haute innovation

Publications & Interviews

Materials shape Products

Increase Innovation and Market Opportunities with the Help of Creative Professionals

January 2011

Volume 18 of the Hessian Nanotech Initiatives Series of the Hessian Ministry of Economics, Transport, Urban and Regional Development


Cars that change colour at the press of a button; glasses that never steam up, or house façades and pavements, which remove damaging particles from the surrounding air: about 70% of all new products are based on novel materials. This means that materials development plays a key role in terms of the innovation capability of our society and economy. Enormous growth in innovate materials and in particular in nano-technologies is predicted over the next few years, from which all sectors will profit. According to the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) the materials based sectors in Germany are already turning today over around a billion Euros and employ 5 million people. The Society of German Engineers (VDI) already estimated the market turnover in products from the nano-technology sector at 100 thousand million Euros in 2006. Whilst this is scheduled to increase to 500 thousand million Euros by 2010 according to one German estimate, market researchers from Lux Research are even assuming a market value by 2014 of 2.6 billion US Dollars and that is just from material innovations alone that are based on nano-sized structures. Even if this development does not unfold so dramatically as predicted due to the economic crisis, this changes nothing in terms of the fundamentally enormous potential and leverage effects of this key industry.


If public discourse has hitherto largely ignored the non-dissolvable links between products and material, this seems to be undergoing a noticeable change today due to the establishment of many materials libraries, trade fairs and electronic databases. Materials are currently in fashion and offer huge opportunities in the vehicle manufacturing sector, process engineering, construction industry, environmental protection and medical engineering, which need to be exploited in the coming years. Above all the use of innovative materials in design or architecture is an obvious choice.


Whereas in the past one had to develop materials with particular functions from scratch to address specific issues, today we have access to such a broad spectrum of raw materials and manufacturing processes that almost anything seems technically possible. This has far reaching ramifications for our traditional technology oriented, linear concept of innovation because what is often missing today in terms of the realisation of successful innovation processes is not the technological innovation in terms of a functional quality, but rather the successful conversion of a technological solution into a marketable product.


According to a study of the Bochum Institute for Applied Innovation Research, Germany has a striking weakness when it comes to realising ideas for new products because only 6% of all officially inaugurated innovation projects in this country lead to a market success. The researchers see the cause as being a one dimensional engineering orientation rather than a comprehensive orientation on the market.


The ‘Innovation Capability of German SMEs’ carried out by the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology IPK in 2008 found that companies lack strategies for identifying opportunities for innovation within the business and to realise these in a targeted manner. Consultants from Booz Allen Hamilton went even further in the 2006 study ‘Global Innovation 1000’, concluding that having researched the innovation successes of the largest companies in the world, high R&D expenditures do not automatically increase a company’s innovation capacity and that the number of patents held is not an appropriate indicator of economic success. It has much more to do with the timely orientation of R&D activities on the market and the company’s ability to transfer a given technological quality to an application context earlier than the competition.Creative professionals such as designers and architects take on a particular significance in this context for they are able to detect customer requirements that are not explicitly stated, take these into account during development and transform technical functions into emotional added value. Through the parallel development of technical excellence and marketable product applications the chances of success for a given innovation are increased!


Designers and architects are increasingly taking on a key role in terms of the success of an innovation process, especially as regards materials based developments, because it is often they who take the decision as to the choice of a suitable material and no longer just engineers. Also, companies now have recognised this subsection of the creative industries as their contact partners when it comes to developing meaningful product offerings for novel materials and, for instance, to bring the non visible added value of a nano-material to the attention of the user. Hand in hand with this goes a change in our traditional concept of innovation, a culture, which understands innovations primarily as further developments of technological functionalities. With increasing frequency, designers and architects are themselves stepping forward as innovators of novel materials and manufacturing processes and move ideas from research into a successful application context.


This brochure showcases stories of success in bringing materials to the market, provides assistance for companies in their search for creative service providers and lists research opportunities for new raw materials.


image: Blingcrete (source: Thorsten Kloster, Heike Klussmann) 


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