18 December 2006

Technology Valley of Death Crystallized

I posted this recently on Mercury Technology Labs' blog:

In a previous post we talked about the technology fire hose – the exponential growth of new innovations available, growing in larger array of fields that can be applied to a growing set of opportunities. In this post we also stated that a serious deficiency may have struck the economic innovation engine. With this post we would like to crystallize the problem taking examples from our experiences.

In the Mid-South innovation community, we have found that the total amount of research conducted is well over a billion dollars each year-- depending on the boundary you strike, it would be over three billion. By some measures this should equate to 100 to 200 or even 300 patent applications and based upon these patent applications there should be in upwards of 5 to 15 new business ventures started each year with these technologies. The problem is the region is not seeing the start-ups. It appears there is a deal flow problem and we don't attribute it to lack of money to support the deals. We attribute it to human capital. Who is supposed to actively bridge the gap between the raw technologies to a market application?

Q. Is it the responsibility of the researchers to create "start-up" new business ventures?
A. The vast majority of researchers lack entrepreneurial confidence, time, and experience. They don't actively seek people with expertise; instead they rely on tech transfer process of universities, government, or corporate to swing into motion.

Q. Is it the responsibility of angel investors?
A. Angel investors do not create deals and they generally do not want to be first money on the table for a seed stage venture. They are passive investors generally waiting for the deals to find them.

Q. Is it the responsibility of the venture capitalists?
A. Typical venture capital fund structure cannot support the opportunity. They are looking for preexisting deals that have generally proven they don't need the money for venture creation; the growing business concern needs VC money for scaling.

Q. Is the responsibility of technology transfer officers?
A. It is hard enough for a cash strapped technology transfer team to protect intellectual property, let alone market technologies actively. Furthermore the teams generally barely have enough time to manage IP disclosures and IP protection.

I think we can all agree that R&D Engines are generating sufficient raw technology candidates, yet these do not advance to applied business applications or new ventures in the incubation stage. This phenomena is has been termed as the "technology valley of death." This chasm is not crossed often – in the Mid-South we have only a handful of examples available over the past 10 years.

Passivity is not working well for most R&D engines. The new winners will be those who actively survey the landscape and take advantage of technology maven networks. The new winners will create the deals.

So now the question to be answered is who will fulfill the need and what will be their model for success. Please comment or provide further insights.

15 December 2006

Technology Transfer Keeping Pace?

I was recently reviewing some talking points from a talk Steve Jurvetson gave in May 2003 in Memphis, Tennessee. Steve stated more or less that we view the future as a linear continuation of the past, but we can not view technological innovation as a movement in a straight line. He further stated that technology advances exponentially, moving quicker and quicker, impacting a wider and wider array of fields. No disputing this, but how has the bridge from theory to practice kept pace?

I don't think it has. The process of taking inventions to new business applications has to rapidly change. Passive technology deal creation is not working today. This may be because what used to be a technology spicket has turned into a fire hose -- the growing volume of technologies flying out of the research labs ever faster. I would argue that while the number of technologies developed each year has vastly increased, application of these technologies to real world problems has not kept pace. This is likely due to a passivity and/or the need for a new mode of technology transfer, commercialization, and venture creation. Active innovation networks and active deal creation, I believe will be the best method moving forward.

Call it Creation Nets, Open Innovation,Venture Creation, Innovation Connection, or whatever -- it is just the way technology venture development will need to shift to keep pace with the exponential advancement of technologies.

13 December 2006

Personalization: Proof of Power to the People

I recently wrote a post on how the individuals modern day desktop and browser are proof that the people have the power. IT departments have implicitly agreed that "one size does not fit all" as Chris Anderson (Wired Editor) stated a recent Cisco conference.

Check out my post at Mercury Technology Labs.


Best Blogs for Non-Profits to Track

As I am the chairman of a non-profit I try to keep up with new methods to improve our enterprise. I recently read the Dec. 2006/Jan 2007 issue of Fast Company. On page 44, Michael A. Prospero wrote about the best blogs for non-profits to track.

If you didn't get a chance to see the recommendations for your non-profit, here is a brief break down.

Donor Power Blog: http://www.donorpowerblog.com/
Jeff Brooks writes on how smart business strategies can be applied in the realm of the non-profit world.

Blog on Non-Profit Advertising: http://blogger.xs4all.nl/marcg
Marc van Gurp collects inventive video clips and print ads for non-profits from around the world.

Philanthropy in the Year 2173: http://philanthropy.blogspot.com
Lucy Bernholz writes a round-up and analysis of emerging trends for non-profits.

For the full article on the Best Blogs for Non-Profits visit the Fast Company website(http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/111/next-best-blogs.html). Rest assured the non-profit I help, Lantana Projects (http://www.lantanaprojects.org/) will be looking at these periodically.