By: Norton Kaplan, President
I was invited to be a panel member of “Taking Environmental Technologies to Market: SBIR EPA and People, Prosperity & the Planet (P3) Special Session” at TechConnect 2016, Washington, DC. EPA’s P3 Program is a unique college competition for designing solutions for a sustainable future. The panel included the P3 Program Manager, an i-Corps provider, April Richards – EPA SBIR Program Director, a current P3 participant, a successful company that started with P3, and Foresight as the Commercialization Assistance Provider. The “story line” was presented as: P3 for the development of ideas, i-Corps for validation by end-users, EPA SBIR for funding assistance, and Foresight for Commercialization Strategy and Support.
The audience was primarily made up of small and large business representatives, laboratory researchers, government representatives and other entrepreneurs. One of the key elements of a market entry strategy as presented by Foresight is the “insertion” of the technology into the supply chain that serves the target market. Questions from the audience focused on this issue among others. “How do you identify the supply chain?” The primary approach is to ask your end-users in the target market. How they learn about and acquire technologies for their use or integration is the key. Starting at the end and working backwards often works to identify the supply chain. For example: If you were to ask a drinking water provider or lab technician they may indicate that they acquire a sensor technology as an integrated feature of a testing instrument or system. Moving backwards along the supply chain the instrument/system manufacturer may indicate that they acquire sensors and not sensor technologies so that they can offer a range of solutions. In this case the sensor technology must be integrated as a packaged device before it may be applied. Power conditioning, software, interface, packaging, etc. may be required before the technology can be called a “sensor.” Therefore, the supply chain insertion point is with the sensor manufacturers.
The successful 3P company validated this approach. By the way, this company is a past awardee of the EPA SBIR program and a client of Foresight. They emphasized the need to continually reach out to the supply chain participants as the technology development progressed. It takes diligence and persistence that paid off for this company.