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Commercializing technology: It’s all about the team!

By Posted on March 15, 2016
Blog

Dan Radomski
Vice President, Industry & Venture Development
NextEnergy

I am not sure if any of you coach youth sports, but one of my favorite quotes I use with my kids is “Talent wins games, but effort and teamwork wins championships”. This is true for both sports and business.

At NextEnergy we have the great benefit of working with many different ventures, from academic researchers looking to commercialize technology, to start-ups with a new idea, to established firms looking to launch a new product. We see innovations in a wide variety of technologies serving a number of vertical markets. We see innovations in raw materials to finished products, to components, to complex system integration concepts, to unique manufacturing process. One thing is consistent, the entities that are successful all found ways to commercialize their technology through strategic teams.

Very seldom do even disruptive technologies find their way to market without strategic partners. The key to commercializing new technology is to understand who has the most to gain or lose from the adoption of your technology, then finding a way for those value chain players to benefit from taking your technology to market. Recently we partnered a mobile microgrid company in the upper peninsula with an existing supplier of back up and remote power systems to bring their new technology to market. For the small Michigan company, it would have taken them years to penetrate the market; however, with a global distribution partner they can secure orders around the world overnight by privately labeling the product under their larger corporate partner’s name.

As another example, we have supported a number of companies recently with winning large federal R&D awards from the likes of DOE, DOD and ARPA-E. Consistent again was the technology developers approach to the project in securing university and national lab partners as well as upstream commercial partners in the form of customers and channel partners. When tracking award winners of energy and transportation R&D projects over the years, this same approach has proven successful time and again. Too often I witness our clients submit proposals without strategic partners and it typically yields a low probability of success.

At NextEnergy we go out of our way to help Michigan ventures with their technical and business milestones. We often suggest accelerating their efforts by involving strategic partners. We help ventures understand what problem they are trying to solve, who cares, who in the value chain has the most to gain or lose, and the likely value proposition that will trigger their interest. We make the connection, nurture the relationship and support the strategic agreement. Over the last year alone, we helped initiate several joint development agreements, joint ventures, and commercial partnerships. One that I am particularly proud of is a partnership between a start-up LED company, LightSpeed USA, on the west side of the state that had an idea for color spectral control of lighting systems to improve growth of plants in greenhouses and hydroponic operations. We connected them with RecoveryPark, a major urban farming operation in Detroit. Together they are working with Michigan State University and two other Michigan small businesses, AMF Nano and Nextek Power Systems to demonstrate a very energy efficient LED lighting system for greenhouse operations that is expected to take advantage of LED color tuning to improve produce growth, yield and cultivation cycles. This represents an entirely new way to make urban farming profitable, developed between an impressive team of three Michigan small businesses and a State University. Individually, they were struggling to offer their solutions to this vertical market need, but together as a team they are proving this can work…all stand to benefit if successful…as a team. Individuals can see problems and offer solutions, but often it is a team of separate capabilities that can solve the problem. NextEnergy is in a unique position to see the landscape of innovators and problem solvers across the state and beyond. Do not hesitate to ask us how to help you develop your team and position your technology for commercial success.

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