Innovation Hesitation: The Valley of Death

Innovation Hesitation: The Valley of Death

At the end of last month, Industry Week published the final installment of a series that predicted likely challenges for the manufacturing sector in 2022. The article features Don Deptowicz, president of Aspen Hybrid Technology Solutions, who focuses on something called the transition to manufacturing gap. This gap refers to the time in a technological innovation's development cycle after the initial research phase but before launch into a mass market. Deptowicz describes the gap this way:

When new technologies are in the basic research stage and decades away from reaching a market, the U.S. and the investment community generously supports them. However, when those same technologies are on the verge of commercialization and being prepared for mass production, support has been shown to quickly disappear. Very few financial institutions or venture capitalists will write their innovators a loan, and no manufacturers will help work out the final details in their production line.

This leads to a situation where development of new technologies is high but adaptation of these innovations to the market can be slow, even rare. Businesses and investors tend towards caution when it comes to shuttling novel tech from the research lab to the store floor. Moreover, the pandemic has arguably exasperated this phenomenon.

Embracing Innovation in the New Year

The typical investment cycle goes this way: university researchers, funded by state grants and other public monies, develop a new technology and perform rounds of basic research to understand it. Often, researchers at this stage aren't even considering how to capitalize on the technology. Public money dries up once basic research is complete, and private interests often hesitate to invest in a product that has yet to prove itself. This is the aforementioned transition to manufacturing gap, or, as it's more commonly called by industrialists, the Valley of Death. In this gap between investment sources, many technologies risk withering away into obscurity.

The pandemic has been a wake up call for many in the manufacturing sector. Depowicz argues that the structures that took root prior to the virus outbreak--outsourcing production, segmenting research and development into different societal sectors, and the privileging of proprietary interests over cross-organizational collaboration--may not be viable in this new paradigm. New challenges require risk taking and innovative thinking: "... our success will be dependent upon our ability to collaborate on innovative solutions in all areas of industry, academia and the government."

Planning for the Future

If there is anything we'd like to convince our readers of with this blog, it's this: many aspects of business have come to rely on technology in ways that were previously unthinkable. Whether we're discussing the internet of things (IoT), smart factories, or growing cyber security risks; any firm that wants to succeed today must know how to properly leverage technology to increase their effectiveness. As the pandemic accelerates these trends, firms that rely too much on the old ways of doing things will, at the very least, fall behind.

If you're considering investing in a new technology, you'll need someone to help you decide if the innovation you've come across is worthwhile. Titan Tech can help keep you informed on what new technologies are available, which ones might benefit your firm, and whether a particular solution is worth the upfront cost of investing. To learn more, schedule a free consultation today.

And stay tuned for more tech news.