Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Last Thursday, the search to identify the best of Welsh entrepreneurship was launched in Cardiff at the Radisson Blu Hotel.

Established to identify the fastest growing firms in Wales, the project has gone from strength to strength and now, in its fifteenth year, is seen as the list of business success that firms across Wales aspire to.

Since it was created in 1999, the project has demonstrated the impact that a small group of high growth firms can have within a small economy such as Wales. A total of 440 businesses have appeared on the fourteen lists published in the Western Mail, creating over 22,000 jobs and generating over £12 billion of additional turnover annually into the Welsh economy, much of which is spent on local goods and services.

Last year, the fastest growing firm in Wales was Glyndwr Innovations of Wrexham, the second North Wales company to win the award following the success of Afonwen laundry in 2011.

The project continues to showcase the best of Welsh enterprise and hopes that this anniversary celebrating the achievements of the fastest growing firms in Wales will spur on the development of more Welsh businesses

During the last decade and a half, we have seen massive changes to the Welsh economy and yet the annual Fast Growth 50 list demonstrates the massive entrepreneurial potential we have here in Wales.

The fact that last year’s winners created over 4000 new jobs in only a two-year period shows the impact they are having. However, many have the potential to develop even further and by working closely with the Welsh Government and other stakeholders, the Fast Growth 50 project aims to help the further development of these businesses over the next few years.

The success of all fifty companies will be celebrated at the annual gala dinner that will take place take place in Cardiff on October 4th. This exclusive event has become one of the most prestigious in the Welsh business calendar and, yet again, promises to be a showcase Welsh business talent. Santander Corporate Bank, which has supported the sustainable growth award for the last three years, will be sponsoring the overall dinner and Capital Law will again be presenting the main award for the fastest growing firm. Other sponsors for the event include the University of South Wales, Logicalis, Sinclair Finance and Leasing, Nominet and Media Wales

The 2013 list of the fastest growing firms in Wales will appear in a special supplement to be published by the Western Mail on Wednesday, October 9th 2013.

To be eligible for a place on the Fast Growth 50 list, firms must be:

  • Have had sales of at least £250,000 in 2010
  • Be an independent and privately held business (not a branch plant or wholly own subsidiary of a non-Welsh based company)
  • Be based in Wales

Rankings will be based on percentage growth of revenues from 2010 to 2012

The closing date for entries is June 21st 2013. Further information on how to enter can be obtained by emailing fastgrowth50@wales.ac.uk or by going to the website www.fastgrowth50.com.

Monday, April 29, 2013


As regular readers of this blog are aware, I am a passionate advocate of having universities as catalysts for enterprise and innovation in the Welsh economy.

Indeed, much of my own professional career over the last twenty years has focused on trying to identify and develop the best instruments for driving forward change in these areas.

That is why I was very interested in the publication of a recent report which, by examining the world's most highly regarded universities in entrepreneurship and knowledge transfer, attempted to identify the key factors needed for an enterprise ecosystem in which higher education played a major role.

As would be expected, some of these relate directly to the strategy of the higher education institution itself, and most experts interviewed for the report cited a strong institutional enterprise and innovation culture within the university as an essential ingredient of a successful local ecosystem.

Of course, it is not unexpected to find both Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the USA used as examples where enterprise and innovation was "sown into the fabric of the universities from their very foundation" but is also worth noting that there were a number of UK institutions mentioned as a result of the considerable change that has been taking place in the British higher education system during over the last few years.

One example is one of our great institutions, the University of Cambridge. Despite being over 800 years old, it has overcome its traditional academic focus to create an  unexpected entrepreneurial culture. This has been achieved by celebrating enterprising faculty role models, encouraging a relatively unstructured mix of innovation activities across campus, and giving faculty the freedom to devote time to entrepreneurial ideas.

The role of those at the top of the university was also seen as pivotal in sowing the seeds of a strong enterprise culture within the institution as without such leadership, changes rarely happen. In just eight years, Imperial College London was changed by Sir Richard Sykes, formerly CEO of the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, into a powerhouse for academic entrepreneurship. Not only did he transform the technology transfer office into a coherent vehicle for commercialisation across the university but, in doing so, encouraged world-class researchers to become entrepreneurs.

But it is not only university staff that are critical for ensuring changes within the institution. Equally important is the role of student-led entrepreneurship activities that, in many cases, create an environment in which enterprise can thrive.

In Finland, the newly created Aalto University has, in just over three years, established an incredibly powerful engagement by its student population in enterprise and innovation activities. These are supported by resources such as the "Start Up Sauna" incubator on campus and the annual SLUSH conference, which brings together early-stage startups to meet top-tier venture capitalists and media from around the world. In 2012, SLUSH gathered more than 3.500 attendees, 550 companies and 250 investors and journalists for two days in Helsinki, an incredible achievement for a university.

Various external factors are also important in encouraging a more innovative local ecosystem. In particular, the local quality of life is a key issue for attracting and retaining academics as well as entrepreneurs and investors.

In France, the area of Sophia Antipolis has managed, through creating a technology park on a wonderful green field site, to take "the Silicon Valley summery lifestyle and setting it up in the south of France”. And as economic development planners in Wales should take note, this success has also been helped by a strong tourism industry that made the region “open to the world”, an international airport and high-speed train lines to the rest of Europe.

Finally, many of the best universities in the world of enterprise and innovation have not done so alone and have benefited from considerable external support from local and regional governments, usually through generous financial grants. However, what seems to be most important in maximising such a relationship is openness between government and higher education in working to together to achieve similar goals.

In Russia, a Siberian university managed to combine its own facilities with those of the city and local businesses so that all three actors benefited and contributed to the enterprise ecosystem.

Certainly there are lessons there for Welsh universities in working alongside councils and businesses in developing local facilities that benefit the whole community.

Whilst some may say that the ecosystems in Silicon Valley and other innovation hotspots where entrepreneurial university flourish may be hard to replicate in more disadvantaged areas such as Wales, the report does show that an increasing number of successful institutions were to be found in more challenging economic environments. These universities had, despite their location, managed to overcome an internal culture that did not support entrepreneurial behaviour and risk-taking, a lack of venture capital or multi-national companies in the region and a limited local market.

Therefore, with Welsh higher education in Wales facing specific challenges as a result of new configurations, reorganisation and alliances, university leaders and educational policymakers could do worse than learn from some of these examples globally and ensure that their institutions not only stimulate enterprise and innovation internally but play a major role in driving forward their local economies.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Collateral damage in University Brouhahas

Earlier in this blog I reported on some emails I had received from students that seemed "off" to me, where I had responded professionally and in an anodyne manner, sticking to the facts and issues, and not addressing the tone. I did not know what was up, and even later when I posted the emails I did not know what was going on. I finally got some insights in the last week from other students.

I was in effect collateral damage of problems that did not originate with me, and to which I had contributed very little. In that sense, my response that stuck to the issues rather than the tone was appropriate. It might have been useful to deal with the email-ers more directly and personally. My mistake.

More generally, for whatever reason you want to avoid getting splattered with blood and guts, or even worse becoming a target yourself. At least if this is a fight where you have no dog involved. 


One hundred and four years ago and thanks to a Welsh Chancellor of the Exchequer, the British Government granted the first pensions to its citizens who, when David Lloyd George was in charge of the nation's finances, had to be men of ‘good character’ over the age of 70 who had not been in the workhouse.

Since then, all of us have become eligible for a state pension when we reach retirement age but are our older generation better off?

Ironically, perhaps, the five shillings paid out in 1909 was, according to pensioners support groups, equivalent to 25 per cent of the average earnings. Compare that to the situation today where the state pension is equivalent to only 17 per cent of an individual’s average pay.

In such a situation, it is probably not surprising to find that many pensioners are now going back to work to supplement what they get from the state.

The latest data showed that in the last three years, the numbers of adults aged sixty-five years or older who are in employment in Wales has increased by 28 per cent and currently account for 60 per cent of the increase in employment for the period 2009-2012.

Other factors have also probably influenced this trend.

First of all, it is clear that pensioners are not getting much from their savings as, thanks to the lowest interest rates in history, the interest on savings accumulated throughout a lifetime of hard work is currently at a record low.

Secondly, for those lucky enough to have private pensions, the actual value of pension funds have fallen dramatically, meaning that many will have to wait until the stock market recovers to get any decent return on their retirement income.

Finally, an increasing number still have to pay off debts with a recent report showing that one in five pensioners are in the red on the day they retire, owing an average of £31,000. In fact, hundreds of thousands of pounds are still outstanding on interest-only mortgages due to the fact that many endowments, thanks to the recent financial crisis, simply failed to deliver the returns promised.

In addition, the insurance company Prudential estimated recently that people planning to retire this year expect to be living off the lowest average incomes recorded in six years, with those retirees being expected to be around £3,400 a year worse off than workers who retired in 2008.

However, it is those on the basic state pension of £110.15 per week who face the biggest challenges, especially in paying basic bills. Indeed, it is worth noting that whereas the average annual spend on gas and electricity for the over-65s was an average of £669 in 2005, it had risen soared to £1,356 last year, representing nearly a quarter of what they get from the state pension.

Given this, is it really surprising that many are facing a difficult choice between going hungry and keeping warm, resulting in greater incidences of cold-related illnesses?

We are supposed to be living in a civilised advanced economy and yet in 2012, there were over 20,000 excess winter deaths of older people in the UK, higher than in any other European country.

One can only imagine the horror of the figures that will be released after the bitterly cold spring we are currently experiencing.

And with Wales having a higher proportion of older people than the rest of the UK, the situation is probably even worse here. Indeed, it is estimated that over 100,000 pensioners in Wales will have turned turning off their central heating during the recent cold spell.

Perhaps the answer with this annual problem lies with using the ability of the public sector as a purchaser. For example, if the UK and Assembly Governments examined how they could ensure discounted purchases of electricity and gas, then both could provide these services at a vastly reduced rate for those receiving the state pension.

Given that all governments of the last fifty years seem to have conveniently ignored this issue, such a solution to deliver a ‘pensioners’ tariff’ would ensure that politicians, rather than spouting the usual empty rhetoric about the importance of looking after the older generation in our society, actually acted and used the massive purchasing power of Government to do something positive that will improve the standard of living of those who need it the most.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


trendwatching.com have some important consumer trends that every small business in this space should be considering as part of their strategy for the next year.

The question, as always, is how many have even considered these important issues as part of their ongoing strategy?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

12 Obama Loan Assistance Programs Extended through 2013

President Obama's loan assistance programs created to help homeowners stop foreclosure have been extended. The 12 mortgage relief programs will not expire until December 31, 2013. These programs are designed to help American homeowners make home affordable and avoid foreclosure.

MHA allows struggling homeowners to refinance, restructure or modify interest rates and terms, reduce monthly mortgage payments, and or reduce loan principle. The 12 loan assistance programs are listed below.

  • Hardest Hit Fund
  • Home Affordable Modification Program
  • Home Affordable Unemployment Program
  • FHA Refinance
  • Home Affordable Refinance Program
  • FHA Second Mortgage Modification
  • Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives
  • Principle Reduction Alternative
  • FHA Loan Modification
  • Special Loan Servicing
  • Veterans Loan Modification
  • Home Affordable Unemployment Program

Related Loan Assistance Articles

Rare events

Robert Litterman (a protege of Fischer Black at Goldman-Sachs):

Given the nonnormality of daily returns that we find in most financial markets, we [Goldman Sachs] use as a rule of thumb assumption that four-[daily]-standard-deviation events in financial markets happen approximately once per year. 

in Lehmann, The Legacy of Fischer Black, chapter 4 (2004).

He also points out that in general daily Value at Risk is about 4 times the daily variance, but not always.

There are also excellent chapters by Myers and Ross, a nice brief discussion of real options, etc

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Getting away with murder...

For me, being a professor--teaching and research--has been like getting away with murder. I'm not sure there is another place for me to be gainfully employed at much above the minimal wage. But what makes it special is that I can follow my intellectual nose. Of course, I have to  be productive--grants, publications, courses taught that attract students--but that seems fairly straightforward. I usually have a portfolio of potential projects or courses I might teach, and depending on the flow of grants, the department's needs, and my own inclinations, I can almost always match my desires with what the world will support. What's amazing is that a project that seems too far out, or a course that would appear to be too esoteric, usually do have markets, sometimes if you wait for a while, sometimes if you dress them up in more presentable clothes.

It took some time for me to find a place where this match of desires and opportunity would work best, but along the way (maybe 15 years after my PhD), I could find temporary places and grants that led to my being able to be remarkably productive years later. Almost everything I was interested in, or courses I taught, would somehow end up being employed in the my work. That "end up being employed" involved my being inventive and willing to set up more presentable clothes, but that never seemed to be a burden.

Put differently, it would appear that whatever I was interested in, no matter how idiosyncratic, eventually would become grist for the mill, and lead to productive projects. It's not that the world came to see my ideas as natural. Rather, I could find ways of doing my work. And if you get grants and publish respectably, most departments will leave you alone and perhaps even celebrate you. I don't believe you win them over, but they cannot help but cashing in on you.

You also need to be able to survive for a long time. For the projects and courses only become possible in time, not when you first think of them. Hence, it's vital that you have enough alternatives in action at any one time that you can live long enough to be able to do some of your work. (Similarly, if you want to win awards, live long enough so that eventually they will get around to recognizing you. Posthumous recognition is ironic.) In effect, you have to have a diverse portfolio, be willing to wait for the right time, and at any time have work that you want to do (work that you may have been waiting to get to for some time).

They tell me the secret is to outlive the bastards. But I think you just have to live--it's not the bastards who are out there. Rather, there is lots of noise, and you just have to focus on your conversation--what is called the cocktail-party effect. (In a noisy cocktail party, you can understand the person you are talking to much better than would be expected: Wikipedia: "The cocktail party effect is the phenomenon of being able to focus one's auditory attention on a particular stimulus while filtering out a range of other stimuli, much the same way that a partygoer can focus on a single conversation in a noisy room. This effect is what allows most people to "tune into" a single voice and "tune out" all others."


During the visit to Hollywood last month, I had the chance to catch up again with Cardiff City fanatic and Superted creator Mike Young. Through his new company Moonscoop, he has helped to create Kabillion, an interactive, multi-platform kids' entertainment channel.

The innovation is not in the programming itself, which is in itself both innovative and high quality. Instead, it is the fact that Kabillion is available both as a free video on demand (VOD) channel currently available on Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, and Optimum West digital cable systems across the United States, a free online broadband site offering streaming video and, until the site's relaunch, an online community—all designed for a key demographic of kids from 6 to 12.

Mike sent me this last night to demonstrate what is being developed on the Kabillion TV channel in the US and Kabillion On-line. Hopefully, through Mike and his companies, Wales and our creative industries sector will be able to capitalise on this development in the future.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Fischer Black: We should be paid for teaching alone. Those who really want to do research will do it nonetheless. Also, how to test models...

In Perry Mehrling's Fischer Black,

Fischer Black, "I see our university system as similar to the former Soviet empire, and as having similar problems . . . teaching and research are too uniform. They do not respond quickly to shifts in tastes and technology. . . . And, most important, teaching and research cost too much. . . .  The basic problem is that we have too much research, and the wrong kind of research, because governments, firms, foundations, and generous alumni support it." Namely, pay professors for their teaching only, since those not interested in research will stop producing it, and those who want to do research will do it anyway. (pp. 300-301)

p. 112. Black would stress his theories of portfolio management using past stock behavior. If the theories did not work well, then you might learn how to fix them. Empirical work is not so much to test theories, as to guide us to likely theoretical enhancements. Hence, the usual sophisticated econometric procedures and statistical tests are less useful than is running the theory "practically" on a given data set and seeing if there is a substantial effect. (This reminds me of Tukey's Exploratory Data Analysis, or the way particle physicists work with their theories. In each case, what you are looking for is what is missing, and it is remarkable when things work reasonably well {as well as being dispiriting since there is nothing more to think about, hence the problems with the Standard Model of particle physics--it works much too well}.)  Black was skeptical of econometrics, with its use of (linear) regression models: misspecification, identification problems, collinearity, and lack of independence of the independent variables--so the meaning of the estimated coefficients is not at all apparent. (pp. 117-118).

Note: Fischer Black was an innovator in finances (Black-Scholes equation), and worked at Arthur D Little, U of Chicago, MIT and Goldman Sachs. His earliest work was in artificial intelligence.

Beyond Tenure--Working in Government and Enterprise. What next for faculty...

1. Faculty member X had enough service so he could comfortably retire. At that point, 3 years ago, Big Company contacted him out of the blue about becoming their "technical person." There was a long period of courtship, but in the end X joined BC and took leave from the university. X is a distinguished member, with a wide swath of contributions.

2. X is making a significant contribution to BC, although proprietary concerns mean that I don't know the details. X is very much appreciated there. 

3. While the university would not want to lose faculty of X's stature, it surely redounds to the university to have one of our faculty in his role at BC. Some departments have a faculty that is hard to keep, they are bid away by other universities of great prestige.

4. I believe that many faculty would be given a new lease on professional life by going out in the world. This is not about age. Some faculty have languished, others who are productive--could find a new way of contributing. They might take a leave or terminate or retire. I am less concerned here with faculty that leave for other universities or move on to administrative appointments.

5. X's offer from BC came unbidden. Put differently, faculty who might have terrific opportunities may not realize it. I don't know how the university can make faculty aware of these sorts of opportunities, but I think it would be a good idea. I am less concerned with our most productive faculty as I am with those faculty who are languishing. I don't know if deans can be useful here. We don't want to push people out, we want them to have very tempting opportunities.

6. More people should go into governmental service, the private and philanthropic sectors, etc. (Our faculty have served in State, HUD, WHO, NSF...) It's good for them, and good for the university. It is fashionable to talk about start-ups in engineering and the sciences and medicine. But here I am thinking of large bureaucracies.

I have no idea if this is a useful suggestion. Some fields may not lend themselves to other opportunities--except during times of national mobilization (as in WWII).  But I think it would be valuable for faculty to realize there are possibilities beyond tenure and full professorship, whether for a short term or termination.


Much of Margaret Thatcher’s political thinking was developed as a result of her work with two influential thinktanks, namely the Institute for Economic Affairs and the Centre for Policy Studies. 

Yet, despite the clear importance of such organisations in influencing policymakers and politicians, thinktanks have always been thin on the ground in Wales.

Twenty-five years ago, the Institute of Welsh Affairs was born as the first Welsh body of this type and has since become the voice of the left-leaning establishment in Wales.

It was the sole voice in this arena until the Bevan Foundation was set up a few years ago to tackle all aspects of poverty, inequality and injustice in Wales. A more provocative body, it has been fearless in addressing some of the issues that a more traditional organisation could address.

Yet, for those of us on the centre right of politics in Wales, it has been a relatively barren period for new political thinking over the last few years.

Fortunately, this has now been addressed by the Welsh Conservatives’ ‘big thinker’, the Deputy Presiding Officer David Melding AM, who has recently established Gorwel, an independent, non-party Welsh think tank. 

Its mission is to set out a better way to deliver public services and economic prosperity in Wales and to do this, it will produce research of outstanding quality on the core issues of the economy, environment, health, education, law and order, public sector management, and the right balance between government and individual.

Drawing on support from other parties, including the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru, it is a bold move by David Melding to establish this body. And some of the recent events it has organised, on subjects ranging from economic development to energy issues to mutualism in Wales, have already generated considerable debate.

However, Gorwel’s real impact will be in the development of policy reports that challenge the orthodoxy of current thinking within Wales. And the first of these, released earlier this month, is a real cracker.

“Forward Planning: A Report on the Future Options for Planning in Wales” calls for economic development to be placed at heart of Wales’ planning system.

A rightly controversial paper on what can be an emotive subject, it states that linking planning to issues such as affordable housing or creating a solution to global warming may have a serious impact on the needs of businesses in Wales and therefore the Welsh economy.

It goes on to suggest that the new Welsh Planning Bill should explicitly state that a major purpose of the planning system is to promote economic development and employment opportunities, and that planning officers should be given a duty to promote economic activity through a ‘presumption to develop’ within the planning process.

It also calls for a temporary three-year relaxation of planning rules in Wales in line with the similar relaxation in England and for business organisations to be given formal consultee or advisory status as part of the Local Development Plan process.

Given the lobbying that goes on within Cardiff Bay on behalf of various parties involved directly or indirectly within the planning process, the report is a welcome breath of fresh air that brings some common sense thinking back into public policy in Wales.

Whilst many would agree that planning laws are important, there is a growing consensus that the pendulum has swung too far and, as a result, we have a process that works against encouraging economic growth in Wales.

One can only hope that officials within the Welsh Government will consider the findings of this, and other future reports from this new thinktank. If they do, then the signs are that Gorwel will have a very important part to play in the future of public life in Wales over the next few years.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Tenure, Slavery, Marriage

In a wonderful article, Franke of Columbia's Law School, unearths the history of the freed slaves after the Civil War, now allowed to marry legally. How such an "achievement" came with lots of strings, many of which were used by white suprematists to control and punish Negroes. She analogizes this with the desire for same-sex marriage, with again the informal and folkways of gay people will be under attack when gay marriage becomes legal.

As I read Franke's article, I could not help thinking of tenure. What are the modes of control exercised upon us once we are tenure-track or tenured? I'm not for slavery, against marriage, or against tenure. But Franke's point is that one has to understand the consequences of becoming institutionally secure, in effect over-protected.

I always thought that the best defense in the case of tenure would be to have job offers from other places, not all the time, but regularly. Tenure or on the tenure track would not take you out of the market, and the potential to leave would make deans and chairs and provosts think a bit before they exercised their powers. The net effect would be a much more liquid market for faculty, less secure about the institution, more secure about your value. And one would not so much be applying for academic jobs, as the headhunters would be looking for you.

Some of us would find we are not very marketable, yet at least we do have tenure. Still, my guess is that more people would look for other positions where their talents were a better fit. On the other hand, the transaction costs would be large, the disruptions problematic: but perhaps the greater salary and respect and role would be attractive.

Those who really need tenure, to protect their ability to follow their research and teaching where it will lead are not much hurt here, although it may be that their compensation would not be so robust--except if there are institutions who see the these tenure-needing scholars as doing special work.

In any case, non-tenure-track faculty should be aware of what they are wishing for.


Western Mail Column 20th April 2013

As we keep hearing from politicians of all sides, small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of the Welsh economy.

However, this is even more the case within rural areas of Wales where the SME sector accounts for 73 per cent of all employment, as compared to 53 per cent for industrial Wales.

It is therefore crucial for the economy of rural Wales that the right support structure is put into place to help this sector survive and prosper and, given the current economic climate, create jobs and prosperity.

With the Welsh Government busily putting together the Rural Development Plan for Wales 2014-2020, it is critical that this strategy takes into account the specific difficulties faced by SMEs in rural Wales, which are usually associated with a lack of infrastructure, distance to main markets and poor access to external information, as well as restricted local industrial environments and lack of qualified staff.  

Obviously, the basic problem for rural areas is their isolation from the main national and international markets. The relative lack of infrastructure within the rural regions of Wales may also be a problem, especially in terms of poorly developed transport and communication structures.

These issues may be exacerbated by the fact that many SMEs in rural Wales are often viewed largely as traditional enterprises with low rates of innovation and serving local markets although there are fabulous exemplars of innovation to be found in such companies such as Huit Denim in Cardigan, Gaia Technologies in Gwynedd, Dulas in Machynlleth and Mabey Bridge in Monmouthshire.

Of course, some may argue that if only large companies could be attracted to rural Wales, then this would help solve some of the economic problems within the area. However, much of the research on the economic development of rural locations suggest that such an approach would be largely misplaced, with multiplier effects within the local economy being low given that branch plants inserted into such regions rarely develop linkages into the local economy itself.

Instead, the focus of policymakers needs to be on encouraging a ‘ground up’ approach which involves the stimulation of local start-ups, the support and development of existing businesses, and the creation of local networks between different stakeholders in the economy, including firms, educational institutions, support agencies, and large organisations.

And rural Wales has the rare blessing of three universities – Bangor, Aberystwyth and the University of Wales Trinity St David’s - that are playing a vital role in stimulating the local economy. In fact, all should ask how they can continue to help to support the specific needs of local SMEs, especially in upskilling the management and technical competencies of staff within such firms.

On a wider scale, both the Welsh Government and local councils should examine how they can improve the local industrial environment so as to address the causes of low indigenous growth of firms in rural areas. As the competitiveness of firms often does not depend on location alone, SMEs must constantly develop their products, adopt new methods of production and gain access to new markets.

The problem is that many traditional firms in rural areas may lack the resources and expertise required to develop these initiatives and may require external advice and consultancy to help develop their potential.  Therefore, it is crucial that such services are tailored to the specific needs of SMEs and entrepreneurs based within a particular locality and the primary aim of any rural development strategy directed at stimulating indigenous development should be one which focuses on improving the specific competitive strengths of local firms.

Therefore, with two Welsh city regions being created centred on Cardiff and Swansea and North East Wales linking into the greater economic region of North West England, it is critical that policymakers do not forget rural Wales. Fortunately, the development of the Rural Development Plan does create a major opportunity to create an innovative economic strategy for the whole of rural Wales that will address the actual needs of local businesses, strengthen the infrastructure needed to address those needs and help increase the competitiveness of SMEs within the region.

Indeed, if done properly, this could be a model for other rural areas within Europe and will demonstrate that an entrepreneurial and dynamic environment, supported by a strong and responsive ecosystem, can be created outside the urban and industrial areas of Wales.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Less Of A Woman

I am not less of a woman
if I don't cook every night,

I'm not less of a woman 
if I have rooms long over
due for a cleaning,

I'm not less of a woman
if I have laundry or dishes

I'm not less of a woman 
if I don't have my own
chickens in the backyard
for fresh egg eatin',

I'm not less of a woman 
if I can't but organic food
for my family,

I'm not less of a woman 
if I forget my camera at 
important kids programs,

I'm not less of a woman
if I am battling an illness
or live with chronic pain,

I'm not less of a woman
if I didn't make a check
next to everything on my
to do list for today,

I'm not less of a woman
if I'm too tired for intimacy,

I'm not less of a woman 
if I raise my voice at my 

I'm not less of a woman 
if I don't have a college degree,

I'm not less of a woman 
if I don't work outside 
of the home,

I'm not less of a woman 
if I don't get to travel the

I'm not less of a woman
if I wear sweatpants
all day long,

I'm not less of a woman
if I don't churn my own butter
bake my own bread or
grow my own garden.

I'm not less of a woman
if I get cranky, irritable,
or argue with my husband,

I'm not less of a woman 
if I sleep til 10 in the morning,

or if I have 10 extra pounds on.

I'm not less of a woman
if I say no to a friend in need.

I'm not less of a woman 
if I'm praised, put down,
mocked, judged, or misunderstood.

Just like you, I am a woman, a wife, a partner, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a believer, a non-believer.
Depressed, angry, disappointed, tired, exhausted, hopeful, ambitious, and scared.I am growing, learning, listening, trying, frustrated and hardworking. We are home owners, renters,
business owners, on food stamps, athletes, glamorous, jealous, daring and fearful. We are shy, friendly,
outgoing and hospitable. We are sick, well, and everything in between. We struggle, strive, and succeed.
We laugh, cry and scream. We're quiet, we talk, and we are silent. We are moved, sensitive, and 
emotional. We are full of energy, and we have nothing left. We give, we take and we share. We are
fashionable and unfashionable. We are high and low. Tall and short. Heavy, thin and everything in
between. We are teachers, instructors, and students. We are academic, articulate and ignorant.
We are scholars, theologians, and skeptics. We are artists, engineers, and baristas. We are lovers,
fighters and companions. We give advice, listen well and interrupt. We fall, and stand tall. We are strong we are weak. We are homemakers, foster families, and adopters. We are blessed we are cursed. We are rich we are poor. We are compassionate and rude. We are high and we are low, we are together and alone. We are creative and we are brainy. We are grandmothers, dancers and we are retired.

Put together we are so much. Each important, each our own purpose. Each our own story and journey. Our beautiful, messy, complicated, difficult, wild, crazy, blessed journey.

*My poem is a collection
of examples and heart cries
that I have heard from other
woman. Things they have 
shared with me or things
I've been keen to along 
the way. Do you recognize


Bargaining for Grades, for Tenure, for Blessing and Authority, ...

I read or examine drafts of student work, suggest how it might be improved, and am willing to look at another draft. My eyes glaze over after seeing several "improved" drafts, so it makes sense to give me your best shot each time, improving the work in ways you discover on your own as well as following my suggestions. But . . .

1. "I did everything you said, and all I got was a B!" When I read drafts, what I am looking to do is to provide guidance on how to make the work better. When I read a final version to give it a grade, I am evaluating the work's quality. I give A's for work that is excellent, work that I would proudly show my colleagues. B's are for good work, and if I can I try to make sure that my guidance makes the work Good. C's are for work that is fair, work that has never been much improved. I believe that most students can get a B under this regime.

On the other hand, even with all my guidance, the work may not become excellent. I may not be able to help enough, not seeing how to make it excellent. The student may have chosen a project or topic that does not allow them to do excellent work. Maybe many more revisions and drafts are needed. In any case, the work is very very likely to be good, but it may not be excellent.

2. It is hard to show people why they did not get an A. It's easy to show why they got a C. A grade rubric might be useful, but I have never found it helpful for my students. What students want is a checklist that if they fulfil it, they should get an A. For the kind of courses and assignments I give, there is no such checklist.

3. More generally, rules and regulations do not lead to the best even if they are effective in marking the worst.  We live nowadays in a world where there is a demand for specific rules, in the name of fairness and to penalize or avoid outrageous behavior. I just don't know what those rules should be for the work I assign, and if they existed I would be wary of seeing so many drafts since I could then be pushed to give a grade that I thought was wrong but which fulfilled the rules.

4. All of these issues come up in promotion and tenure decisions. If one's standards are not too demanding, rules will work fine. But if one is seeking excellence, they won't help. You surely want to be fair and gracious, and a set of rules will be helpful. But excellence is not well encompassed by those rules. [Similarly, you want to avoid sexual harassment, but as a dean from another university pointed out to me, you will encourage a distancing among people that may be alienating--which is fine if you don't want your professors working closely with students. (He was not arguing for sexual harassment; he was saying that the rules have some unintended consequences that need consideration.)]

5. I teach in a professional doctoral program. Its students are experienced actors in the world. Currently, there is a committee charged with reforming the program. Whatever happens, the rules in place when the students were admitted apply for them, so whatever the reform it does not or need not apply to them. But students act as if their admissions into our program is an implicit and actual contract they entered into, and so any news about the reform seems to cause a brouhaha. Some also believe that since they are paying tuition they are consumers with the rights of consumers as they understand them. Yet they want as well the authority they attribute to the faculty, to be transferred to them as they do good work. But authority is never transferred through the marketplace relationship of consumer and seller. We might invoke rules, but then we want the blessing that is beyond rules.

Again, the issue is not about being fair and avoiding outrageous behavior. Rather, it is on the up-side where decency and excellence and authority are not so rule governed, where the participants have to trust each other.

Monday, April 15, 2013


As the pages of the Western Mail and other newspapers demonstrated last week, historians and politicians will continue to discuss the legacy of Margaret Hilda Thatcher for many years to come.

The national unity brought about by the Falklands victory or the divisiveness of the miners’ strike?

The perceived unfairness of the poll tax or giving millions of people the opportunity to get on the housing ladder by buying their own council homes?

Helping to bring about the end of communism or obstructing greater co-operation in Europe?

Many will focus on these issues when considering Lady Thatcher's political impact in eleven years as Prime Minister.

But to me, any examination of her place in history should be primarily about how she changed the economic landscape of the UK from being the “sick man of Europe” dominated by industrial unrest and declining industries to an enterprising nation that became the envy of many other developed nations.

And given the circumstances in which she found the country in 1979, it wasn't easy to change the direction of an economy that had become a laughing stock around the world.

But change it is what she did.

And I believe her biggest contribution to the UK economy during her period in office was to kick-start an entrepreneurial revolution that broke the power of the establishment and, as Lord Sugar noted earlier this week, “allowed chirpy chappies to succeed and not just the elite”.

As the daughter of a small business owner, it is clear from her memoirs that her early years of helping out in her father’s grocery store in Grantham had a major influence on her politics and her philosophy.

Self-help, hard work, economic independence and close management of finances, the by-word of many a small family business, were the bedrock on which her years in office were based.

And as someone whose family were not dependent on the state or a large employer, many of her policies were about ensuring that the individual businessman or businesswoman flourished and was allowed to keep more of the money they had worked long hours to earn.

The key to this was probably the reduction of highest rate of income tax from 83 per cent in 1979 to 40 per cent in 1988, a policy that is seen by most supporters as being a major driving force towards greater prosperity within the UK economy.

Yet, in addition to this ‘free market’ approach that many believe epitomised her economic policies, it is easy to forget that her government of 1979-83 was the first to develop any substantial policies to develop a new enterprise culture within the UK, introducing over 100 interventions in its first four years of office to support small firms.

For example, she started the Enterprise Allowance Scheme back in 1982 that gave a guaranteed income of £40 per week to unemployed people who set up their own business. It was the essence of simplicity and shared responsibility, with anyone wishing to claim money under the scheme being required to produce a basic business plan and find the first £1000 out of his or her own funds. As a result of this new programme, 325,000 people were supported to set up a new business.

The Thatcher Governments also set up a range of other enterprise friendly interventions, including the Business Expansion Scheme, which offered tax relief to individuals investing in smaller companies and essentially birthed a UK informal investment and venture capital industry that had not previously existed.

Mindful of the problems that growing firms had in accessing funding from banks, the Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme was established to help facilitate bank borrowing by smaller companies. Running between 1981 and 2009, it supported lending of over £4bn to over 90,000 firms and, not surprisingly, a recent review has suggested that the rationale for such a scheme remains valid today, especially in supporting viable small businesses with a lack of security or track record.

The impact of these initiatives is still felt in 2013, with successor initiatives such as the Enterprise Investment Scheme and the Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme – both established by Labour Governments – seen as key policies to encourage growth and enterprise.

So whilst her overall legacy to the UK will continue to be debated for years to come, there is no doubt that the 1980s heralded the beginning of an enterprise culture which remains critically important today.

As Sir Richard Branson noted soon after Lady Thatcher's death was announced, “she really did set the groundwork for entrepreneurialism and business in Britain”, work that continues to this day with the encouragement of a 'can do' spirit of enterprise that changed the UK back into a competitive nation after years of national economic decline.

And to see the changes that her entrepreneurship revolution began over thirty years ago, one only has to look at the simple fact that whilst there were 1.8m businesses in the UK in 1979, this has grown to over 4.9m today, with small firms responsible for the majority of employment in the nation and creating a record number of new jobs.

Therefore, at a time when the UK needs its entrepreneurs more than ever to drive a recovery from the worst economic downturn since the 1920s, it is the enterprise policies of Margaret Thatcher, which were subsequently adopted by all successive governments, that will continue to have the greatest impact on the economy long after her passing.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Are Universities Subject to Corporate Shenanigans?

If we think about the news of the last five or ten years, the varieties of corporate shenanigans is wondrous and pervasive. Perhaps we are more aware of the issues, or perhaps there is more gaming of the system. In any case, universities are large corporate entities, and so I wonder about their potential for shenanigans. I need to work this out more clearly, but here are first rough thoughts. Keep in mind that these suggestions may not be actual and not be true. But you could imagine this list as a guideline for accrediting agencies.

1. Money laundering in development and fund-raising.
2. Pedophilia by faculty, although most colleage students and graduate students are over 18, and it would seem some are seeking out older paramours (although the issues of asymmetric power are still there). Do universities act like the Catholic Church in terms of moving people around?
3. Insider information--legacies or other such greased admissions, searches for faculty that are in fact set before the search.
4. Misleading unsophisticated investors, securitization of mortgages. Selling people goods you know are not valuable, packaging stuff so it looks better than it really is--perhaps in distance education, perhaps in very large courses, perhaps ...
5. Making policy with poor intelligence or with politicized intelligence--do we have enough teachers (troops) who are qualified for the programs we offer. Are MOOCS like Rumsfeld sending too few troops to Iraq, under the philosophy of Revolution in Military Affairs or what was called Transformation.
6. Preemptive war--Is U of Phoenix the real enemy, is it your enemy?

Friday, April 12, 2013

"What's the Big Idea?"

The title of this post comes from Seymour Papert: "...the most neglected big idea is the very idea of bigness of ideas. I want to argue that the neglect of big ideas—or rather of the bigness of ideas—has become pervasive in the culture of School to the point where it dominates thinking about the content of what schools teach, as well as thinking about how to run them."

When I read a paper, when I see a student research proposal, when I see almost anything written, and when I listen to a seminar, I am trying to figure out where's the beef. Typically, one gets no end of preliminaries, detailed considerations of method, but by the time you get to the beef, you are (I am!) worn down by boredom. I don't think this is a deliberate act. People don't know where's the beef, what's the Big Idea, in their work, or better put they know it implicitly but they cannot give it away. It's too simple, too unpretentious, too common.

Crucially, the Big Idea empowers you, argue Papert.You are no longer just a student, but you are now active and out in the world....

The Long Term Interests of the Universities: Deans, Faculties, Clawbacks, Fear,

1. One of my favorite stories concerns the University of Chicago. The history department had a more junior member who worked in the history of ancient science. He was not being very well treated, although outside experts thought he was very very strong. A distinguished member of the science faculty went to the president and had the historian transferred to a science department, where he was much better treated.

What's interesting here is that a member of the faculty could go to the president and make a difference. (That the junior member was worthy is a given, and that the senior faculty member is very distinguished is also a given.)

There are few institutions where I imagine such might happen, although I am not at all sure: maybe Princeton, Caltech, MIT. There are many distinguished institutions where size or bureaucratic silos might prevent such action.

In general the chair or the dean are feared by the faculty. In places where the chair is rotating, the chair is unlikely to be feared. But in most places, the dean's relationship to their faculty is such that the dean holds most of the cards.

In some institutions, the faculty is so strong, that deans and even provosts must pay attention to some faculty if not most.. Very few institutions from what I am told.

You know you are a great university when the deans and the provost are afraid of the faculty. When the administration views itself as servant to the faculty rather than their boss.

2. In general deans are transient, while the faculty is ongoing and continuing, with many of the members having 25 years of service ahead of them or behind them. It makes sense to believe that the faculty has in mind the longer term interest of the institution, while the dean is concerned about what will happen in the next few years and perhaps their legacy. It also makes sense to think that the faculty might be collectively foolish, and the dean is there to make them rise above their nonsense.

We do not have clawbacks if deans make poor decisions. At least faculties that appoint or promote unworthy colleagues have to live with them for the next 30 years and they condemn their successors to that as well (keep in mind the dean is long gone). Of course, faculties might be shortsighted, and deans be strategic and committed to the longest terms. But the incentives are otherwise arranged.

3. I am told that you never want to make a weak appointment since that is likely to lead to further weak appointments, and declining standards. I do know that strong appointments reset the bar in measuring performance. 


Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Key to Financial Planning - Your Financial Objective

The key to any investment planning is starting with a financial objective. What exactly is the financial goal?

All to often people care more about return or safety when considering investment options. What should be considered first and foremost is the needs of the investor. What is this money being saved for? How long will it be before the money is needed?

Potential returns and risks of individual investments are irrelevant until the investors objectives and goals have been clearly defined. For instance a S&P 500 index fund that will most likely avg 12% over the next 15 years sounds much better than a money market fund that will average 3% over that same period. This will hold true for many investors but not the high school student saving for college who will need the money in 18 months. That student may very well be disappointed when they withdrawal the entire account that has lost money because they bought in on a market down cycle. The student is better off with something safe because they can't risk a loss. On the other hand the recent college graduate who just found a job and wants to start saving for retirement will be better off in the stock market.

Determine Your Financial Objective

Understanding investor objectives can be tricky. Here are some great questions to answer when coming up with the objective of financial planning.

  1. How much money is needed?
  2. When is the money needed?
  3. What is the likeliness that an emergency or other need will come up and the money will be needed early?

Human capital was not only the largest fraction of his (Fischer Black's) own personal wealth . . .

The title is a quote from Mehrlings biography of Fischer Black. In effect, Black thought for a living.

Black  believed that human capital was the major component of wealth for a country too.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Debt Snowball - 2 Schools of Thought

The debt snowball is a debt reduction method and strategy used to pay off debt. It is widely preached by debt counselors all over the world and many consumer finance and debt help gurus such as Dave Ramsey absolutely swear by it.

How the Debt Snowball Works

It is really a rather simple concept. The one employing this method simply lists all their debt and budgets out the minimum payment owed monthly to each creditor. Then one creditor is selected and any remaining funds available after all minimum payments have been made is allotted the remaining balance. After that creditor is paid off that minimum payment as well as the remaining excess funds is targeted towards the next selected creditor. Thus the snowball grows. You pay of the next creditor at a faster rate then the previous. As creditors are eliminated the snowball grows bigger and bigger. Rinse and repeat.

There is an internal conflict in this method. Conflict arises in determining which creditor should be targeted first, second, and so on.

There are two schools of thought on this matter. The "motivational finance method" and the "logical finance method".

  1. Motivational Finance Method - Here the creditor owed the least amount of money is always targeted first. In this way the one paying off debt is thought to be more motivated because they are awarded the satisfaction of seeing the fruits of their labour sooner. However this method pays no attention to interest rates. Thus in theory the consumer will most likely pay more then the one who utilizes the logical method.
  2. Logical Finance Method - Here the highest interest bearing creditor is paid off first. In this way the consumer is paying off their debt the fastest and the cheapest. However experts tend to agree that the consumer will be more likely to quit than the same consumer who employs the motivational finance method.

So Which Debt Snowball Method is Best?

Technically it is kinda impossible to argue against the logical method. However, if the consumer in financial hardship is not motivated then perhaps the motivational method would work better. I would contend that if the consumer can't stay self motivated enough to see it through the logic method then neither would work anyway. But that is just my opinion. Personally I would rather get out of debt faster and cheaper.

Pre-Ordering The Scholar's Survival Manual, and ...


I just saw that amazon.com is offering my Scholar’s Survival Manual for $16.50 rather than $25.00. I believe it will prove useful for undergraduates and doctoral graduate students, all the way through assistant professors, deans, and even provosts. It’s practical, straightforward, and I am told very useful. It won’t be out til early in the Fall, but the price is right. If you order it with another of my books, Doing Physics, now its second edition, then you can get free shipping, and they will likely ship Doing Physics now. Doing Physics is driven by social science models—markets, institutional analysis, kinship theory,…, so it may actually speak to your interests, while along the way you will learn a bit about natural science. (http://www.amazon.com/Doing-Physics-Second-Physicists-World/dp/0253006074/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1365431932&sr=1-2&keywords=krieger+doing+physics) I’ve pasted its amazon.com page below as well.

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Release date: October 22, 2013

The product of a lifetime of experience in American universities, The Scholar’s Survival Manual offers advice for students, professors, and administrators on such matters as the path to becoming a professor, getting tenured, and making visible contributions to scholarship, as well as serving on promotion and tenure committees. Martin H. Krieger covers a broad cross section of the academic experience from a graduate student's first foray into the job market through retirement. Because advice is notoriously difficult to take and context matters a great deal, Krieger has allowed his ideas to percolate through dozens of discussions. Some of the advice is instrumental and on matters of expediency; some demands the highest aspirations. Readers may open the book at any place and begin reading; for the more methodical there is a detailed table of contents. Krieger’s tone is direct, an approach born of the knowledge that students and professors too often ignore suggestions that would have prevented them from becoming academic roadkill. This essential book will help readers sidestep a similar fate.

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"Original and insightful... Krieger provides a very demystifying account of how the university professoriat works and practical advice on how academics can successfully navigate through their university tenure and promotion process.... A how-to guide for all academics who are navigating their careers through a previously uncharted lost civilization called the tenure and promotion process." —John Gaber, University of Arkansas

(John Gaber, University of Arkansas )

About the Author

Martin H. Krieger is Professor of Planning in the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California and a Fellow of the American Physical Society. He has taught at Berkeley, Minnesota, MIT, and Michigan and has served for many years on university promotion and tenure committees. He is author of Doing Physics (second edition, IUP, 2012), Constitutions of Matter, and Doing Mathematics, among other books.
His blog of the same name is found at scholarssurvival.blogspot.com.

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·         Paperback: 364 pages
·         Publisher: Indiana University Press (October 22, 2013)
·         Language: English
·         ISBN-10: 0253010632
·         ISBN-13: 978-0253010636
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Book Description
Release date: November 19, 2012 | ISBN-10: 0253006074 | ISBN-13: 978-0253006073 | Edition: Second Edition
Doing Physics makes concepts of physics easier to grasp by relating them to everyday knowledge. Addressing some of the models and metaphors that physicists use to explain the physical world, Martin H. Krieger describes the conceptual world of physics by means of analogies to economics, anthropology, theater, carpentry, mechanisms such as clockworks, and machine tool design. The interaction of elementary particles or chemical species, for example, can be related to the theory of kinship—who can marry whom is like what can interact with what. Likewise, the description of physical situations in terms of interdependent particles and fields is analogous to the design of a factory with its division of labor among specialists. For the new edition, Krieger has revised the text and added a chapter on the role of mathematics and formal models in physics. Doing Physics will be of special interest to economists, political theorists, anthropologists, and sociologists as well as philosophers of science.


Editorial Reviews
"This is an important and provocative book, timely and full of insight. Fail to read it, and you may miss out on the physics of the future." —John Gribbin, New Scientist
(John Gribbin New Scientist )
"This unusual book introduces 'the moves, the rituals, the incantations' physicists invoke as they go about conceptualizing Nature. The lucid-but-loaded writing makes quite complex ideas accessible to the mathless reader.... The rewards are a better understanding of how physics is done." —Whole Earth Millennial Catalog
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Krieger... excellently tells those in our human society outside the physics world how physicists think, plan, and go about understanding nature.Choice
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"An excellent [and innovative] book." —Isis
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"Not many books about physics have six citations of Adam Smith. Building on the analogy that Nature is like an economic system, Krieger provides a novel analysis of how physicists construct models of the world. A fascinating insight into the way scientists think." —Dick Easterlin, University of Southern California
(Dick Easterlin, University of Southern California )
About the Author
Martin H. Krieger, who was trained as a physicist at Columbia University, has been a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and at the National Humanities Center. He is author of Marginalism and Discontinuity: Tools for the Crafts of Knowledge and Decision (1989), Constitutions of Matter: Mathematically Modeling the Most Everyday of Physical Phenomena (1996), and Doing Mathematics: Convention, Subject, Calculation, Analogy (2003). He is on the faculty of the University of Southern California, and has taught at Berkeley, Minnesota, MIT, and Michigan.

Product Details
·         Paperback: 248 pages
·         Publisher: Indiana University Press; Second Edition edition (November 19, 2012)
·         Language: English
·         ISBN-10: 0253006074
·         ISBN-13: 978-0253006073


Martin H. Krieger, Professor of Planning
Sol Price School of Public Policy, U. of Southern California

Paris, 1870--Rephotographed:  http://www.usc.edu/sppd/parismarville