The article „Natural fiber composites: What’s holding them back?“ (2019), by Mohamad Midani, Ph.D. provides a great summary of the technical barriers that have thus far prevented more large scale applications of Natural Fiber Composites (NFC).
Thank you Mohamad Midani for sharing your deep understanding of NFC.
We at GREENBOATS want to try to live up to your example by sharing more of our own insights and therewith hope to trigger a much-needed exchange about NFC within and beyond the composite industry.
We want to start by adding to Midani´s approach of using E. M. Rogers „Diffusion of Innovation“ Theory by citing Geoffrey Moore, who coined the term: Crossing the Chasm in the early 1990s.
Moore argues that many companies, in their eagerness of becoming the next big thing, try to skip the early adopter’s stage and try to move straight to the pragmatist buyers.
The pragmatists, however, will only buy if they see others like them buy the very same product. No matter how well a product suits their needs, they will always require social proof.
The best way to get big in the future is to start small. In other words: you have to appeal to tiny and passionate niches first. Then use that momentum and pivot into something big.
At GREENBOATS we had to learn this lesson the hard way. After developing and building a „green“ version of the popular BENTE 24, the GreenBENTE24, and winning a number of international innovation awards, we thought we have made it!
Mentally we were preparing for a flood of orders. We calculated that at least 1 in 10 BENTE should be „green“ and after all the BENTE 24 sold 100+ units in less than five years. In reality, however, we never sold another GreenBENTE24.
What we didn’t realize beforehand: the pragmatist does not see value in the choice between a fully equipped GRP boat and a Basic NFC boat. A Tech Enthusiast does but usually lacks the necessary funds. And a visionary who has the funds is most likely not interested in #002 but opts for a custom design.
As a result, GREENBOATS changed its strategy and since focuses on developing NFC products for niche applications. Meaning we do not primarily focus on the size of the addressable market, but on identifying the different kinds of pain for which Natural Fiber Composites (NFC) can potentially provide a relief.
Every new project provides us with new chances to collect evidence on the properties of different NFC material compositions. This way we can increase our portfolio of solutions as well as our professional Network. Over time we become more efficient as well as more effective at coming up with solutions for our clients.
2020 we are focusing, for example, on the Camper- and Wind Energy industry. Both industries show a common desperation for sustainable solutions for which GREENBOATS can offer tangible results (e.g.: quantifiable reduction of CO2, same or better performance in terms of weight/ speed/ energy consumption, a Prototype that demonstrates exceptional aesthetics as well as functional benefits such as improved sound and temperature insulation, etc.).
Moreover, with our Portfolio of Projects, GREENBOATS has proven that we can deliver results. This in return provides our clients with the confidence that they can deliver towards their customers. As a consequence, we get more and more inquiries from established clients that do serve the majority of the market.
We are aware that our product development services are not perfectly scalable, but we believe they are helping to create the momentum which is needed to one day allow NFC to Cross the Chasm.
What is your strategy? Please feel free to comment and add your experiences via social media.