Syngenta’s Groundbreaking Impact

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Dawn McNamara breaks ground on Syngenta's new R&D complex

9 billion people.

That’s the number fueling Syngenta Biotechnology’s passion and commitment. By the year 2050, its projected that global population will increase to more than 9 billion people from about 6.5 billion today.  That’s a lot of mouths to feed.

“The significance of this event is worldwide, because it will help raise the living standard for the 35 percent of the world population that makes it living from agriculture,” exclaimed Congressman Price on the $70 million expansion of Syngenta’s operations in the Research Triangle Park.

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Marketing Mondays: Lessons in Commercialization

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At Marketing Mondays on June 20, Jarrod Hamilton of CMG Partners presented on Marketing Strategy in New Product Planning.

Did you know that approximately half of the products that Apple has launched have failed?  Did you know that the iPhone was Apple’s third attempt at a smartphone? Ever heard of the Apple Newton, Pippin or Quick Take?  These products all failed.  Even good products introduced by credible brands can fail in the marketplace.  Credibility, awareness and perception of the company are all driving factors in the success or failure of a product.  Continue reading

Celebrating 100 Years of Innovation and Impact. Happy Birthday IBM.

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100 years ago three companies merged to become what is now IBM. Big Blue. Many astounding technological innovations have revolutionized the way people live and work. Through much more than the power of computing, IBM inventions have contributed to the creation of the U.S. Social Security System, putting a man on the moon, the automated international test scoring machine (yes, fill-in-the-bubble, that was them!), inventing UPC codes and bar code scanning technology, driving online banking, the technology that enables LASIK surgery, and computerized airline reservation systems. Oh there’s more… plenty more.

Watch this. The film features one hundred people, who each present the IBM achievement recorded in the year they were born. The film chronology flows from the oldest person to the youngest, offering a whirlwind history of the company and culminating with its prospects for the future. Get ready to be inspired.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39jtNUGgmd4&feature=player_embedded

Check out IBM’s commemorative website, IBM100.

Woven into the fabric of innovation here at the Research Triangle Park is IBM. In the mid-1960s, IBM announced its plans for a 400-acre, 600,000 square foot research facility in RTP. And they’ve been a driving force in this region ever since. Continue reading

The Science of Start-ups

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On the heels of President Obama’s and the White House Jobs and Competitiveness Council’s visit to the RTP and the Triangle region, it struck me as I listened in on the entrepreneurship and innovation/biotechnology sessions with corporate executives: one thing is clear, access to capital is critical. And investors aren’t investing. And if they are, they’re difficult to find.

To Ted Zoller of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flager School of Business and Director for the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, creating new jobs and companies goes beyond great ideas and ample capital.

“If we’re able to figure out where the opportunities lie and use networking as a tool, that will broaden the ability to focus each venture to the group of people that would best positioned to support that venture through success,” said Zoller.

His research relates to entrepreneurial networks. Dealmakers, as Zoller defines, are investors who have equity in three or more companies concurrently, are an part of the critical catalyst to bring entrepreneurs and investors together. Continue reading

SageWorks: RTP-grown Rosetta Stone for raw data analysis

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Brian Hamilton gets it. People don’t look at raw numbers and immediately make qualitative assessments. There has to be context for campaign polling to matter or for people to care about NBA final stats. The same is true for financial analysis. Even CPAs and banking professionals need more than digits and decimals to do their job well. That’s where SageWorks, Hamilton’s online financial data review service, comes into play.

SageWorks offers three online software packages to bank employees and accountants to input numbers in one end and find numeric syllogisms inside. From this, the data can be evaluated more efficiently by the human eye, eventually being turned into real, layman’s English that professionals can understand.

SageWorks CEO Brian Hamilton doing some financial advising on cable TV

“The whole idea is numbers to words,” said Hamilton, who addressed this month’s Innovation@RTP series at the Park Headquarters Wednesday. “Can we reduce all those numbers to a meaningful plain language report? That’s why we started the company.”

A Duke B-School grad, Hamilton started SageWorks with his business partner at RTP’s First Flight Venture Center in 1998. Back then, he was jumping for joy when the first client bought his product for $14. Now, SageWorks kicks out more than 1,000 company reports a day.

In fact, Hamilton claimed it’s become the largest source of accurate private company financial data. Plus, there’s not much competition from other companies because it’s such a unique concept and SageWorks has a patent on the technology.

Hamilton stressed that while SageWorks takes care of the grunt work, human cognition and judgment is still very much necessary to ensure company improvement.

“It’s like we invented the reaper,” he said, referencing the farming machine used to cut crops during a harvest. (Not the bony guy with the big black robe; that wouldn’t be good ROI.) “We can help you get 80% of the way there in seconds. But I like the idea that you have to think, too. At end of the day, we still need judgment to be applied.”

I sat down with Brian and asked him about his experience cultivating a software start-up in the Research Triangle Park. He couldn’t wait to talk about all the resources available for budding entrepreneurs: First Flight, CED, the Chambers of Commerce, etc.

“What was absolutely riveting to me when I came down here was…the opportunity and intellectual curiosity of the people and the energy around new business formation,” Hamilton said.

“I came down here for business school thinking a lot of areas would be that way. But of course you travel around the country and realize that’s not the case.”

Dump the Pump on June 16th

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This just in from GoTriangle! On June 16th all Triangle Transit regional, express, and shuttle routes and all DATA local routes will be free in recognition of National Dump the Pump day! In these tough economic times with high gas prices, everyone is looking for a way to save money. Dump the Pump Day encourages people to ride public transportation (instead of driving) and save money.

Riding public transit is the quickest way to beat high gas prices. The latest American Public Transit Association Transit Savings Report shows that a two person household that downsizes to one car can save – on the average – more than $10,000 a year! What’s not to love about that?

Take Triangle Transit and DATA to commute to and from work, to travel to school and the doctor’s office, to go shopping, and to visit with family and friends. Dump the pump on June 16th. Free your mind (and your wallet) and leave the driving to someone else!

Not sure the bus will work for you?  Use the Trip Planner to find your closest stops, routes and travel times.

Still not sure?  Consider doing it for a prize! Ride the bus, bike, walk, or run during Dump The Pump 2011 for a chance to win!

Check in at your bus stop or on the bike greenways on Foursquare during your commute. There are 20 stops that have this promotion. Check-in and unlock to see if you are the winner!

Contest starts at 6am on June 16. The first 20 people to check-in win a $25 Restaurant.com gift cards. There will be 20 winners per stop. And for more information on commuting options and subsidies in RTP, visit www.SmartCommute.org.

First Friday: Art. Food. Music

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For those of you with preconceived notions, North Carolina isn’t all barbeque and bluegrass.  As a transplant from Ohio, I’m consistently impressed with the different types of cultural amenities that are offered in this region.  From Triangle Restaurant Week to the constant stream of productions at DPAC, the Triangle is ripe with events that showcase what a truly cosmopolitan region the area really is.

Courtesy of www.godowntownraleigh.com

A great example of one of these events is First Friday.  Art. Food. Music.  Sounds like a great way to spend a summer evening, right? 

Downtown Raleigh’s First Friday Gallery Walk consists of dozens of galleries and studios that keep their doors open late. Combined with the First Friday Specials provided by a bunch of bars and restaurants, as well as the street performers and local bands that set up shop throughout the city streets, you can get a full dose of arts and culture!  It’s a fun and easy way to support the local arts community and spend time with family and friends. 

I went with a few friends to check out last week’s event. We started out at the Busy Bee, home to some of the best burgers in the Triangle (the Sacre Bleu burger is deadly) and a lot of local brews.  Picking up a map of the gallery walk (every participating restaurant has a stack) and keeping our eyes open for the First Friday flags that denote participating venues, we wandered through half a dozen galleries and studios, nibbling on the refreshments and chatting with the artists as we went.  Quite a few of the artists are on-site, excited to teach you about their work and to get to know the local crowd.  If you’re lucky, you might just find yourself a little something to take home!

Courtesy of www.godowntownraleigh.com

As we made our way towards historic City Market, we ran into a number of our friends.  It seemed as practically everyone we knew was downtown that night!  We strolled through the cobblestone streets, stopping to grab a drink at the beer tent set up on Blake Street, watch the fire throwers performing outside Big Ed’s City Market (if you haven’t been to Big Ed’s for you breakfast, you’re really missing out) and a street artist that can do amazing things with spray paint!  With a backdrop of music played by a number of local bands, there was a very relaxed vibe in the air. 

First Friday definitely has something for everyone – art, jewelry, clothing, food, drinks, music and more!  So the next time you want to dabble in the arts, bring your friends or family downtown to experience the event, get to know downtown Raleigh and its creative class a little bit better and relax on a beautiful summer evening.  It’s free and self-guided so you can’t go wrong!    

For a full list of participating galleries, studios, retailers, restaurants and bars, a map of the gallery walk, and transportation options, please visit the First Friday website.

CityCamp Raleigh – building leadership to create change

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You know when headlines promoting CityCamp Raleigh include “Techies beckoned to Raleigh for CityCamp”, I was a little uncertain as to what role I play as a self-proclaimed non-techie, especially since the ‘camping gear’ for the event listed items other than marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers.

CityCamp Raleigh, the ‘unconference’ aimed to connect Raleigh to its people by re-imaging how technology can empower communities and draw connections for a more participatory and transparent government.  Bringing together government, business, neighborhood, non-profit, and academic communities, the 3-day event kicked off with speakers from the government perspective and the business perspective. This provided a working foundation and understanding of technology, transparency, collaboration, and open source in government, while at the same time highlighting the importance of citizen participation. Doing just that, the floor opened up for comments and questions – providing a foreshadowing of the types of solutions that fueled the following days ideas and work sessions. Continue reading

Triangle Startup Weekend: What did you do this weekend?

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Last weekend, CED was one of the hosts for Triangle Startup Weekend – an event to build a company in 54 hours.  According to Joan Siefert Rose of CED, there where nearly 200 people for the kickoff, and more than 100 people worked over throughout the weekend in the American Underground to create their companies. Eighteen teams presented the result of their concentrated efforts Sunday afternoon.  Thanks to Joan for sharing news of the winners:

  • First Place: YardSprout, a company matching homeowners with master gardeners to help cultivate part of their lawn to grow food
  • Second Place: DoTheData, a company founded by Jenny Eigenrauch and Wendy Lybrand, counselors in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. The technology is designed to help counselors manage student records in a more efficient and actionable way.
  • Third Place: Knackeo, a company dedicated to helping individuals develop the “knack” for certain skills by linking them with the right people and resources. 

Special kudos to the judges – Jason Caplain of Southern Capitol Ventures; Joe Colopy of Bronto; Brian Handly, advisor at RingLeader Digital; Joe Velk of Contender Capital; and Richard White of UserVoice. And special thanks to the other organizers: Triangle Interactive Marketing Association, Triangle Business Law, with help from Group Story and ReverbNation, in partnership with Startup Weekend, a nonprofit based in Seattle. 

Continued investments in University Research Key

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Last week the Research Triangle Foundation participated in the annual Triangle Chambers visit to DC to brief our Congressional delegation on issues that impact the Research Triangle region’s economic competitiveness. In addition to infrastructure issues such as transportation funding, transit and high-speed rail, the group also reminded our representatives of the importance of strengthening one of our region’s strong assets – our university research system.

One of the participants noted that if the Research Triangle Region were a state, we’d rank 3rd in terms of Federal Funding for university research. While that’s a good thing – and our universities have ample evidence of how they’ve positively leveraged those funding sources  – the forecast for continued strong Federal investment in university research and innovation funding is not very promising. In FY2011, Federal agencies proposed a total budget authority of $143.4 billion for federally funded research and development, a 2.3 percent decline in inflation–adjusted dollars.

A recent study by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) sheds light on the implications of the decline. ITIF reports that the United States is falling behind its peers in the amount of government- and business-funded university research. In 2008, the United States ranked 18th out of 30 in terms of growth in government-funded university research as a percentage of GDP. Countries like Sweden (1),  Ireland (4), and Singapore (7) had much stronger spending.

The trend is unfortunate given that, as ITIF suggests, the private sector often under-invests in innovation so that university research plays a key role in filling in the gap. Moreover, in the last three decades, the trend has been for large corporations to heavily downsize or repurpose their central research laboratories. University-based research has become increasingly important in basic and early-stage research, as ITIF notes, to expand “the knowledge pool from which the private sector draws ideas and innovation.”

The full ITIF report, “University Research Funding: The United States is Behind and Falling,” can be accessed here. For information about Research Triangle university research efforts, see: