By Peter Kallai

Who wants it? Why?

These two simple questions should drive any effort to bring to market a new product, service or application. But the answers can be quite hard to find when the technology at hand is not yet widely understood or used.

Printable and organic electronics (PE) is no exception.

PE is an emerging global industry with revenues expected to grow by the tens of billions for the foreseeable future. It’s fundamental to the Internet of Things.

And yet, outside of multinational electronics manufacturers using PE to push the boundaries of display technology, there are many niche applications ripe for the taking that remain untapped.

Why? Because the potential end users are simply unaware of PE and how PE-enabled products and applications can benefit them.

There’s a job to do, and it rests squarely on the shoulders of Canadian SMEs active in the PE space.

It’s all well and good to develop discrete PE components and pull together functional proof of concepts for specific applications such as secure documents. But to succeed, your business must move up the value chain by creating a long-term strategic roadmap based on vertical industry market development that will provide sustainable revenue for your company.

A vertical market strategy is crucial for SMEs in Canada’s PE ecosystem, to understand where their technology has strong commercial potential with a wide range of industry players within a vertical.

Take, for example, the power of PE to revolutionize packaging.

PE is enabling new ways to manage inventory, track items as they are shipped, better maintain product freshness, monitor medication usage and identify packing materials for re-cycling.

But few players in this industry are aware of this, associate these capabilities with PE, or understand how the technology can be incorporated into their products. They don’t know where to turn to partner with PE innovators and create solutions that will work.

For that matter, do you, as a PE technology company, fully understand where your technology may fit as a piece of the puzzle for this industry vertical?

Those who can benefit from your technology likely don’t know about it or understand what it can do for them. You have to do the legwork and homework to understand their needs and find ways to engage with and educate them on their potential return on investment.

SMEs in the PE space that don’t make this effort risk slipping into the classic pit-trap that swallows many technology companies. They end up with products that do not provide the profitability or the volume to create a stable revenue base to sustain their companies. This drives them to focus on another idea and another product, hoping for a better result, which doesn’t come.  And the cycle just goes on.

It’s a treadmill that can only be escaped by putting in the marketing analysis and focused business development effort to score that first handful of  lead customers in a specific vertical that will pave the way for more. In other words, line up the first domino that will start a chain reaction.

Are you a honey-bee or a domino tipper?

In my 30-year career as a senior high-tech executive and management consultant, I have seen too many technology companies flounder because they were honey bees instead of domino tippers.

Instead of making sufficient investment in customer and market research to chose  the right vertical and stick with it, they buzzed from flower to flower, dipping their toes here and there, without gaining any real market traction and market share anywhere. Instead of creating a compelling value proposition that would draw customers to them because they were known in a market vertical, their energy was spent chasing one customer after the next in different un-related verticals.  This lack of an effective vertical business strategy generally results in high sales costs and a lack of sustainable revenues.

This situation often occurred in instances where senior managers were technical people, more comfortable with developing technology than with doing the marketing work to understand the overall market.

We at the CPEIA can help your business develop an effective vertical market strategy. We can serve as a matchmaker and facilitator, to connect technology developers with other industry players so they can bring commercially viable products and applications to market, plug them into specific industry verticals where they can engage with potential customers and end users, and help them tap into the expertise of leading academics and research scientists across Canada and abroad.

So tell us what verticals are on your radar, if any? Where do you want to go next?

Here is our list at the CPEIA:

  • Intelligent Packaging
  • Aerospace and Defence
  • Automotive and Industrial Applications
  • Health and Wellness
  • Intelligent Documents
  • Consumer Electronics and Wearables

To discuss this further, feel free to contact me directly at 613-795-8181 or pkallai@cpeia-acei.ca