“Any product or service that meets the serious needs of the large retiring boomer population will attract attention.”
– Robert Robb,
Director of the
Venture Development Institute for
Innovation and Entrepreneurship
The turn of the 21st century: in terms of technology, it seems like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it?
Ten years ago, most modems squealed and hissed for seconds that seemed like an eternity, before connecting us to a much smaller Internet that still felt limitless. Perhaps for the first time since the moon landing, many of us truly felt that we were living in the future. And unlike Apollo, this advancement in technology and culture was open to anyone with the price of a PC.
Just a decade later, much of that future seems Paleolithic. Our modems don’t hiss any more, and they can deliver gigabytes of streaming video and data. Our cars contain devices that guide us by satellite. CDs are headed the way of the eight-track; our music collections are electronic files and the devices that play them contain telephones and computer applications. Google, Blackberry, Bluetooth, netbook, Wiki – the list of tech widely adopted over the past decade would have read like a baffling foreign language only a few years ago.
Today, innovation is moving even faster, creating products, tools and technologies that can make life easier, longer and better connected. And innovation has been a major Texas export at least since 1958, when Texas Instruments engineer Jack Kilby invented the integrated circuit. A few decades later, Michael Dell took a personal computer business from an Austin dorm room to worldwide operations that ship about 140,000 PCs each day.
What’s next for a state that produces so much revolutionary innovation and intellectual property?
Hot in 2010?
Robert Robb, director of IIE, says to look for advances in:
energy storage and battery technologies
smart mobile-device technology and mobile applications, including ancillary devices
water and waste cleanup technologies
On the Horizon
Jim Nolen is a lecturer at the University of Texas McCombs School of Business and an expert in business valuation and entrepreneurship. According to Nolen, Texas venture capitalists (VCs) traditionally have focused on the semiconductor, software, telecommunications and energy industries. In the future, Texas VCs are likely to leverage their expertise in these sectors by concentrating on semiconductor research and design, wireless communications and alternative energy.
“Software trends will probably migrate from business software to social networking and virtualization software,” he says, referring to technologies that work with tools such as Facebook and Twitter, and that run on computers with multiple operating systems. New media will continue to attract attention as well.
And while going green is popular and can be profitable, Nolen warns that investment dollars can be hard to come by.
“Everyone is predicting that ‘clean tech’ and biotech will be hot sectors, but unfortunately, these industries are very capital intensive, as opposed to software, which is much more capital efficient,” he says. “Clean energy and biotech both have long investment horizons” – or in basic terms, a long wait for the anticipated payoff.
Consumer electronics and wireless devices might make a comeback, “depending on the success of Apple’s tablet PC and advances in smart phones and 4G networks,” Nolen says. Health care and medical device technologies are still strong due largely to aging baby boomers –– but federal health care reform efforts have created an uncertain outlook.
The aging boomer population will continue to spur technologies that assist them, says Robert Robb, director of the Venture Development Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE) at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD).
“There will be continuing interest in health and wellness technologies, products and services, from new medical devices to smarter medical telemetry for the growing senior population,” Robb says, “especially if such products are fairly close to entering the market and can be developed at a reasonable cost. Any product or service that broadly meets the serious needs of the large, retiring boomer population will attract attention.”
That’s good news for the Texas economy. According to the April 2009 Texas Biotechnology Industry Report published by the Texas Governor’s Office, Texas is among the 10 leading states in its number of biotechnology companies and its number of life and physical scientists.
Texas is home to more than a thousand biotech, biomedical research, business and medical manufacturing companies that will play a major role in generating medical and wellness technology and research.
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The Entrepreneurial Spirit
Innovation takes initiative. Behind new ideas are the people who drive them from concept to the market. That’s a focus not lost on Texas academic programs.
Recently, the shaky economy has driven some adventuresome, talented Texans out of the workplace and into academic programs that will train them to be industry pioneers.
One such program, the Venture Development Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE) at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD), has met with considerable success. The IIE academic program, associated with the School of Management at UTD, includes 13 graduate courses and three undergraduate courses.
“Over the past four years, student enrollments have grown at a compound annual rate in excess of 43 percent,” Robb says. “Three new faculty members have been added recently to accommo- date a [program] enrollment that is approaching 1,100 students annually.
“The vast majority of MBA students enrolled in the foundational IIE course I teach want to be entrepreneurs,” Robb says. “That course alone typically has 30 to 45 students enrolled each semester, including summer.”
UTD’s School of Management recently announced the creation of a Master of Science and Innovation (MSIE) program. The MSIE program addresses traditional entrepreneurs as well as “intrapreneurs”– those who lead the development of new products and technologies within more mature organizations.
“This dual emphasis, and a con- sistent focus on technology-based innovation, differentiate the UTD program from those other Texas universities offer,” says Joseph C. Picken, IIE executive director. FN