We hear about new technology and accelerating change all the time. Great advances are being made in both in the breadth and depth of our research advances. Leaner organizations, reduced resources, and an intense focus on immediate results makes it more difficult than in the past to bring these new developments out of the lab and into real world applications.
The “Death Valley of Innovation” or as referenced in the chart below as the “Challenge Basin” – that region between when an idea leaves the lab, but before it becomes profitable – is getting wider and more difficult to traverse. Fortunately, numerous organizations (including the MEP system) are creating new bridges to cross that valley and impact company results.
Advances in research and technology are accelerating and proliferating. Over twice as many patent applications were filed in 2014 than at the turn of the century. Our ability to connect and calculate is changing the way we can innovate. Increasing bandwidth of internet connections and the collaboration it allows across unprecedented computing platforms make the near-impossible probable. Plenty of new ideas make it out of basic research. These ideas can change the world and all our lives, provided they make it across the Death Valley of Innovation.
The problem arises in that the chasm continues to widen and contains more obstacles to success. As public budgets contract, the willingness and ability to support basic research at our leading institutions shrinks and becomes more difficult. It’s more critical to identify winners earlier in the process so that further exploration can be supported by the deep pockets of corporations and other investors. While those winners may have an easier path to success, the remaining ideas lose the resources and attention necessary to grow them to successful commercialization.
At the same time, shrinking commercial organizations reduce the resources and amount of “dwell time” any particular innovation is allowed before reaching commercialization. Much more focus on immediate results and quick returns shrink corporations’ appetite for risk and their ability to create breakthrough approaches. No longer can our economy rely on companies like the Bell Labs maintaining a full portfolio of projects, tended by a cadre of talented professionals. The width of the Death Valley of Innovation increases as research support falls and corporate support wanes.
Fortunately, many organizations are finding ways to close the gap. Traditional efforts focused on making commercialization more probable – either through research support or initial market subsidies – a “push” strategy. Instead, the most successful of the new approaches focus on problems within companies likely to be solved through technology and then search for that technology – a “pull” strategy.
The MEP system supports an approach called Tech Scouting that facilitates a process that makes rapid technology transfer and results possible. The process involves intense and focused investigation into issues that companies face and uncovering technology solutions in use at the lab or in other industries. For example, one of our clients spent 18 months trying to find a company that could build a machine that bent aluminum to specified custom curves. Their efforts found one company: A company used by their major competitor. The Tech Scouting process found four more suppliers in just five weeks. Less time and better solutions.
Approaches like Tech Scouting close the Death Valley of Innovation and make rapid advances possible. We’re proud of the results we can produce and the companies we help. Let us show you how the process works and see whether your company can see the same results!