Lately, one is forgiven for thinking that breakthrough innovations (large profit-generating invention outcomes) are realized primarily through changes in business models. Such innovations rely on delivering existing products to existing markets with existing technologies. Powerful recent examples of this include Uber and AirBnB. Off course, business model innovation is not new - think of Dell and Southwest - but with the consumer becoming ever-better connected, and data about them and what, why and when they buy ever-easier to access, its likely that business models are going to continue to get disrupted. Established players will need to be ever-curious and forever experimenting with the different ways and forms that their products can get to market lest they become the next Blockbuster (who famously snubbed their noses at the Netflix’s way of doing business and, in so-doing, paved their road to doom).
But other types of innovation are alive and well too. And, in particular, we continue to see great progress in the invention of new materials. These range from low cost sensors and energy harvesters (necessary for the Internet of Things) to all kinds of functional materials derived from sustainable sources to printable conductors enabling the next wave of low cost electronics. We thought for our last blog of the year we would briefly highlight four very different emerging technologies that we are tracking to give you a flavor of what might be next! Here they are….
1. SLIPS….this is a Boston start-up which began life at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. It aims to put an ultra-thin, self healing, frictionless surface on anything where contact is a drag! They imagine such things as oil flowing along a pipeline with no resistance, all of the tomato ketchup coming out of the bottle, graffiti-resistant posters, and surfaces which prevent the formation of fungi or growth of bacteria. See Slip Technologies
2. BOLT THREADS….this time from California, a small team are producing silk proteins through fermentation and then spinning them into them into silk fibers just like those a spider might produce. They believe that they can make these fibers on an industrial scale and tailor the strength, softness and stretch of the fibers to match a wide variety of needs. The material source is fully sustainable and the possibilities for high performing breakthrough fabrics are exciting. Take a look at Bottle Threads
3. And still in California, CARBON3D….3D printing is grabbing a lot of headlines with the promise of on-demand custom parts that range from body organs to car parts and even chocolate! But there is no getting around the fact that the process is slow as it is essentially 2D printing repeated many many times as an item is built layer by layer. Carbon3D hope to change this by adding clever chemistry which means that they can cure (harden) as they print. They believe that their technology will enable a two orders of magnitude print speed increase and many backers agree (and have injected $100MM of venture funding that says so!). Find out more at Carbon3D
4. And lastly…PRAGMATIC PRINTING…a UK-based start up who are seeking to print simple electronic devices. What we like about PramatIC is that they are working on the right scale seeking to make architectures at the sub-micron scale where they can compete with silicon for relatively simple devices. Too many printed approaches to silicon operate on the micron scale and have no chance of being competitive. We think PragmatIC’s technology will scale and hope to see them in a device near you soon! For more see PragmatIC .
These are just four of many materials we think offer intriguing possibilities!
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!