Innovation Cities – Pockets of Innovation

Posted on May 27, 2012. Filed under: business, economic development, innovation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Have you seen the Fast Company series about “pockets of innovation” in U.S. cities?  I’m enjoying the articles, and think you will to.  Here are a few of the recent stories.

America’s Most Innovative Neighborhood: 15 Square Miles In New Mexico, Population: 0

Hobbs, New Mexico, in the fairly empty and open southeastern part of the state, will be home to CITE – the Center for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation.  This mid-sized city with absolutely no permanent residents is being built by Pegasus Global Holdings as a testbed for “everything about the future of smart cities.”

How Ecodev Persuades Companies To Bring Manufacturing Back To The U.S. (Hint: It’s Cheaper)

Ecodev, a Minnesota-based “boutique” economic development firm, takes on the myth that U.S. manufacturing production can’t be cost-efficient.  It uses a comparative financial model to help client firms assess the cost-benefit of relocating to the U.S.

Why Utah Matters To Virgin, Amazon, and LeBron James

The Foundry, a Salt Lake City/University of Utah “peer-based training ground for entrepreneurs” intended to foster a “creative class” of entrepreneurs to build their businesses in Salt Lake City.

Sure, these may be small efforts, but there are lots of them across the country.  Fast Company has many more stories in its series, and we all know of others in our own local communities.  I’ll give a shout-out to the Los Lunas, New Mexico Live/Work economic development effort, which still contains a thread of its original focus on economic development for home-based businesses.

What’s going on in your community?

NKS Info Services, your research, writing and editing partner

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Innovation “test beds” in New Mexico

Posted on May 20, 2012. Filed under: innovation, science & technology | Tags: , , , |

I recently posted about an eHighway pilot planned for Los Angeles.  My own small state is no slouch when it comes to R&D test beds.   You may have heard about the $1 billion technology and testing and evaluation center planned for southeastern New Mexico.  This planned “fully functioning ghost town” (gotta love that characterization) will serve as a test bed whereby public research institutions and private companies can test renewable energy, smart grid technology, wireless telecommunications systems, modern transportation and information and security technology.  Read more at the New Mexico Business Weekly.

Same state, different location

Albuquerque’s Mesa del Sol planned community will soon host a microgrid “aperture center”.  Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) invested about $10 million to build the microgrid, and nine Japanese companies installed  and will test various systems for two years to learn about how a smart grid can function in a real-world setting.  NEDO is also building a microgrid testbed in Los Alamos, NM.  You can read the full story also at the New Mexcio Business Weekly.

Innovative sites like this are undoubtedly springing up in other communities as well.  In addition to serving as test beds for emerging technologies, they also offer economic development benefits to local communities, and can serve as a magnet for other similar businesses.  What’s happening in your region?


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eHighway Technology – This sounds fascinating!

Posted on May 16, 2012. Filed under: energy, innovation | Tags: , , |

With a little luck and some DOE funding, Los Angeles may be the first  city in the world to adopt a new electric freight trucking system,  introduced by Siemens Corp. at the 26th Electric Vehicle Symposium, or EVS26.

Siemens is working to implement a pilot highway electrification project (eHighway) along Interstate 710, using overhed electrical wires to transmit energy to specially outfitted, hybrid trucks moving freight from the ports of Long Beach and L.A. to inland destinations.

The eHighway system uses diesel hybrid trucks outfitted with software that senses when an overhead electrical line is available and automatically connects or disconnects as needed. When the trucks’ rooftop connectors are attached to the electrical lines, the trucks run entirely on electricity. When the connectors are lowered, they run on a hybrid electric propulsion system similar to the Toyota Prius.

In addition to reducing emissions, the trucks also reduce noise pollution. But there is a downside: Siemens estimates the system will cost between $5 million and $7 million per mile to build.  Hence the need for a real-world pilot program.  Just imagine the possibilities.

Source: “An electrifying freight solution on the 710? Siemens working on it“, Los Angeles Times, May 15, 2012.

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Creating new ideas and innovation with SCAMPER

Posted on November 20, 2011. Filed under: innovation | Tags: , |

The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas. ~Linus Pauling

I took that straight from the article by John Freisinger Brainstorming with SCAMPER, in the Oct/Nov edition of Innovation.

One way to innovate is to change something that already exists, maybe with a radical change and maybe with a subtle change.  SCAMPER is a mnemonic for a series of questions to help explore a number of possible changes to any existing product, service, problem, methodology or process.

It stands for:




(M)aximize or Minimize

(P)ut to other use


(R)earrange or Reverse

John uses the example of a product to demonstrate the kinds of questions one might ask.

Substitute – are there components of our product that can be substituted or replaced with something else?

Combine – Can our product be combined with other products to create a new product?

Adapt – Are there ideas from other industries that we can borrow and apply?

Maximize or minimize – Are there components that can be enlarged or shrunken?

Put to other uses – Are there completely different uses for the product?

Eliminate – Are there components and features that can be eliminated?

Have you used this system?  How has it worked for you?  Can you envision adding these questions to future “idea generating” discussions?  I’m already planning to do a little more research on SCAMPER questions as a way to re-examine services.  Let me know if you’ve got some good ideas.  Make that any ideas – from the many will come the good!

Need writing or research assistance?  Perhaps I can help!

Nora K. Stoecker, NKS Info Services

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Open Government Innovations Gallery

Posted on December 30, 2010. Filed under: government programs, information technology, innovation | Tags: |

Have you heard about the Open Government Innovations Gallery?  It was established to “celebrate the innovators and innovations who are championing the President’s vision of more effective and open government.”  It features projects of federal agencies and others that epitomize the open government initiative call for increased transparency, participation, and collaboration.

Why mention it on the Techinfo-notes blog?  Because browsing any or all of the project descriptions provides the opportunity for a serendipitous “ah-ha” moment – and those are important for innovation 🙂  And because  some of those projects are directly related to business and science and technology. 

Here are a few examples: – a “government-sponsored online community for small business” – includes discussion forums, blogs, idea exchange tool, and a website design intended to make navigation and information retreival easy. – a platform that provides access to federal agency datasets, with a searchable “data catalog”.  Creative members of the public are free to develop web applications to help others access, sort, visualize, and understand this publicly available data.  The site provides examples via its apps showcase.

IdeaFactory and IdeaLab – two terrific versions of internal agency efforts to foster innovation and peer-to-peer communication within widespread employee populations.  We can’t access the actual too0ls because they’re on agency intranets, but I LOVE the concept and wish that private sector employers would explore similar options!

Go ahead, explore these and other projects highlighted at the Innovations Gallery.  Enjoy! –nks

NKS Info Services  – Your research and writing partner

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Rising Above the Gathering Storm Revisited – Some Factoids

Posted on September 30, 2010. Filed under: innovation, research & development, science & technology |

The recently released Rising Above the Gathering Storm Revisited contains a number of thought-provoking if not disturbing factoids.  Here are five of them:

 China is now second in the world in its publication of biomedical research, having recently surpassed Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France, Canada, and Spain.

In 2009, 51 percent of United States patents were awarded to non-United States companies.

The World Economics Forum ranks the United States 48th in quality of mathematics and science education.

According to OECD data the United States ranks 24th among thirty wealthy countries in life expectancyat birth.

The United States has fallen from first to eleventh place in the OECD in the fraction of 25-34 year olds that has graduated high school.  The older portion of the U.S. workforce ranks first among OECD populations of the same age.

What are the implications for U.S. competitiveness in the world economy? –nks

Need related information?  Perhaps I can help.

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Pea-sized microbarbershop? Chess pieces half the width of a human hair?

Posted on June 20, 2010. Filed under: engineering, innovation, nanotechnology | Tags: |

Once again the amazing creativity and skill of engineering students was demonstrated in the 2010 design competition  for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS).  The annual conpetition, open to universities participating with Sandia National Laboratories in its MEMS University Alliance, provides an opportunity for engineering students to hone their skills in designing and using microdevices.

The 2010 competition offered two categories.  One emphasized novel design concepts and the other emphasized unique structure design and its uses as an educational tool.  They were won, respectively by Texas Tech’s chess board – the diameter of four human hairs, and the University of Utah’s microbarbershop, intended to service a single hair. 

The chess board comes with micropieces scored with the pattern of traditional chess pieces. each piece has tiny stubs that allow a microrobotic arm to move them from square to square, and there’s space on the side of the board to hold captured pieces.  I wonder who’ll play the first game? 🙂

The microbarbershop consists of a microgripper, cutter, moveable mirror, and a micro blow dryer – all to to create that one perfect hair!

Seriously, the design competition is intended to help students understand and master the engineering challenges of MEMS devices.  And the results are fascinating! –nks

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NAE Forum Summary on Unleashing Engineering Innovation

Posted on March 30, 2010. Filed under: engineering, innovation, manufacturing, science & technology, tech transfer | Tags: , |

“The financial crisis that began in 2008 is a stark demonstration that we as a nation take great risks when we build too much of our economy on a base that does not create real value  … making real products and providing real services.”

At its 2009 annual meeting the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) hosted a public forum called “Rebuilding a Real Economy: Unleashing Engineering Innovation”, to discuss the challenges facing America.  It has just released a summary of that forum, available on the National Academies Press website.  You can order a copy, read it online (I don’t recommend that) or order a free download.

The quick summary is – no single action can reenergize the U.S. innovation system.  Instead, a set of interconnected initiatives must be undertaken to accomplish the goal.  The report summarizes panel discussion in the following areas:

  • Key innovation sectors (research universities, entrepreneurs, national laboratories, and manufacturing)
  • Policy initiatives (energy policy, incentive prizes, the Singapore example, and education)
  • Prospects

Need similar information?  Perhaps I can help.

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OSTP Issues Call for Input on S&T “Grand Challenges”

Posted on February 10, 2010. Filed under: innovation, science & technology | Tags: , , |

Another opportunity for public input to potential policy decisions …

One of the goals of President Obama’s Strategy for American Innovation is to harness science and technology to address the “grand challenges” of the 21st century.

 On February 4th the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Economic Council released a “request for information” (RFI) to collect input from the public regarding the grand challenges identified in the aforementioned innovation strategy, other grand challenges that should be considered, such as those identified by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and other factors.

There’s an April 15th response deadline, and RFI details can be found here.   The RFI calls for input on any of the grand challenges identified by President Obama, or by the NAE, or others.    There are 12 questions covering such topics as whether or not the US should make it a priority to achieve the specific grand challenge, what public or private sector activities could be leveraged to achieve the grand challenge, what metrics should be used to evaluate success, what economic, ethical, legal, societal, and/or policy issues , what partners or types of partners would need to collaborate to accomplish the specific grand challenge … and more.

The President’s grand challenges are:

  • Complete DNA sequencing of every case of cancer; smart anti-cancer therapeutics that kill cancer cells and leave their normal neighbors untouched; early detection of dozens of diseases from a saliva sample; nanotechnology that delivers drugs precisely to the desired tissue; personalized medicine that enables the prescription of the right dose of the right drug for the right person; a universal vaccine for influenza that will protect against all future strains; and regenerative medicine that can end the agonizing wait for an organ transplant.
  • Solar cells as cheap as paint, and green buildings that produce all of the energy they consume.
  • A light-weight vest for soldiers and police officers that can stop an armor-piercing bullet.
  • Educational software that is as compelling as the best video game and as effective as a personal tutor; online courses that improve the more students use them; and a rich, interactive digital library at the fingertips of every child.
  • Intelligent prosthetics that will allow a veteran who has lost both of his arms to play the piano again.
  • Biological systems that can turn sunlight into carbon-neutral fuel, reduce the costs of producing anti-malarial drugs by a factor of 10, and quickly and inexpensively dispose of radioactive wastes and toxic chemicals.
  • An “exascale” supercomputer capable of a million trillion calculations per second – dramatically increasing our ability to understand the world around us through simulation and slashing the time needed to design complex products such as therapeutics, advanced materials, and highly-efficient autos and aircraft.
  • Automatic, highly accurate and real-time translation between the major languages of the world – greatly lowering the barriers to international commerce and collaboration.

 The NAE’s grand challenges are:

  • Make solar energy economical
  • Provide energy from fusion
  • Develop carbon sequestration methods
  • Manage the nitrogen cycle
  • Provide access to clean water
  • Restore and improve urban infrastructures
  • Advance health informatics
  • Engineer better medicines
  • Reverse-engineer the brain
  • Prevent nuclear terror
  • Secure cyberspace
  • Enhance virtual reality
  • Advance personalized learning
  • Engineer the tools of scientific discovery

Which of the many grand challenges listed above shouldtake priority? What other grand challenges should the government consider tackling? How can it be done?  The OSTP RFI is an opportunity to contribute to the discussion.

Need more information?  Perhaps I can help.

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DoD seeks innovative ideas from innovative companies

Posted on June 5, 2009. Filed under: innovation, research & development, science & technology | Tags: | is a U.S. Department of Defense “new idea portal”, set up to elicit good ideas for products, services, prototypes, and concepts that advance the military’s missions.   The site promises an initial response in less than 30 days to ideas submitted through the portal.  Ideas are protected from disclosure as provided for in law; details can be found at the website.  The intent is to encourage entrepreneurs and organizations who have never considered doing business with DoD to participate.

This seems to be a new portal, and currently is accepting ideas in only one theme area – battlefield forensics.  New themes are supposed to be added in the future, and  interested parties can join an email list to be alerted to new themes.

The potentially really good thing about this portal is the possibility of funding decisions being made quickly.  That would be an excellent service. –nks 

Need more information?  Perhaps I can help.

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