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Notes from Innovation Policyworks
I have learned that real, meaningful innovation comes from leveraging new information and insights with diversity while driving out the fear that prevents us from exploring new ideas. Recently, Chris Powell of Talmetrix framed diversity for me in a way that was clearer than ever before. He said we needed to take into account diversity in physical characteristics, knowledge, abilities and skills, but more importantly, in beliefs, experiences and perspectives.  
That's powerful thinking, especially when you consider than most of us now live in communities and social structures that are increasingly made up of people like ourselves. We're no longer bowling alone, but we're definitely bowling with people we already agree with - no differences in beliefs, experiences or perspectives allowed!
This probably explains our discordant social conversations these days, with people talking past each other without listening, not even sharing a common set of facts or values or data. Everything we disagree with becomes Fake News. No wonder we aren't making any progress on the big issues that confront us.
Let's each make the resolve to listen carefully to people who are not like us, taking the time to respect them, understand their beliefs, experiences and perspectives, and working together for new solutions. 


Significant Cases Before the Supreme Court 
The first Monday in October marks the beginning of the Supreme Court session. This year, several controversial cases will be decided that could define why it matters so much who is on the Court. A case on partisan gerrymandering, for instance, could well change the composition of the Congress and state legislatures. At issue is whether Wisconsin's redistricting plan, an extreme case of drawing district boundaries to give unfair advantage to one party, treats voters unequally. Another critical case challenges the rights of states to tax online retailers, a decision that could impact more than $23 billion a year in potential online sales tax revenues.  A third case of interest concerns whether or not refusing to serve a gay couple is speech protected by the First Amendment or whether it is discrimination. A good summary of the issues involved is HERE.

Older Workers and Entrepreneurship: A Tradeoff between Wellbeing and Pay
Looking at a group of late-career workers who chose to work for themselves or start small companies instead of retiring, a recent study found that becoming entrepreneurs triggered a substantial increase in quality of life. Looking at 2851 individuals aged 50-67, the authors did find a significant reduction in income, but suggest that increased opportunities for "self-realization" may have been more important to these older entrepreneurs. I can only add, "Amen!" The study is HERE.

How Blockchain will Transform Government
Blockchain, a type of distributed ledger technology, allows users to record data and transactions instantaneously in a way that is unhackable. The underlying technology behind bitcoin, blockchain could dramatically change how government works. Imagine if this technology was used to improve recordkeeping such as voter rolls or property records or driver's licenses. Imagine if these records were instantaneously updated, without fees or clerks or waiting periods. The National Association of State Chief Information Officers called this the "next big transformational technology in government." See their report HERE.  
The Circular Economy
Here's a new concept: "Circular Cities." They are committed to "energy, waste, food, buildings and other initiatives that aim to keep materials flowing locally with minimal if any waste, using renewable resources." Four technologies, enabled by IT, make this goal more attainable: asset tagging (tracking the condition and availability of products, components and materials); geospatial information (where things are); big data management (computational capability on patterns of behavior); and connectivity (smartphones and apps that promote and facilitate connection). The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is planning additional research into what kind of economic activity is created from a circular economy, something that will be very welcomed. Read more HERE.

Pittsburgh Innovation Report Card
Pittsburgh is the poster child for the transformation of Rust Belt cities into innovation hubs. Brookings recently looked at Pittsburgh's rise as a global innovation city and concluded that there was work still to be done. "Pittsburgh's innovation economy is strong and growing, but city leaders can do more with its existing assets to compete globally and capitalize on the region's growing innovation clusters," says the report. The recommendations include support for innovation clusters, growing an innovation district, improving the pipeline of high growth entrepreneurs and creating new talent. The Brookings report is HERE

Startup Firms Created Over 2 Million Jobs
The US Census has just released its second annual report on startups, showing that in 2015, 414,000 new companies created 2.5 million new jobs, well below the pre-Great Recession average of 524,000 startup firms and 3.3 million new jobs per year for the period 2002-2006. According to the data, young firms (less than 6 years old) accounted for 11 percent of employment and 27 percent of job creation, while old firms (more than 25 years old) were 62 percent of employment and 48 percent of job creation. For Maine, 3142 new establishments were created with 17,790 jobs. The data are HERE.

A Great Year for Exits (M&A Mostly)
The Maine Venture Fund (MVF) has had four successful exits so far this year. The SAAS software company Certify, Inc. recapitalized and joined with Nexonia to create a newly configured Certify that will support over 100 Maine-based employees. InterSpec, was sold to an industry leader and plans additional Maine hires. Coast of Maine Organic Products was recapitalized, and expects to be more aggressive while Looks Gourmet Seafood Company combined with a strategic partner. Together, these transactions provided more than $4.5 million back to the Fund. In addition, MVF completed six follow-on investments in existing portfolio companies during the first half of 2017, totaling $743,138 alongside private individuals and other investors. 

Do State Investments in Innovation and Entrepreneurship Work?
A new study that looked at several states with long-term, historical investments in state-level policies that support entrepreneurship find that they may have helped to accelerate the development of high technology industries. The data suggest that rural (i.e. low population density) states tend to benefit by technology development programs. Infrastructure strategy programs also facilitate high technology job growth in places where local advantages already exist. The study results suggest that critics of industrial policy are correct that high technology growth is organic and endogenous, yet state governments are able to "pick winners and losers" in ways that grow their local economy. The study is HERE.

In This Issue - October 2017

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Quote of the Month 
" We have no hope of solving our problems without harnessing the diversity, the energy, and the creativity of all our people.  "  

The Myth of the Skills Gap
The conventional wisdom is that American workers lack the skills that employers need, even when unemployment is below 5 percent and automation seems ready to replace each of us with a robot. A penetrating study by Andrew Weaver suggests that less than one quarter of manufacturing plants had vacancies that lasted for three months or more, and only 15 percent of IT help desks reported extended vacancies. Weaver concludes that "there is no substitute for coordination between . . .the workers and their skills and. . . employers and their requirements." We should focus on the intermediaries needed to provide the common vocabulary to bridge the gaps between these groups. Weaver's article is HERE

Top 7 Ways to Screw Up Innovation


Many thanks to Maggie Nichols who shared this list:

#7: Doing a big training and hoping a miracle will occur. Without structures, systems, processes and support, the training just won't stick.
#6: Asking employees for ideas: Unless there's a system for implementing the ideas, employees will be disgruntled when their ideas aren't acted upon.
#5: Designing your "innovation strategy and plan" in a Powerpoint before you even start: this is like trying to ride a bike after reading about it in a book.
#4: Creating a special Innovation Department: innovation shouldn't be an individual effort for just a few.
#3: Approaching Innovation as a "Nice to Do" and not a "MUST Do" If you want to retain your employees, earn money, stay competitive and keep the doors open, you must innovate.
#2: Waiting for the "right time" to do innovation: See #3. 
#1: Not showing up. Innovation requires you to stay the course. As the leader, you need to show the way in everything you do. 


How the Opioid Epidemic is Affecting the US Labor Force
The increase in opioid prescriptions from 1999-2015 could account for about 20 percent of the observed decline in men's labor force participation and 25 percent of the observed decline in women's participation. Furthermore, nearly half of the prime age men not in the labor force take pain medication on a daily basis and 40 percent report that pain prevents then from accepting a job. Read the sobering stats HERE

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Innovation Policyworks enables economic development officials at state, regional and local levels make better, data-driven decisions by providing expert research, analysis and recommendations. Our clients see innovation and entrepreneurship as critical elements of their economic development strategy, and are developing new programs or policies, and/or evaluating existing ones. 

Dr. Catherine S. Renault has been delivering innovation-based economic development results in rural states for more than 25 years, most recently as science advisor and Director of the Office of Innovation for the State of Maine. Cathy is currently working in Albany, NY on a cluster project and just finished a paper on innovation in manufacturing.
   For a list of selected projects, see www.innovationpolicyworks.com/projects.