Mini-Nuke Your New Product
Small is Beautiful.
Schumacher's dictum may be getting applied to the macro issue of energy.
Instead of enormous projects - England's current Hinkley Point power station has a claim to be the most expensive building ever constructed on earth - technology now pursues scaled down, more micro, dimensions.
Not quite nano, but so-labelled Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) could be set to revolutionise nuclear power generation.
Almost as if you could have one sitting quietly in the corner of a car park in every town.
Among the many obstacles of such pioneering, is the rising cost and complexity of trying to build the plant that'll produce the 'flatpack' mini-marvels. For UK-based first mover Rolls-Royce - one of dozens around the world seeking to land-grab - this currently sits at £5bn of investment over the past five years. And rising.
The engineering giant faces stiff competition from wannabe entrants.
From the allure of long-term guaranteed returns coming from being able to power a million homes significantly beyond an estimated outlay of £1.8bn; a fraction of the cost of a present-day plant.
[update: indeed, the day after posting this, news broke that American direct-to-market entrant, Last Energy, signed up 24 customers in the UK for its "100m modular units, which are two-thirds the size of a football pitch, can output 20MW of electricity, enough to power 40,000 homes. They will be deployed in 2026 with no government funding required", at operations needing constant power, thought in the UK to include a hydrogen producer and data centre.]
Despite Rolls-Royce being at the national forefront and having enjoyed government grants to plan out how to produce their cheaper, mass market, standardised answer, they must now compete in an international beauty parade of potential next-gen UK suppliers.
Rolls are not happy.
Let's examine the reasons they promote as to why they should be awarded the lucrative first contract. If not without recourse to any pesky tender, then at least to be fast-tracked through it.
Consider the language as reported by the London broadsheets;
Executives are concerned that losing the UK Government as a customer could threaten foreign orders, since many could interpret the move as a lack of confidence in the programme. Or in the case of the Czech's, wanting to see proof of concept in the field first. The added inference being no contract, no job growth and no countrywide technology leap.
Warning that the UK [aka client] was risking its head start on this technology by dragging its feet.
First mover advantage will be important. Beware that 'in January, GE Hitachi signed a deal to build the first small modular reactor in North America, agreeing a deal with authorities in Ontario, Canada'.
"Rolls-Royce SMR has called for rapid progress from the Government and we welcome the adoption of that principle in this process".
There's plenty of learnings to take from this in our solutions arena new product endeavours.
First-up, note the alpha customer collab angle. Getting someone to help pay for dev costs of something they really want is a winner. Whilst this case may provide the exception that proves the rule, at worst Rolls will have 600 people trained up and the chance to be at the vanguard regardless.
Next, imagine being change-averse procrastinator-in-chief. How could the potential customer really live with being seen as having turned down such desirable, game-changing tech? Let alone deliberately not pursuing the vaunted new approach in general. Who'd want to deal with such feet-draggers who don't truly value advancement?
Then, think on the urgency close. We need to pick up the pace. 'Adopt the principle of rapid progress in this process'. Notice the aligned FOMO slant. You really want the world to pass you by? To stand still is to go backwards. The longer you leave it, the longer dividends will take to accrue, reputation to repair, and legacy to take hold.
There are counters to these.
Google wasn't the first search engine. Facebook not the first social network. Nor TikTok the first shortform video platform.
You can go farther back. There's a b-school trope that second-movers beat first-movers. Complacency, distraction from core business, and less openness to playing with a winning formula all contribute to market-shaper falls.
Indeed, one oft-cited 30-yr old study [Pioneer Advantage: Marketing Logic or Marketing Legend] suggested, 'innovators captured only 7% of the market for their product over time'.
But then on the flip side, there's the likes of Amazon and eBay. Possibly even Netflix and Tesla. All managing to quash the peril of first mover disadvantage and fast-follower advantage.
Let's not though, go down such rabbit-hole that is, say, Apple.
Yet if you've a shiny new item to sell, then you could do worse than ensure that, like these mini-nuke inventors, you've at least one co-development customer, are consciously seeking the visionaries, and I.D. why now is the time for them with not a moment to lose.