Forbes Small Business From Lab To Life: How Industry Can Improve Bringing New Tech To Market Alexandre Corrêa Forbes Councils Member Forbes Business Council COUNCIL POST Expertise from Forbes Councils members, operated under license. Opinions expressed are those of the author. | Membership (fee-based) May 31, 2023, 09:00am EDT | Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Linkedin Alexandre Corrêa is the CEO of Gerdau Graphene , the company pioneering advanced graphene-enhanced materials for industrial applications.
getty From aviation to X-rays, countless scientists have celebrated “eureka!” moments in the lab. But simply discovering something doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s immediately useful in the real world. Often, many innovations never make it out of a lab for a variety of reasons—cost or complexity to produce or use, lack of demand or too few practical applications.
To bring products to market, technology pioneers must navigate a labyrinth of hurdles: Identify industry pain points that can be addressed by the technology, conduct analysis and validation testing that proves the technology achieves its intended goals, manage and protect valuable intellectual property, work within complex legal and regulatory frameworks, assess potential risks and unanticipated effects and more. All while building a supply chain, manufacturing and distribution network—often from scratch! Focusing limited resources and developing a solid “beachhead” strategy is critical to a successful launch and eventual expansion into broader markets. So, what does it take to move an invention or discovery from a lab and into the real world? 1.
Understand the problem. Commercializing a new technology involves determining if it solves a real problem. If a problem does not exist (or it can already be effectively addressed), there’s little chance the technology will achieve widespread adoption.
After all, people are not likely to purchase something or make a change if the value to do so is not clear—and determining value is not as simple as asking people what they want. Henry Ford once said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses. ” MORE FOR YOU Today’s ‘Quordle’ Answers And Clues For Wednesday, May 31 Wealth Of Japan’s 50 Richest On Forbes List Rises 13% To US$192 Billion Key GOP House Member Floats Holding FBI Director In Contempt Over Biden Probe Understanding a technology’s true value often involves investigating consumer and business behavior, market dynamics, the capabilities of existing solutions and the short-term and long-term effects of existing and new technologies.
If a pain exists (or will exist) and the technology can reasonably solve it, then it probably has a potential market—even if the market doesn’t yet exist. 2. Find the right investors.
Much has been said about finding the right investors, including how to identify angel investors, VCs and other standard models. One model that is often overlooked is the Fortune 500 investor (or other large corporate investor) for which the new innovation is not part of their core business but supports a longer-term vision. They often use a homegrown accelerator, incubator or other technology-fostering program to do this.
Large companies are more tolerant of startup risk (and failure), and a well-recognized logo as an investor can lead to future opportunities. 3. Build a multifaceted R&D team.
It is hard to overstate the importance of having talented subject matter experts on the R&D team as technology is being commercialized. Ideally, each individual possesses specific industry knowledge that together offers a better view of the problem, marketplace, technologies and relevant stakeholders. This requires an R&D team that stays aligned and whose skill sets are diverse as well as complementary.
The R&D process is seldom linear or without major setbacks, so investing in a team that values close collaboration and can build workflows that anticipate disruption will be key. 4. Understand the benefits and limitations of the supply chain.
It’s unlikely that an innovator will be able to afford to build a factory for a newly discovered material or new technology—the capital expenditure is simply too high, especially for something unproven. Innovators must always ask: What assets that currently exist that can be adapted for our use? Followed by: Is this a barrier or an opportunity? Often, many innovators find that the economies of scale provided by existing supply chains and networks reduce costs and overhead but may introduce other problems. For example, does a factory that makes widget X have the necessary tools, knowledge, experience or regulatory authority to create widget Y in a way that is safe, effective and cost-efficient compared to other options? Does working with an outsourced partner create competitive advantages or does it create additional liabilities? Because the costs are typically prohibitively high to achieve immediate vertical integration and/or own every piece of the supply chain, innovators often piece together networks of providers, suppliers and partners that complement each other and the work that can be done internally.
5. Proactively work with regulators to avoid costly mistakes. If you can’t name, measure or characterize a new material or product, it typically won’t be used because the unknown variables create too much risk.
Regulators understand this and keep a close eye on innovation to protect businesses and consumers from dangerous or costly problems. On the frontier of technology, everyone must do due diligence, including the company that is innovating. Being proactive about safety and potential risks early in the process reduces the likelihood that the company will get penalized further along in the process.
Regulatory approval is not simply a stamp, it reassures potential customers that the product has undergone rigorous testing and independent scrutiny and that they are not taking on an unnecessary amount of risk. 6. Fight ‘FUD’ and misinformation.
The proliferation of misinformation has caused a dramatic increase in public skepticism about new technologies, the motives behind innovation and of founders themselves (e. g. , 5G).
Increasingly, people need a greater understanding of how and why technologies emerged and how development took place if they are to trust them. Fear, uncertainty and doubt (“FUD”) are public enemies of successful innovation, but FUD can be proactively limited by developing a corporate culture that is radically transparent and prioritizes marketplace education. Most new technologies are invented in a university and brought to market by an industrial partner, but the pathways from lab to life are as varied as the technologies themselves.
Discovering or inventing something new is just the jumping-off point—and the part that typically gets the most attention—but understanding and navigating the complexities associated with innovation is key to long-term success. To all the dreamers out there, the world is ripe for innovation. Go discover! Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders.
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