Tuesday 12 April 2016

Edi-Pasteuring approach – is this a feasible way of research & development in the plastics industry?

This blog post will show a R&D concept which in my point of view allows you a better categorization of your research approaches. For making it easier for companies to bring structure into the R&D departments, science has investigated the patterns of innovation processes. The results can be graphically displayed in the so called Pasteur’s Quadrant (Figure 1).

The Pasteur's Quadrant is a way of combining the basic and applied research approaches in the shape of a quadrant. The quadrants can be separated by a horizontal (=consideration of use) and a vertical line (=focus on fundamental understanding). In my point of view, in the last decade, the right side of the quadrant started melting together resulting in this particular expression of Edi-Pasteuring (Figure 2).

Figure 1: Schematic presentation of the Stokes Pasteurs quadrant adapted from [1].

Let’s jump one step back and lose some words about two of the quadrants: What is a Pasteur-type of research approach?
Put in simple words: it is a use-inspired research approach. It has a scientific basis (understanding of the physics behind the product) and considers the boundary conditions (physical limits) of the practical application as a result of the scientifically findings and developments. This quadrant was named after Louis Pasteur, who got famous with his foundations in microbiology. His approach of reducing death by preventing diseases is a good example of this category.

And what is an Edison-type of research approach? Thomas A. Edison, the founder of General Electric and first industrial R&D scientist, is famous for his 2 quotes:
“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration."
And by this saying:
I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.  
This quote explains already his way of research: you need to have a try & error approach in your research activities to succeed.
And what is Edi-Pasteuring?
It is the melting of those two quadrants for providing a way in the new economy of plastics industry to keep on the top.  Important is therefore to ask:
  • Can this concept of Edi-Pasteuring work in plastics industry?
  • Or is the melting of those two approaches already a consequence of a successful business?
In my point of view it is already used and represented by e.g. rapid prototyping, which always uses a proof of concept on a small scale with evaluation. This allows you to showcase your product. In this phase it is important to consider the physics behind which allows it to work in a proper way and estimate the boundaries. Once this is done, a scale-up to real application development is the next phase. Both phases will have some try & error elements. The proof of concept phase is more oriented in the Pasteurs approach, where else the application and scale up phase is will be dominated by Edison approach. It has much more try & error elements, because you want to improve your product. You want to try out different polymeric materials and different insert configurations when you use injection or extrusion moulds.
In the Figure 2 you can find a graphical representation of my interpretation of the research approaches for plastics industry. The Figure 3 shows the same adaption but presented in a more technical way. The melting of the two quadrants lead to a bell distribution with overlapping phases.  It reminds me also somehow of a bi-modal distribution of e.g. a HDPE.

Figure 2: My interpretation of the research approaches for plastics industry using the Pasteurs quadrant from [1].

Figure 3: Edi-pasteuring as a technical representation: proof of concept phase (blue line) and scale up phase (orange).

How does it fit into the new economy?

To be valid in the new economy, it needs to be aligned with the zero to one way of creating products (see Peter Thiel) together with 3 significant words: TEMPO, TEMPO, and TEMPO. The right timing of your idea to be placed in the market is crucial. When Edi-Pasteuring is supporting this idea and allows your product to become an exponential exploding product which can create a monopoly (short: 0 to 1), then it will stand definitely a chance.

If not, it will be only a concept working from the second row and getting a load of “me-too” type of products. The management of big data and its use will influence this kind of approaches as well.

Maybe those quadrants will be replaced in the future through an Elon Musk type and Peter Thiel type of quadrant? We will see!

Hope you found this post interesting and should encourage you to check up on your current R&D environment. Maybe it needs a bit more of Edi-Pasteuring.

Greetings and till next time


[1] Ward Ooms, et.al: Research orientation and agglomeration: Can every region become a Silicon Valley? (2015)