It seems that every day we hear or talk about breakthroughs, new discoveries will change the world. Like the Perovskites in the solar cell and the genetic modification technology (CRISPR) have contributed to the improvement of existing technologies. Just like quantum computing and graphene promises to open up new horizons with so many new applications. However, we are still waiting for a real market impact. Quantum computing and graphene have been around for decades, but have not yet made a breakthrough. Solar cells and CRISPR are newer, but have not really affected the industry. The above are the most prominent examples.
The problem is not entirely within the discoveries themselves, many of which are real breakthroughs, but there is still a fundamental difference between discovering a new important phenomenon in the laboratory. and create real value in the market. We need to try harder to narrow the gap. To do this, we need to create an entirely new ecological innovation ecosystem for the commercialization of science.
VALLEY OF DEATH AND THE PROBLEM OF HUMANKIND
Everyone knows the distance between exploration and commercialization is so obvious and overwhelming that it is so hatedly called the Valley of Death. Part of the problem is that you can not really commercialize a scientific invention, you can only commercialize a product and that is two completely different things.
The truth is that innovation never consists of a single step, but a process of discovery, engineering, and transformation. Once things like Graphene are discovered in the lab, it needs to be technically transformed into a useful product, and then it needs to be accepted by customers in the marketplace. The above three stages almost never happen at the same time.
So, in order to bring an important discovery to the market, you first need to identify the real problem of the market that it can solve, and contact the engineers who can transform the discovery. into a clear product / service. Then you need to find out what customers are willing to use and apply on a large scale. Often we take 30 years to do this.
The reason why it takes so much time is because we have so many problems to solve. To successfully create a business that is based on scientific discoveries, you need scientists to work effectively with engineers and a range of specialists in a variety of fields, such as manufacturing marketing or marketing. It’s not just about technology, it’s about people. Effective coordination is the most important competitive advantage.
WRONG SECTOR, WRONG APPLICATION
One of the most effective programs in bringing the inventions out of the lab is the I-Corps program. Originally founded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to help SBIR beneficiaries determine the business model for scientific discoveries, the program was so successful that the US Congress had to coerce The expansion of the program is beyond the scope of the federal government.
Based on Steve Blank’s streamlined start-up approach, the program’s goal is to turn scientists into entrepreneurs. Start with lecture courses, where each group must explain the nature and commercial potential of the inventions. This is a very interesting, groundbreaking science with real potential in completely changing the world.
The problem is, they always make mistakes. Regardless of how many years they spent exploring the important things, making more efforts to apply and receive commercial subsidies from the federal government, they have failed to deliver a viable application. the desire of the market.
Ironically, much of the success of the I-Corps program comes from the first courses. Once they realize they have gone the wrong way, they will take accelerated courses to better understand customers, interview dozens – even hundreds – of customers to be able to research the business model. can be successful
The surprise of this program is that, without it, scientists with important inventions would waste years trying to do business, but never really had a chance. in the first step.
SILICON VALLEY LEGEND
Much of Silicon Valley’s success relies on businesses receiving venture capital funds. Entrepreneurs with an idea that can change the world will create the first version of the product they want to launch, introduce to investors and receive funding to bring the product to the market. . All major technology companies are starting this way.
Most of Silicon Valley’s success, however, is based on companies that sell software or consumer gadgets – relatively cheap and easy to model. However, technology startups do not fit the model. They often need millions of dollars to build a template, and then sell it to industrial companies with long waiting times.
The Silicon Valley myth that venture capital is a common model that can be applied to all types of businesses. But it is not. In fact, this is a specific model that has been formed in a specific place, at a specific moment to finance complete technology for specific markets. This is not a solution to every problem.
The fact is that venture capital funds are very good at assessing market risk, but are not good at taking risks in terms of technology, especially in difficult science. This is simply not what they were set up to do.
WE NEED A CREATIVE ECOSYSTEM FOR THE ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT OF SCIENCE
In 1945, Vannevar Bush sent Truman’s Science, Borderless Frontier report, arguing that the expansion of the nation’s scientific capacity will expand the country’s economic capacity and prosperity. Finally, thanks to his call, the US academic infrastructure has been developed, including programs such as the NSF and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Bush has a vision that America will become a technological superpower. Funding from federal agencies for scientists helps them discover new knowledge. Then businesses are established, entrepreneurs are ventured to implement these discoveries, and then bring new products and services to the market.
Take a look at any industry today and the key technologies they use are largely shaped by the investment of the federal government. However, today, the challenge is getting bigger. We are entering a new era of innovation in technology such as genomics, nanotechnology and robotic science that will reshape traditional industries such as energy and health. Health care and production.
This is really exciting, but it also poses new challenges, as these technologies are unlikely to fit into the pattern of businesses financed by Silicon Valley Venture Capital. and need a lot of support to overcome the Valley of Death. Therefore, we need to build a new creative ecosystem, based on the scientific architecture that Bush created for the postwar world.
We have seen good signs. New programs like I-Corps, Manufacturing Institutes, Cyclotron Road and Chain Reaction are beginning to fill the gap. Still, more needs to be done, particularly at the state and local level, to help build inter-agency centers for specific industries so that we can succeed. in the 21st century as successful in the 20th century.
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