In the value chain for established electronics markets, material suppliers and manufacturing companies engage directly with the brand owners/end users, and technology developers must engage with the material suppliers and manufacturing companies to move downstream, relying on the credibility of these industry established companies. In the emerging printed, flexible, and organic electronics partnering landscape, companies throughout the value chain have struggled to innovate around undefined applications causing lofty industry expectations that failed to live up the hype. Without many success stories to point to, the best practices for forming relationships remain a mystery for most.
A survey of 73 executives active in different portions of the supply chain shows how different segments approach partnering and enables insight into how to approach their partnering strategy in the challenging arena. Based on the data from this survey, and detailed interviews with many stakeholders, a new strategy – the “Trojan Horse partnership” – is a more effective approach to this undefined space. Material suppliers and manufacturers use the technology developers to access brand owners and tap into downstream partnership networks. The appeal of the technology developer’s novel approach provides an avenue to penetrate the walls of the electronics brand owners and grow from within these relationships, while the materials and manufacturing companies offer resources and credibility to tech developers.
The shift to Trojan Horse partnering requires new approaches and tactics. Those looking to engage with early-stage technology developers should scout for technology, but as technology developers mature, technology scouting will give way to “partnership scouting” – scouting by assessing partnership networks. In addition, material suppliers can further the networks of its existing technology developer partners, through the use of its own technology scouting groups and existing relationships from other application spaces.
As this type of partnering becomes common practice, material suppliers and manufacturers will need to market themselves as attractive partner candidates to the technology developers. Companies that have the structure to move quickly and supply even small amounts of capital will have an advantage as it will lower the engagement risk for the technology developers. Material suppliers and manufacturers will also need the discipline to abandon the “sell something now” mentality that creates unrealistic expectations and timelines, and is notorious for euthanizing genuine long term growth opportunities.
Source: Lux Research report “Trojan Horse Partnering: Bringing Materials to Market for Emerging Electronics” — client registration required.