20 years! This has been the benchmark for time to business of new materials. From Teflon over Velcro to diamond like carbon coatings, every time it took about this time span to finally become successful in the market. Graphene, first produced and identified in 2004, seems to be next in confirming the 20 years dogma. I am explicitly using the term “time to business” instead of the commonly used “time to market” because it’s not having your material on the market that is the main challenge, it’s selling it.
Our discussions with many companies who have been active in the development and commercialization of advanced material technologies are unfortunately confirming this terrifying number.
In a world of the ‘The 4-hour workweek’, ‘The lean startup’, ‘Sprint’ and other popular innovation frameworks creating the illusion innovation can be realized quickly, it has been a call for humility. While these frameworks may be true for developing the next App, developing and commercializing something new in the physical world is another ball game.
But why is it so difficult? Why is technological superiority not a guarantee for success? It turned out there are more arguments hindering the adoption of new material technologies instead of favouring them.
We have summarized the challenges they have been confronted with in doing initial business and growing in a sustainable way.
1. The prerequisites. These are the obvious, however often overlooked conditions for success. Without meeting these, it may be worthwhile to abandon your case.
2. The hurdles. These are typically challenges that are difficult to overcome on your own. However, building the right partnerships and eco-system around you on one hand and choosing the right beachhead market on the other hand can help you get a long way.
3. The counterforces. Not everyone is waiting for innovations to come into the market and having a unique technology is not always as appealing as you might think.