October 13, 2010
On Tuesday this week your author attended a lunchtime debate in the European Parliament hosted by EUREKA as a part of the Innovation Summit.
For me at least, the conclusion was something of a muddle.
During lunch, each table was asked to debate a part of the innovation and financing topic. Possibly interesting stuff then. After the meal, we were to report on the outcome of the discussion to the group.
So why the muddle?
As far as I could tell, this group of MEPs, experts and assorted finance / innovation policy folk came up with two headline findings:
1. Venture capital isn’t working in the US currently, it is unlikely to change. Start looking for other ways to finance SMEs. VC isn’t the answer.
2. Venture capital is the answer. We need to find ways to get an even larger role for VC.
Do you see a problem here? This was the conclusion of two separate tables in the same room at the same time. In other words, seemingly no conclusion at all. What message is this to people coming up with inventions and patents around Europe and the world?
I’d love to write the answer here for everyone to prove my brilliance to the world. But I don’t know either. The problem is, as the global economy is developing, speeding up, becoming ever more competitive in ever more ways, we need to have these answers and fast.
If you had a small company that had ‘innovated’ and had some swish new product that was approaching development and market, what sort of money would you want?
A loan? From who? Government? A bank?
A business angel?
Of course, these are trick questions. The industry, stage of development, potential market size and much more influence the answers. There is no right or wrong.
But we seem to lack even a basic process to help people figure it out for themselves. None of the conclusions seemed to mention this. There does not appear to be a ‘Rotterdam Innovation Roadmap’ (or whatever) where these things have been mapped out as a process.
For those of us with a (direct) marketing background, it is a given that the real upside leverage in a business is in optimising the sales process. In other words, getting more out of a specified activity and cost. By putting in place something of this nature, continuous optimisation can begin and future technologies and inventions can benefit from following a tried and tested path to funding.
For me at least, until this happens, the innovation debate will simply roll along – possibly with lots of the right answers, but not enough conclusions.
Even pirates kept treasure maps so that they could find their money again in the future!
And of course, if that process does exist, what and where is it? Why is it never mentioned? Do you have it? Is it tattooed on the chest of an ageing inventor somewhere? And who is working on improving it?
If you happen to know any of the right answers to these questions (or even potential answers) please comment below. I promise to pass them along to people that matter in the innovation policy debate.financialguy