, Switzerland and Oslo, Norway, according to a new study out from the Brookings Institute [Gina Hall, Silicon Valley Business Journal, Jan 23]

U.S. technology companies are very worried about the backlash they are now facing in Europe. ...  Europe once led the world in mobile technology: The Global System for Mobile Communications, developed in Europe, became the global standard. But that was a long time ago,  ....  Now though, With America’s vibrant capital markets giving them billions of dollars in risk capital, they can absorb the successful European tech enterprises—look at Skype Technologies, swallowed by Microsoft  ... The cost-benefit analysis for European governments is different. Their own companies—major employers and taxpayers—are at risk of being undermined, and the beneficiaries are all American.    [Stephen Fidler, Wall Street Journal, Jan 22, 15]

Bioscience researchers in Central and Southern Oregon will soon have another option for laboratory space.  The Portland-based Translational Research and Development Institute (OTRADI) is expanding its reach with the opening of OTRADI South on the Oregon State University campus in Corvallis. ...  will house a wide variety of special instruments and equipment used in drug discovery   [Elizabeth Hayes, Portland Business Journal, Jan 12, 15]

Schenectady NY [birthplace of General Electric and its labs] technology accelerator, dubbed New York BizLab, is preparing to open its doors in March.  ...    in partnership with Schenectady County Community College through the Start-Up NY tax incentive program focused on attracting new companies to the state   [Chelsea Diana, Albany Business Review, Jan 16, 15]  Everybody's gotta have one.

Nano USUNY Polytechnic Institute is recruiting its first class of freshmen who will apply directly to the nanocollege.  Prospective students will need a background in high school math and science, a grade point average above 87.5 percent and an SAT score of 1320 on a 1600 scale to be a competitive applicant.  ...  can work toward bachelor's degrees in nanoscale science and nanoscale engineering. The college has four graduate programs as well.   The school offers four concentrations in nanoscience, nanoengineering, nanoeconomics and nanobioscience and is developing a fifth focus in technology innovation management, [senior VP Robert] Geer said  [Megan Rogers, Albany Business Review, Jan 8, 15]  Tech competition for RPI just up the river.

A new business incubator in Baltimore's Inner Harbor will cater to startup companies launched through universities.  The Institute of Marine & Environmental Technology in January is opening a 4,300-square-foot incubator in its offices at the Christopher Columbus Center in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.   ...  a partnership between UMBC; University of Maryland, Baltimore; and University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. Through this research institution the three schools work together to advance research and commercialize technology.  [Sarah Gantz,  Business Journal, Dec 29, 14]

materials scientists have been falling over themselves to discover the extraordinary properties of graphene, boron nitride, molybdenum disulphide, and so on.  A late-comer to this group is black phosphorus, in which phosphorus atoms join together to form a two-dimensional puckered sheet. ...   But. Black phosphorus is difficult to make in large quantities. Today, Damien Hanlon at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, and a number of pals, .. have perfected a way of making large quantities of black phosphorus nanosheets with dimensions that they can control. And they have used this newfound ability to test black phosphorus in a number of new applications, such as a gas sensor, an optical switch, and even to reinforce composite materials to make them stronger. [technologyreview.com, Jan 12, 15]

Always hungry.  U.S. investment in medical research has slowed down greatly over the past decade, and the research getting funded doesn't match up to the health challenges facing the country, according to a new study.   Overall medical investment in the United States grew at just .8 percent per year between 2004-2012, a major slowdown from the 6 percent annual growth between 1994 and 2004, according to the JAMA study   in the policy journal JAMA.    [Jason Millman, WashPo, Jan 13, 15]  As usual, no level of funding for science would satisfy the hungry maw of available scientists with great subjects to study and students to train to make even more hungry scientists. 

Money rich, talent limited.  The Silicon Valley economy, fueled by its fast-growing innovation industries, has rebounded strongly from the Great Recession and is poised for more stellar growth, but the region has stumbled in its quest to create a skilled talent pool that can meet the hiring appetite of the high-tech sector, according to a report.  [George Avalos, San Jose Mercury News, Jan 14]

CoCo, an incubator of several successful startups that offers shared workspace to entrepreneurs in [Minneapolis] is celebrating its fifth anniversary this month.  ...  A key moment of affirmation came in November 2011 when Google Chairman Eric Schmidt visited -- another idea of Rybak's. It was the beginning of a fruitful relationship between Google and CoCo.  ...  Locations: 4;  ·  Members: 800;   Events in 2014: 176;  Cups of coffee consumed in 2014: 52,695.  [Adam Belz, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Jan 11, 15]

Economic theory suggests that increasing regulation dampens economic growth.  ... the resilience of markets, especially in a rich and sometimes still-flexible economy like the United States, has dampened the effect of regulation. However, it is reasonable to believe that, over the more than six decades since World War ii, regulation has deleted a big chunk of potential prosperity.  It has not actually cut into the average standard of living, but this is only a consolation prize, for worse could come if the regulatory bulldozer is not pushed back  [Pierre Lemieux , Regulation, Winter 2014]  Biggest economic loss:  snake oil sales. Big winner: clean air in Los Angeles. The business-financed apologists and politicians for liberating business from regulation look only at the economic cost, while ignoring the benefits to public health.

The popular preprint server arXiv.org, where physicists, mathematicians and computer scientists routinely upload manuscripts to publicly share their findings before peer review, now holds more than 1 million research articles.  The repository, launched as an ‘electronic bulletin board’ in August 1991, just before the dawn of the World Wide Web, took 17 years to accumulate half a million manuscripts, but has taken just 6 more to double its holdings.   [Richard Van Noorden and Nature magazine,  January 5, 2015]