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The real magic in innovation

June 10th, 2019 / By: / My Take

by Janet Preus

Plenty of intriguing ideas may never be researched and developed, much less commercialized, due to a lack of funding or other necessary support. Some of those we should mourn, but others maybe weren’t all that great after all and are better left abandoned.

If an innovation can’t be scaled up, if it’s too expensive to commercialize, or if there’s not enough call for the product, even if it could be mass produced, it doesn’t offer enough benefit for possible customers to embrace the product or technology. If there is someone else out there who has already done something similar, the value of what could be brought to the marketplace is reduced already, by virtue of competition.

That’s painfully obvious, right? I’d like to suggest that people in theater aren’t the only ones who get “stars in their eyes.” Scientists in a lab may also long for that thrilling moment when an idea is proven to be more than an idea, but a real possibility. If only ______ (you can fill in the blank with “we can get a grant … we get the partnerships needed to develop it … our investors also feel the magic.)

Knowing when to proceed, how to proceed and when (if necessary) to stop or move another direction … hmmm …. that’s the other kind of magic in innovation. This is when partnerships and collaborators can be especially helpful, offering another opinion, perhaps with expertise in another area.

How are you going to know (on your own) which ideas are worth it and which ones aren’t? In the advanced textiles industry, even a new innovation for a single component in a more complex application can require years of dedicated research and testing. (See “LOOMIA wins 2019 NYCxDesign Award for Technology” for an excellent example.)

Entrepreneurs think about more than the product itself—and there’s a lot to think about. Who is your target market? Who is going to get as excited about this as you are? Be realistic. Not everyone wants to wear a shirt that functions as a speaker for a smart phone.

What is this going to cost you, really? Not just financial resources, but human resources, time, patience and energy? How is it going to affect whatever the rest of your business does? How will you sustain that, or will you phase it out or sell it? How will you sustain yourself? How much can you personally invest in time, money and all the rest and expect to make it back soon enough? What’s the cost to your family?

It can be overwhelming, and it’s no wonder good ideas are sometimes abandoned. But consider the flip side: what’s the cost of not innovating?

Marie O’Mahony’s feature, “When innovation succeeds,” illustrates good, solid, market examples of innovations that found their pathway through collaboration. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard an innovator say they did it all alone. Sure finding the right partners—individuals, institutions, government agencies or other businesses—is a better way to move a project forward and hopefully bring the “magic” to the market with perfect timing.

Janet Preus is senior editor of Advanced Textiles Source. She can be reached at jlpreus@ifai.com.