There are many ideas about what's going to drive a sustained recovery of the American economy, and what should be done to support this growth: small businesses creating jobs, therefore banks should lend more to them; consumer spending, therefore banks should be careful how tightly they lockdown credit; the recovery of the real estate market, as institutions work through bad loans on their books.

But John Pyrovolakis, a founder of the still-stealth Innovation Accelerator, believes innovation is a key to recovery and maintaining America's ongoing competitiveness in the global economy. The Utah-based Innovation Accelerator is the private half of a public/private partnership that mentors startup companies that have received grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), particularly startups in the financial services arena.

"Part part of what NSF is trying to do is have economic impact for our nation in the ways that IBM and Google have had," Pyrovolakis says. "What we're trying to do is foster the next generation of companies like that."

But holding up Google and IBM as ideals of innovation-driven growth begs the timely question of, 'What is the ideal driver of business growth?'

Banks now know that growth ought not be built on the toxic triple of overwhelming consumer debt, unsustainable real estate gains or NSF fees. But as corporates and consumers alike re-jigger business and lifestyle plans to ones that will succeed in "the new normal," innovation-driven growth deserves renewed consideration.

That's where BTN comes in. Ferreting out pockets of innovation in the industry, and holding them up as inspiration, has long been the mission behind the magazine's annual "The Innovators" issue. 2010, "Innovators" 9th year, brings some changes. We've moved the issue from December to June, and will consider products and companies that debuted between July 2009 and now. Nomination forms will be available online after April 1, and due April 23.

What can you expect to see on this year's list? We haven't received any nominations yet, but I can tell you that recognition of the hot-button issues of the past year will play a central role the selection process. Among them: mobile banking, risk management, payments of all sorts, online banking security, data mining and business intelligence.

All of these areas offer banks the possibility of innovation-driven growth and meld well with Pyrovolakis's vision of entrepreneurial innovation as a grass-roots driver of American competitiveness. The trick is to move discussion of innovation from a 30,000-feet to the day-to-day business of economic recovery and industry growth.

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