And cities will overtake nations on the innovation road

December 12, 2015 Leave a comment

Geoeconomie Institut Choiseul G77As megacities take a lead role amongst the proactive doers in COP21 Climate Conference in Paris, the latest edition (nb 77) of Institut Choiseul’s Géoéconomie publishes my article (in French) on cities reasserting themselves as the ideal spot for technological and societal innovation.

Abstract

Ever since they appeared about ten thousand years ago, urban centres have served the dual purpose of bringing together talent from various disciplines, and facilitating trade. By fostering both the production of novel ideas, and their access to markets, cities have offered an ideal space for innovation to blossom. Eclipsed for a while by all-powerful Nation-States, cities are back on the innovation stage, as three factors conspire to bring them to the fore: Read more…

Dolce Vita? The joy to create can never be taken for granted

Vittorio Zecchin, Una e mille notte, 1914

Vittorio Zecchin, Una e mille notte, 1914

Enrico Prampolini, Ritratto di Marinetti, poeta del Golfo della Spezia, 1934

Enrico Prampolini, Ritratto di Marinetti, poeta del Golfo della Spezia, 1934

For the second time in a matter of weeks, I strolled, mesmerized, through the “Dolce Vita?” temporary exhibition at Musee d’Orsay in Paris, which covers Italian visual arts in the first half of the 20th century. As we see the poetry of an Enrico Prampolini or an Achille Funi and the exhuberance of a Giorgio de Chirico or a Vittorio Zecchin  gradually grinding to a halt, there could be no starker reminder that the freedom to experiment, the urge to innovate, and the joy to create can never be taken for granted. Read more…

We’ve only seen the Impressionist debuts of the Internet of Things

Visiting the post-impressionist gallery on the 2nd floor of Musée d’Orsay in Paris, I realized how rapidly painting in the late 19th century evolved. 

However revolutionary it may have been, Impressionism was superceded fairly quickly. It rocked the boat in the 1860s, gained prominence in the 1870s, exhibiting 12 times between 1874 and 1886 in the Salon des Refusés (literally, the Exhibition of the Rejected), but by the end of the 1880s radically new styles and techniques were already emerging:

Read more…

Old sci-fi story highlights gulf between foresight and vision

November 6, 2014 Leave a comment

Books on tvAs a book review, it doesn’t start well: I have forgotten the author’s name and the book’s title, and, to make it worse, I only ever read a sample chapter. In my defense, it was about 35 years ago during an English class in my secondary education middle years.

Here is what I remember.  Read more…

Frugal retail banking innovation meets social need and could disrupt sector

September 17, 2014 Leave a comment

compte nickel mobile-argent-mastercardIn his book No Bank (available here in French) Hugues Le Bret tells the story of Compte Nickel, a start-up that he and his associates created for the purpose of providing people kicked out of the banking system with an ultra-low cost alternative to receiving and making ordinary card payments.

Although, in a heavily regulated sector, the project required 3 years of massive effort, chasing the funding needed to obtain regulatory approvals that were themselves needed to give enough confidence to investors, the business model is very simple:

  1. The customer buys a €20 ‘pack’ at a retail outlet that is licensed to sell state-regulated products such as tobacco and lottery games. The pack contains a Mastercard and an instruction booklet.
  2. Following the instructions, the customer scans their ID at a specially designed terminal, and provides a physical address and an email address. This 5-min operation opens the account.
  3. The retail outlet manager then swipes the card that was provided in the pack, instantly checking that the account has been properly opened, generating an IBAN number and activating the card.
  4. With a few additional steps the customer uses a mobile phone to generate a PIN and the codes for online banking.

Read more…

“The world is moving from car ownership to car usership”

September 11, 2014 Leave a comment

InnovToday

A BBC News article provides a great insight into the revolution in the making that the car industry is about to go through. KPMG sums it up in their annual survey of the auomotive industry: “The world is moving from car ownership to car usership.” Arguably it will take longer than headline-grabbing statements suggest, not least because a large section of the consumer base still feels a strong emotional connection to the car they own or that they wish to own, but it is undeniably underway.

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Innovating for the post-crisis rebound

September 11, 2014 Leave a comment

InnovToday

creative-destructionSchumpeter defines innovation as a process of creative destruction. The point is not merely that innovation can still happen in times of crisis; it is that crisis are the best time for era-defining innovations to emerge. In yesterday’s session of the Mardis de l’Innovation cycle (in French), Marc Gigethighlighted a few powerful examples of companies, which emerged or re-emerged stronger out of the Great Depression of the 30s with winning products, such as GE and its refrigerators and washing machines, Converse and its emblematic (and ugly) shoes, or the entire machine-tool sector. As it turned out, the Great Depression became one of the most innovative periods in American history.

Today, some post-crisis winners are already emerging, though others may still be in the making. Examples include:

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