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The craft of corporate venturing

Business November 19th, 2014, Amiel Kornel / Senior Managing Director, Spencer Trask & Co.

Over the decades, corporate venturing has evolved through several phases. Recent initiatives reflect growing interest among large companies to include incubators as a capstone of their corporate venturing. Incubators or not, the challenges remain the same: how to grow intelligence, the life-blood of entrepreneurial environments? How can a corporate parent accelerate innovators’ learning? The experiences of prolific inventors and craftsmen suggest an answer: by providing product teams with an artisanal environment that favors play, repetition and patience.

Growth or stagnation? A world tour

Business November 14th, 2014, Eric Chaney / Chief Economist AXA Group & Head of Research AXA IM

Is the global crisis behind us? The divergent development of major emerging countries, Europe and the United States reminds us that despite a strong tendency for unification during the past two decades, despite our growing interdependence, the world economy is still highly fragmented. Under the circumstance, it doesn't make sense to draw a general picture without taking a closer look at these differences: between emerging and advanced countries, between the United States and Europe, and even within Europe itself.

The circular economy, front-stage soon?

Business November 12th, 2014, Yves Legrain / Researcher, former member of France's Economical, Social and Environmental Council

In industrial spheres, the trend towards circular economy is drawing increasing closer attention. Some companies have identified in the recycling business an opportunity to develop new activities, while others see eco-design as a means to raise profit margins, while yet others see a way to re-think their corporate organization. Corporate image is part of the changing scene, but the circular economy concept is now a real industrial concern. Nonetheless, a lot remains to be done to make it fully operational. The challenge is now to see the concept reach maturity.

The booming business of industrial spies

Business October 27th, 2014, Philippe Richard / Strategy Consultant

Undercover ops, one of the darker sides of life, occasionally suffers from sudden exposure in the media, witness how the Concorde’s specification blueprints ended up in Russia or when US secret services used massive listening Big Ears (Echelon) to monitor official, supposedly privy phone exchanges. Yet, far from limiting its activities to the covert manoeuvers to access and analyse State secrets, the spy business today has refocused for some time now on industrial targets. The challenges and techniques used evolve constantly. In an open world, where information systems play an increasingly structuring role, the issue of how to protect sensitive data and technologies has now become a priority question.

Robotics Series – 6 – Terminators of the world factory?

Business October 23rd, 2014, Fangru YANG / Executive Editor of Modern Weekly Business Page, Taiwan high-tech industry observer

You may not know Hon Hai, but it is to produce 70% of all iPhones 6. It also operates the largest factories on Earth. Terry Gou, founder and chairman, based his success on cheap labor costs as well as audacious merging strategies. Will the rise of automated factories mean the end of this success story, and more broadly the end of China as the world factory? As a matter of fact, Mr. Gou is fond of robots, and he won't be the last to launch an automated factory. But he may need Chinese arms for a while. Here is why.

What would it take for algorithms to take over the C-suite? And what will be senior leaders' most important contributions if they do? The advances of brilliant machines will astound us, but they will transform the lives of senior executives only if managerial advances enable them to. There's still a great deal of work to be done to create data sets worthy of the most intelligent machines and their burgeoning decision-making potential. On top of that, there's a need for senior leaders to let go in ways that run counter to a century of organizational development.

With the rapid advances in information technology, a new approach to knowledge is emerging which changes the very idea of skillfulness: what employees know matters less than what they are able to find, and, more relevantly, what they are able to share. Working alone creates less value than teamwork. Hierarchies tend to fade out, while collaboration becomes paramount. In these circumstances, the employees cease to be seen only as a productivity lever. Their personal performance continues to count, but now companies are also interested, and perhaps even more, in their ability to enter a dynamic and to nurture it. The employees can be valued for their creativity, capacity to innovate, their empathy and their intellectual curiosity.

There is a merciless war ongoing now in companies round the world to reduce production costs. Some have a major advantage when they can display improved energy efficiency of their commercial vans and trucks. The energy efficiency factor is now increasingly integrated in the augmented performance assessment that the brands emphasize for their shareholders, their customers, their suppliers, analysts and notation agencies. Some companies have moved faster than others to fight energy waste. The USA, with its huge, continental dimensions, lends itself well to energy scales of economy. Major transport companies, such as UPS or FedEx, are making remarkable progress, but the prime interest goes to the distributor Wal-Mart Stores Inc. On several occasions, President Obama singled out Wal-Mart as a model in terms of energy savings.

The world market for service robots will represent 25 billion euros in 2015 and could well be 100 billion euros by 2018 and 200 billion in 2023, according to the International Federation of Robotics. If we can assert that this entire high growth sector is emerging, there are, nonetheless, variations to be considered: some robots are close to industrial maturity, while others are still in experimental assessment phases. But the growth trend is now well established. It may not necessarily be spectacular but will affect considerably both developed societies and their economies.

Faced with consumers who can search for information, form groups and publicly express their opinion through electronic media and social networking, goods producers and services providers will inevitably have to step down from their comfortable heights and start thinking in terms of coproduction with a customer who will become a prosumer.

Come year 2030, what will business enterprises look like? Almost every qualified answer points in the same direction, or at least provides a foreseeable trend: if as predicted instability becomes the rule and not the exception, and in a context of an entirely new ecosystem stemming from pervasive digital technologies, business enterprises will have to evolve quite considerably if they wish to remain efficient, sustainable and resilient. What factors come to bear here?

To stay competitive, companies must stop experimenting with digital and commit to transforming themselves into full digital businesses. Here are seven traits that successful digital enterprises share.

Sustainable development, emerging technologies: can international standards make a difference?

Business May 29th, 2014, Alan Bryden / General Mining Engineer, former Secretary General of ISO, the International Organization for Standardization (2003-2009)

Sustainable development mantras are all over the world, but change is slow to come. While the international negotiations in the context of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change have not shown much progress, international standards suggest a less visible, more influential and pragmatic way to impulse change. In recent years a set of tools has been developed to address the interrelated challenges of climate change, energy, water and nutrition. In an increasingly global economy, could they make a difference?

What kinds of lessons can providers of microfinance services in developed countries learn from microfinance practices overseas? Three experts from the microfinance industry addressed that question during a panel discussion at the eighth annual Penn Microfinance Conference, whose theme was "Microfinance: Beyond Its Roots." In addition, keynote speaker Elizabeth Rhyne, managing director of the Center for Financial Inclusion, discussed how the microfinance industry is moving beyond its reliance on lending into multiple new directions, including innovations in the health care sector.

The cybersecurity challenge

Business April 25th, 2014, Hervé Guillou / Chairman, Trust and Security Industries Council (France)

Cyber-threats are now becoming systemic in the world economy. Concern of all actors involved is rising, to the extent that it may lead to a global counter move against digitisation that would consequently have a huge negative economic impact. Notwithstanding progress in cloud computing and big data with, according to McKinsey, a generated annual income of between 9,600 and 21,600 billion dollars in the global economy. If the sophistication of cyber-attacks were to submerge the defensive capacity of States and organizations, we could fear more stringent regulations and policies that would in fact slow down innovation and growth.

Goodbye services, goodbye goods: welcome to the solutions economy

Business April 24th, 2014, Michèle Debonneuil / Senior economist, Caisse des dépôts et consignations

Enterprises are now able to collect all kind of real-time information about the needs of each consumer. They can provide innovative products that are neither goods nor services but something else, in between, that could be called solutions. Around these solutions we are witnessing the emergence of original business models, and more generally, of a new economy.

In countries that have based their wealth on production, every discovery and innovation that potentially lower production costs attract very strong attention. Since 2007, the discovery and exploitation of shale gas and oil have put the USA energy industry back on the track to competitive procurement faced with competing nations who have been low costs champions for decades. The new question on the table is to ascertain whether 3D printing can have a comparable impact.

For the world's economy to get full value from technological innovation, it must have a robust, coordinated approach to cybersecurity. A new report from the World Economic Forum and McKinsey looks at how that could happen.

Which innovation strategy for consumer goods?

Business February 27th, 2014, Matthieu Perrier / Innovation Manager, ITW

Shrouded in the secrecy of marketing services, at the heart of the manufacturing industry, innovation has today established itself as the ultimate solution, illustrated by insolent successes despite a challenging environment. Sometimes defined as the encounter between an invention and a market segment, innovation seems to generate alternatives, growth drivers, and even crisis products that allow companies to bounce or to renew themselves. So how are the necessary opportunities to be found? Is there a recipe for large FMCG companies? A recipe? Certainly not. But some methods, yes. And also plenty of flawed strategies.

Businesses are increasingly the victims of cyber attacks. These crimes are not only costly for the companies, but can also put their very existence at risk and may provoke significant externalities for third parties. The pace of innovation is escalating rapidly among threat sources, helped by an acceleration in the global proliferation of cyber expertise. Sharing information is a solution. What about insurance?

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