Monday, June 1, 2009

Check Your Calendar: It's Now Innovation Month in New England

June 1st: That could only mean the start of Innovation Month in New England.

Check out all the tweets on the topic... (and if you tweet or blog about Innovation Month, use the tag #neinno.)

Mass High Tech and Xconomy have also written stories.

And my Globe column yesterday also dealt with how we might leverage Innovation Month to defibrillate the economy. (That's a word, right?)

Here's the opening:

    If you want to understand real economic pain - and how it is alleviated - you have to rewind the tape a little more than two centuries.

    Most people remember that when George Washington and his Continental Army drove the British from Boston in 1776, it was one of the first victories of the Revolution. It was also the start of "the most significant depression in Boston's history," says Bob Krim, executive director of the Boston History & Innovation Collaborative. "Eighty-five percent of the population left," and because of the war, the merchants of the city could no longer trade with Britain or the West Indies. The foundation of the city's industry crumbled overnight.

    But within a decade, Boston had discovered a new business opportunity - shipping otter skins from the Pacific Northwest to China and importing products like silk and tea - and figured out how to dominate it. "Trade with China had been barred by the British, and it was such a long trip, no one thought it would be worth it," Krim says. "But these merchants had some seed capital, and they took the incredible risk of figuring out what could be sold in China."

    Creating new industries is what we've done in these parts to deal with economic disruptions for more than 200 years. From textile mills to nanotubes, mutual funds to medical devices, the people of New England know, deep in our DNA, how to come up with the new ideas, products, and businesses that make economic rebounds possible.

(Thanks to Metropolis Creative for the great logo... more available here.)

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Monday, April 14, 2008

John Adams: Massachusetts' First Innovation Cheerleader

I'm reading the David McCullough biography of John Adams now. It mentions Adams' work on our Massachusetts constitution, and that Adams inserted some crucial language about the role of education (and specifically, scientific education) in our schools:

    Wisdom, and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties; and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, it shall be the duty of legislatures and magistrates, in all future periods of this commonwealth, to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them; especially the university at Cambridge, public schools and grammar schools in the towns; to encourage private societies and public institutions, rewards and immunities, for the promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and a natural history of the country...

(Emphasis is mine.)

According to McCullough, this paragraph was wholly unique at the time: it was "like no other declaration to be found in any constitution ever written until then, or since." You can see it in context here.

How well are we living up to Adams' hopes?

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Monday, October 22, 2007

This week's Globe column: A mash-up of Amazon and Second Life

Yesterday's Globe column focused on an e-commerce start-up called Kinset, co-founded by serial entrepreneur John Butler.
From the opening:

    John Butler is trying to introduce true browsing to the online shopping experience, blending the innovations of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos with the old-school merchandising of R.H. Macy.

    Butler is the founder and chief executive of Kinset Inc., a Marlborough start-up that plans to launch its first online stores this week. Kinset's stores combine e-commerce with the kind of visually rich, three-dimensional environment that has been made popular by the virtual world Second Life and such videogames as World of Warcraft, but that would feel familiar to a conventional department store shopper.

    In November, Brookstone will launch a Kinset store that will allow shoppers to roam virtual aisles in search of the perfect holiday gift. And Canton-based Tweeter, the consumer electronics chain, could have one online in time for the Su per Bowl, when buyers tend to hunt for new TVs.

For those who appreciate historical allusions, RH Macy ran a dry goods store in Haverhill, MA (called the Haverhill Cheap Store), and even sponsored a parade in the town, before he moved to New York to start the shop that became Macy's. Interestingly, Macy was a die-hard entrepreneur: he failed four times before opening his store in Herald Square. More on that here.

Here's the video for this week's column -- a chat with John Butler at the Newton Marriott, and a demo of the software. You can also now check out their two demo stores, BunchBooks and 'lectroTown, on the Kinset site. (Assuming you have a Windows PC.)

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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

MGH Researchers Push to Reduce Pain

This Boston Globe piece is worth reading, even if only for the wonderful historical parallels: anesthesia was invented at Mass General Hospital in 1846, and more than 150 years later, researchers there are still working to make it better.

From Colin Nickerson's story:

    Scientists at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital today described a new "targeted" approach to anesthesia that appears to totally block pain neurons, but doesn't cause the numbness or partial paralysis that is the unwelcome side-effect of anesthesia used for surgery performed on conscious patients.

    If approved for use in humans, the method could dramatically ease the trial of giving birth -- by sparing women pain while allowing them to physically participate in labor. It could also diminish the trauma of knee surgery, for instance, or the discomfort of getting one's molars drilled. Not only would there be no "ouch," there would be none of the sickening wooziness or loss of motor control that comes from standard forms of "local" anesthesia.

Interesting tidbit: their approach relied in part on capsaicin, the ingredient that makes chili peppers hot.

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