Archive for October, 2010

Taking the Trash out of Product Design

October 29, 2010 Leave a comment

As we continue to strive towards a sustainable world, many companies are taking innovative approaches to product design and packaging. We all know how frustrating it is particularly during Christmas when one sees all the excess paper and cardboard that is left over after presents are unwrapped. But what about everyday items. Fast Company reports on one company’s attempt to lessen its impact (and probably save money too) by developing tube-free toilet roll. Yes, you heard right, toilet rolls! Kimberly-Clark estimates that the 17 billion toilet paper tubes produced each year in the U.S. generate 160 million pounds of trash, or enough tubing to stretch over a million miles when placed end to end. Their Scott Naturals Tube-Free, a line of tube-free toilet paper will be launched on Monday at Wal-Mart  stores throughout the northeastern part of the U.S. The Scott Naturals line features toilet paper containing 40% recycled material too.

The company also is looking at water use in the toilet,  recognizing that toilet flushing is actually the No. 1 use of water in the home, the company last month launched an initiative whereby it’s giving out a free water conservation tool with every purchase of its Scott Naturals bath tissue. The product, the Smart Flush bag, offers a safe and easy way for households to save water. When placed in the toilet tank, the material in the bag absorbs water and expands. By taking up space in the tank, the bag makes less available for water, with the result that each flush uses up to one liter less water than it normally would. More information on this product and others can be found on the springwise website.


Entrepreneurship Not Just About High Tech

October 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Another misconception that tends to exist is that all High Potential Startups are going to be high technology, whether that be a biotech or hardware or software venture. The fact is that there are plenty of good ideas out there that may use elements of technology but are not high technology per se.

One great example of a consumer product from the University system is that of Gatorade. Created by medical researchers attached to the Gators American football team at the University of Florida, they needed a drink that could replace moisture and elements lost to football players as they trained and played in the humid Florida heat. Hence the name, Gatorade, which is now owned by PepsiCo. The University has made a lot of money from the development needless to say.

Students and younger researchers will come up with many novel and inventive ideas, yes the majority of them will be technology based or at least have a high technology content, being the world we live in. But some might not and these are as valid an entrepreneurial endeavor as any others. If someone comes up with the next Wal-Mart or Nike, rather than a Google or Microsoft, who is going to complain? Ireland has a number of industries that are ripe for entrepreneurial development and innovation, be it the cultural sector (lots of talk but not so much action on really bright new ideas) and the food industry (some innovation going on but still a long way to go).

State of US Innovation

October 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Industry Week has an article on the state of US innovation which makes for interesting reading. Entitled ‘Innovation Nation’ the article points out that manufacturing industries operating in the United States are more engaged in innovation than non-manufacturing companies, based on preliminary data from the National Science Foundation, which is a U.S. government agency that promotes science and engineering.

The survey data, which is from 2006-2008, show that about 22% of manufacturers introduced product innovations, compared with 8% of companies in non-manufacturing sectors. About 22% of manufacturers introduced process innovations compared with 8% of non-manufacturers.  The NSF’s Business R&D and Innovation Survey also shows much higher innovation incidences are observed in the manufacturing subsectors of chemicals, computer/electronic products, and electrical equipment/appliances/components, and in some parts of the nonmanufacturing sectors of information and professional/scientific/technical services. Further, the BRDIS data indicate that companies that perform and/or fund R&D have a far higher incidence of innovation than do companies without any R&D activity.

One of the clearest findings i is the large difference in innovation incidence when companies with R&D activity are compared to those without any R&D activity. Companies with R&D spending exhibit far higher rates of innovation than do non-R&D companies.

Around 47,000 of the estimated 1.5 million for-profit companies (3%) performed and/or funded R&D in 2008. According to the survey data, 66% of all these companies were product innovators in the 2006–08 period, and 51% were process innovators. There is also indication that the companies with the most R&D (those in the $50–$100 million and $100 million or more annual R&D categories) report the highest incidence of innovation: 76% and 81%, respectively, for products in 2006–08, and 69% and 71% for processes.


5 Ways to Push College Student and Academic Entrepreneurship

October 21, 2010 1 comment

One of the interesting things that is starting to occur, based on my own anecdotal evidence, is that ‘being an entrepreneur’ is now a valid career choice. In the good old days of the boom this usually meant buying and ‘flipping’ houses or apartments. Anything else was seen as too risky. Now that reality has set in, there seems to be a growing feeling amongst recent graduates, researchers and students that indeed they could be aspiring entrepreneurs. So what is holding them back?

I think there are a number of issues at play here that might stop an interested younger person to follow in the footsteps of other entrepreneurs who started in their formative years. I think that entrepreneurship is latent in a lot of people. It is a bit like the often quoted comment that there is a great novel inside everyone, but only a very small number ever actually write one. There are plenty of stories of people who fall into entrepreneurship by mistake. If Steve Jobs had not been friends with Steve Wozniak would he have become a successful technology entrepreneur?

Look at the number of startups that the core team in PayPal have created since it was sold. Many of these may not have gone down this route if they had not been early employees in the company, something you are also seeing with early Google employees and in other tech startups. If William Shockley had been a different kind of leader, would Bob Noyce have gone of with the ‘traitorous eight’ and setup Fairchild and eventually Intel? There are many reasons why people create new ventures.

So what are the issues holding people back, particularly students or graduates?

1. The idea that entrepreneurs are solo: When I delivered the first module of the pracademic programme for postdoctoral researchers in DCU, what surprised me was so many of them approached me after the class to say that they were surprised that creating a new venture was about doing it through a team and not doing it alone. For a long time we have promoted the idea that the single entrepreneur has an idea and pretty much through force of will delivers the idea to fruition. In fact most entrepreneurial startups involve at least two people. When I attended the Techstars ventures event where eleven presented to investors, it was very much a team effort. Yes, there was a CEO or leader but the teams all were involved in the pitch and there was usually two, three or four of them. Venture creation is a team sport. A bit like Bono without the rest of U2, to use an Irish example of creativity.

2. Finding the right team: Again in relation to the postdoctoral programme, there were several cases of individual researchers who had commercial ideas from research but were afraid of making the leap to startup – they were conscious of not having a financial background or a sales background or a marketing background. Part of any mentorship process has to be helping them to create a team around them so they get to spend time doing what they do best. We have started this process but there is no mechanism for matching these people together or with the outside world.

3. Advocates in the corporate world: This has been mentioned on this blog before, but many of these young entrepreneurs can learn a lot from mentors in the corporate world. Even better, these contacts can help them to get access to the same corporates which is very helpful as many of these technology startups are in the enterprise space or would make good partners for these early stage companies.

4. Making entrepreneurship ‘cool’: There are plenty of cool tech companies out there and Generation Y and those coming after them are bigger users of technology probably than any generation before them. We need to ensure that when we evangelise with the student population that we go for this angle. Making it ‘cool’ to be an entrepreneur will help entice these people from taking a corporate job.

5. Helping them get a beta client: Success breeds success, and under lean startup methodology an early client or beta test is the best way to craft a product or service offering. If researcher or student entrepreneurs can see their products being taken serious and used, even in a closed beta test, by consumers or companies, it makes it more ‘real’ for them. And will increase their incentives to stick at it. With a recent close-mentored company we enabled them to get an initial sale and a lead on a potential 6 figure follow-on selling into a group of international organisations. The first product is nearing completion and even getting to issue an invoice was enough to get them to set up a company. Cart before the horse? Perhaps, but we had enough early analysis to identify a number of product lines and identifiable markets, and nothing sells entrepreneurship like a real live sale.

"Innovating for Good" Event on 11th November

October 20, 2010 Leave a comment

The Innovation Dublin Festival is an exciting opportunity to promote and celebrate innovation in the city. For the first time, this year’s festival includes an event highlighting the impact and potential of Social Enterprise.

“Innovating for Good: Social Enterprise” will take place from 10:00am to 12:00 noon on Thursday 11th November 2010 at Wood Quay Venue, Civic Offices, Wood Quay, Dublin 8.

The keynote speaker will be Gerry Higgins, Chief Executive of CEiS (Community Enterprise in Scotland). Other speakers will include Maurice Healy, former President of IBEC and Chairperson of the Social Enterprise Task Force, and Paul O’Sullivan, Chief Executive of Clann Credo, the Social Investment Fund.

More information here: There is no charge to attend, however please RSVP to:


Digital Marketing; eCommerce Mini Conference

October 15, 2010 Leave a comment

The DCU Business School with the DCU LINK Research Centre’s Techspectations Initiative is holding a free mini-conference  on 22 October 2010 at DCU Business School. Get Digital! is supported by the North Dublin Chamber of Commerce in the the Helix Theatre on the DCU Campus.

The free event will take place on the afternoon of October 22 in Dublin City University with the plenary in The Helix Theatre and breakout sessions in DCU Business School. The miniconference is part of the DCU LINK Research Centre Techspectations Initiative whose goal is to accelerate greater digital participation by citizens, schools and SMEs. Breakout sessions will focus on three themes – “Selling on the Internet”,” Digital Advertising” and “The Future As a Cloud.”

The Get Digital 2010 miniconference includes speakers from an impressive list of Internet and marketing leaders including Microsoft, Google, PayPal, Facebook,, Kantar Media, Edelman and many others. A number of Irish entrepreneurs and managers will also speak at the event including John Dennehy (CEO, HR Locker), Ciaran McGowan (CEO, StaffBalance), Ciaran Crean (MD, Mick’s Garage) and John Granville (Sales Operations Manager, 

SMEs and DCU staff can register for free here.  

Event on Green Business, 'Ireland's Green Economic Corridor'

October 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Green Issues & Green Business – 21st October

  • Speakers:  Dr. Yvonne Ryan, Green Campus Manager, An Taisce  & Ms. Sheena McCambley, Senior Planner, BRL
  • Venue:  Board Room, Ballymun Regeneration Ltd, Civic Offices, Ballymun
  • Time:  7.45am – 9.15am

Now more than ever companies need to be conscious of resource consumption and waste generation in their operations. It is vital that companies take action to achieve sustainability goals with awareness of their responsibilities toward the environment and community in which they operate. This NDCC seminar will be delivered by Dr Yvonne Ryan, Green Campus Manager at An Taisce. Yvonne will focus on the environmental impacts of companies and recent novel approaches designed to assist companies in improving their triple bottom line.

Sheena will present an outline of An tSlí Ghlas – Ireland’s Green Way, a green economic corridor stretching from Dublin’s city centre along a north-city spine via the new town of Ballymun to Dublin Airport.


7.45am Registration & Light Refreshments

8.00am Opening by Fiona Cottell, President of NDCC

8.10am Presentation by Dr. Yvonne Ryan, Green Campus Manager, An Taisce

8.50am Presentation by Ms. Sheena McCambley, Senior Planner, BRL

9.00am Q&A

9.15am Close