“It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”
We’ve reached my annual time-travel episode, at least in terms of my message to you this issue, which will be written before IFAI Expo but read after the show. Sometimes I venture into predictions: nothing as specific as “On Wednesday, during the awards breakfast, just as the annual IFF Innovation Award recipient is being announced, Hugh Laurie (one of my idols) will step onto the stage, grab the microphone, and tell everyone that he’s buying a round for the house if they’ll join him at Billy Bob’s Thursday night,” but more along the lines of expecting to hear about all the new products, new markets and new partnerships formed at the show, all along the supply chain.
That’s what IFAI Expo is intended to be: a conversation among all the parts of the specialty fabrics industry—a conversation that has long-term business benefits for everyone involved.
On page 58 of this issue, Donald Sturgeon, Ph.D., owner and president of Multifibers LLC, takes the conversation deeper in “A faster path to market,” in which he talks about how an innovator looking to bring new products to the industry “is warned that, for his better mousetrap to be commercially adopted, it has to have a market.” But it may be that it is the experienced manufacturers who are most aware of what problems this new product can solve, and which markets would be most successful.
A recent article in the Minneapolis StarTribune discussed an offshoot of the annual Twin Cities Startup Week: the inaugural “Food, Ag, Ideas Week,” intended to draw connections between large corporations in the food industry and the smaller, nimbler enterprises that have new ideas about how to sustain and increase sources of food as well as sustain the environment around them. Creativity and collaboration is the theme, linking innovators to investors and to manufacturers. Companies that gave demonstrations during the event were the first to participate in the “Farm to Fork” accelerator program recently started in St. Paul, Minn., by Techstars, a business development organization based in Boulder, Colo.
According to Dr. Sturgeon, “We have yet to identify a portal that would allow the early dialogue between innovators and established market participants needed to facilitate the exploration of the potential commercial interest of new textile technologies—especially a portal that is unencumbered by the upfront academic and governmental formalities that can weigh heavily on typically underfunded individual inventors and early startups.”
This meeting between competencies and capabilities, says Sturgeon, would benefit both inventors and manufacturers, early enough in the development process to optimize and streamline the production of new technologies and products and change market direction as needed.
To a certain extent, this is what we’re trying to accomplish with each issue of Specialty Fabrics Review magazine. But for those invaluable face-to-face discussions, IFAI Expo is the place to be. In the future, we’ll work to provide that industry portal, and take those conversations to the next level.