The Commercialisation Manifesto: Responding to the Translation Challenge
Updated: Jul 17
When 92% of startups fail within 3 years, it's time to call time on anecdotal evidence, and entrepreneurs telling their success stories – what works well for one business, doesn’t necessarily work for another.
For the first time, we have systematically explored how more than 3,000 companies have successfully scaled and identified the 12 key factors that matter on the growth journey.
Published work on the innovation translation process over the last three decades shows a limited understanding of how technology-enabled innovation is actually commercialised, despite a significant body of literature about innovation and entrepreneurship. We have tried to address this systematically over the last decade, as described in two books published in 2017 and 2018, ‘Camels, Tigers & Unicorns’(1) and ‘The Scale-up Manual’(2)
Our data-driven research conducted with more than 3,000 global scale-up companies revealed three key insights, embodied in the Triple Chasm Model:
the need to define maturity along the translation process explicitly
understanding the meso-economic vectors(3) or drivers which can shape the translation process
mapping maturity vs the meso-economic vectors to create a commercialisation journey against which we can map the progress of any innovation towards impact.
These insights have significant but different implications for different players: companies on the growth journey will be more concerned about how they can improve the chances of success; intervention agencies almost certainly need to re-think their overall priorities and approach; investors should think about their return criteria; and policy makers may need to address questions about the balance between growth and sustainability.
But there is still much to understand about growth, so the challenge remains real and we need to harness the broader global commercialisation community to address this directly.
We propose the adoption of a new Commercialisation Manifesto to tackle this broad challenge. The key elements of this Manifesto are:
We need clear evidence-based understanding of the overall process of commercialisation, not just sentiments based on ideological considerations. In particular, we need to define the constituents of research and development more precisely and the role of innovation in this context. We also need to understand the vectors which can drive this process and the diffusion of new technologies, products and services into the marketplace.
We need a serious debate about prevailing economic environments and the key policy levers which can shape the translation process. In particular, the critical role Financial Capital plays in the overall commercialisation journey, and the balance between Human and Financial Capital, need to be better understood, by all the actors, so that they can all make better decisions about the balance.
We need to embed sustainability considerations into the heart of this translation, not treated as an after-thought or an optional bolt-on. In particular, this means re-examining the reality of impact-investing. We also need to address issues around resilience and crisis management as part of this process.
We need a clear intervention agenda, which enables us to increase the prospects of success rather than vague exhortations about market forces being the panacea for the difficulties in commercialisation. This means we need to design and execute better forms of intervention which actually address the real challenges.
We need to understand better how to support Innovators, Entrepreneurs, and Scale-up companies based on firm evidence of where they face the biggest challenges and recognising the big contribution that these actors can make to overall economic growth.
Corporates need to better understand the process of commercialisation and focus on the creation of sustainable value: this means an evidence-based approach to getting the balance right between Build, Buy and Partner options. We recognise that some of these choices may be distorted by short-term pressures on corporates shaped by the exigencies of volatile financial markets, but this is where public policy could restore a degree of perspective.
Finally, we believe that the wider debate about the role of technology and innovation in the global economy needs rational evidence-based discussion. This is not a zero-sum game but some of the valid questions about limits to growth and sustainable development need to be tackled head-on: we do not subscribe to the notion of a technological fix for most things, but do believe that the deployment of science and technology-based innovation plays a critical role in overall economic development.
Phadke, U.P & Vyakarnam, S. (2017), Camels, Tigers & Unicorns, WSP, UK
Phadke, U.P & Vyakarnam, S. (2018), The Scale-up Manual, WSP, UK
Schumpeter was the first to talk about the importance of the meso-economic layer which sits between macro-economic drivers and micro-economics- our research has enabled us to explicitly define the meso-economic drivers which underpin growth.