Technology Commercialization:
What Sells? “WHAT” sells!

Technology Commercialization: What Sells? “WHAT” sells!

Technology commercialization is aimed at matching buyers and sellers. But buyers and sellers of “what”? The reflex response is “technology, of course”! If you’re trying to commercialize your “technology”, you’ll need to consider more deeply and broadly what your prospective customers actually want to buy. Our advice is to view your technology as a “functionality.” What your technology does for your customer is its functionality – and the right functionality sells. Whether the saleable embodiment of your technology is a product, process, chemical, material, or something else, it will serve one or more functions for your customer. Functionality is what customers buy and what you will sell. Viewing your technology in terms of its functionality can open up a wider range of prospective commercial opportunities, as well as more sharply define categories of opportunities.


A case in point was a client who wanted to sell his proprietary coated fabric technology into new application areas. The client’s first successful commercialization had been in reusable surgical gowns. Familiarity with the details of that application enabled our client to describe his technology in terms of its functionality: providing a blood barrier; providing a liquid barrier; providing resistance to viral transmission; and retaining properties after multiple washing/sterilization cycles. Obvious new application areas were extensions into the medical/health care market. This market, however, was already saturated with competing materials and approaches, including use of disposable goods purchased at low prices from multiple sources. We identified a new potential market area, however, by linking the technology’s functionality of “retains properties after multiple washing cycles” to a newly identified need in the power generation industry for improved durability of rental maintenance uniforms. Other segments within the overall textile rental industry were also added to the long list of potential new application areas.

Viewing your technology as a functionality means you’re looking at the technology from the vantage point of a user of the technology. That viewpoint will also help identify your real competition and help develop value propositions and market approach strategies to distinguish yourself from your real competition. The above case of the proprietary coated fabric technology illustrates this point, too. A customer of barrier textiles in the health care industry has two choices: disposable or reusables (including limited re-use). The client’s coated fabric technology appeared to be just one more offering in the reusable category, competing against other washable items and against a vast range of disposable barrier materials. For the customer in the textile rental industry, however, the only fabric category that meets the application needs is reusables – disposables aren’t an acceptable competitive offering. By targeting this segment, the client shifts and narrows the relevant competitive issues to those that differentiate his technology from the other available reusables, e.g., durability and comfort. Our client’s technology offered the demonstrated functionality of greater durability, providing the prospective new customer with reduced costs and improved margins.

As an exercise, if you haven’t done so already, assess the new products, processes, materials, or other technology embodiments you want to commercialize in terms of their associated functionalities. Each functionality could be of value in multiple end-uses, which in turn could be associated with an even greater number of target market segments. The first serious iteration of this exercise alone is quite likely to reveal some new opportunities – enough that you’ll want to make this exercise a routine practice.

Oh, and if you want to follow-up on the image in this post that asserts that “hammers aren’t just for nails anymore”, here is the link to the article titled “Hammers Aren’t Just for Nails: 101 Ways to Use a Rip Hammer”…

Dr. Mildred Hastbacka
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