The best ideas can always get funded, big or small. Just because there is a credit squeze does not mean there is no credit at all - especially not in big companies, many of whom actually are making money on their own. Instead, what has happened is that the margin required for an idea to get funded has been squeezed upwards. This is a health filter, actually: The easy credit during the IT bubble led to a lot of ideas which in hindsight were pretty stupid getting funding (sock puppets, anyone?). But more importantly, it led to the same mistake as I think is inherent in the question, which is a common mistake: Starting big with a small idea.
If your idea is to create a new compiler for an existing programming language, it makes no sense to hire two hundred people, make a big PR and advertising splash, and try to convince people that you change the world. It is a low-key effort that has to grow slowly, and if you should be lucky enough to have bought a half-assed operating system, and then lucky enough that your major competitor for selling it goes flying instead of talking to the customer, then you might put another guy on investigating it. Not betting the farm on every idea which passes your door is a virtue, at the same time as you need to be sure it really is a big idea before you do. So starting small, making sure it works and that people want it, works whether the idea is big or small.
It is not even sure that it is a good idea to get external funding. Having a big idea and creating something big out of it are two different things - the virtues of good management are something we ought to learn from the current crisis, if anything. A good idea which grows and grows can create organic growth, which is far more valuable than growth on doubtful grounds.
And perhaps that is the key: You may think it is a great idea, but customers may not. Or at least, not under the terms you launched it. A business, or a project for that matter, is not static, it is a process which develops over time. No business idea looks the same now as it did when the company started, unless you started yesterday. Taking what works and ocontinue to use it to tweak the idea is another example of good management - and good entrepreneurship.
The crisis has made it painfully obvious how little management competence there were even in the biggest companies. But the cure is certainly not obvious to any government. Where there are programs for research funding (and they have not been cut because of shrinking tax revenues) the exploitation comes at best in third place. Execution is not something which is highly prioritized. In governement, it never was. The crisis ought to help us focus on this: Business is not about making Powerpoint strategies, it is about making money every day. If the result of the crisis is more people getting more business savvy, then the economy will start growing.
And perhaps companies will be able to focus on broad education initiatives which target business knowledge and development, too. There is no business education like actually running a business, and it is cheaper to start with a small one than starting big. Small businesses are not very different from well-run big businesses, either - the number of zeros is just different. Badly run large businesses, of course, are "too big to fail" and will be kept alive just because it would cost too much to shut them down. As we have seen plenty of examples of lately.
If the governements anywhere knew what they were doing, they would support the creation of small businesses. Not only do they generate more jobs per dollar of capital than big businesses, they create a growth economy. Neither the Japanese nor the German growth wonders after the war would have been possible without small and medium-sized businesses. Nor would the Chinese growth. And there is nothing that says a small business has to be knowledge-poor, either.
If you want to start a business today, you are lucky, too. It has never been easier and cheaper to start a business thanks to the Internet, and it has never been easier and cheaper to make it grow (and we do not necessarily talk cloud services here - it is sufficient to think outsourcing). The problem, now as ever, is finding the idea, but in reality it does not matter so much what the idea is, as long as it is big enough and management is smart enough to make money from it - sustainably, over time.
Small businesses implementing big ideas efficiently. That is the recipe for growing out of the recession. Now, just do it....