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Qi3 Insight

Matchmaking in Market Diversification – Is this an Essential New Business Skill?





By Robin Higgons

Qi3 has undertaken three projects in less than two years helping defence companies find civil markets for rather clever technologies. In achieving this, it is interesting how important the skills deployed by the matchmaker have been to the success of the projects. Market diversification projects normally focus on the conventional business issues of technology / products, market size, growth rates, drivers for adoption, barriers to entry, competition, etc. While these are essential, key issues of culture and match of business processes can be either forgotten or not appreciated. This understanding and matching of the ‘business personality’ is where the skills of the matchmaker come in.

The defence sector is characterised by large, long-term projects for a small number of massive customers, i.e. the Armed Forces. Key skills for success are tight project management, risk reduction, and long-term product life cycles (20+ years). It has been easy to find a number of significant and growing civil markets for our clients, but some have had major ‘personality’ clashes. Those with short product lifecycles, multiple distribution channels, and diverse, relatively small customers do not match well with the way the defence sector does business.

It is also interesting how this issue has mirrored itself with companies looking to enter the space sector. Space is a massively exciting opportunity with the UK sector forecast to grow from £10bn to £30bn over the next 20 years. Lots of companies are interested in trying to get a slice of the action, but do they have the right ‘business personality’ to be successful. Long timescales of missions and the massive consequences of a failure (you can’t send an engineer out to fix it) make the sector very conservative with a strong emphasis on risk reduction and project management. If your business thrives on technically challenging projects and has the relevant business processes in place, then space is a great opportunity. Otherwise, you may be heading towards a painful divorce.

So, in these difficult economic times, generating growth through new markets is an essential element of business strategy. Do all the conventional research and due diligence, but also understand your business culture and processes and make sure that they match well with the needs of your target market. Otherwise the matchmakers may not have earned their keep.

The International Space Station is now open for business

By Mark Littlewood

David Willetts, the UK Science Minister, recently announced £12 million funding to support UK participation in the European Life and Physical Sciences (ELIPS) programme over the next 4 years – part of a package of £60 million per annum to boost the UK’s spending in space.

This is exciting news because the UK hasn’t contributed funding to this programme, or any other involving Human Spaceflight, so UK scientists have been disadvantaged in taking leading roles in research projects. At the end of September, Qi3 was contracted by ESA (European Space Agency) to review the UK’s academic and industrial capability in areas relating to ELIPS in order provide evidence to the UK Space Agency ahead of the the ESA Council of Ministers meeting in late November.  We analysed the scientific research case, the business opportunities for supply to ELIPS, knowledge transfer opportunities and industrial use of the ELIPS facilities to provide an integrated view of the value of the ELIPS programme for UK science and industry. We deployed the methodology already used successfully to provide an industrial rationale for UK participation in the Aurora programme of Mars exploration.

This is the third time Qi3 has been asked to provide rapid input ahead of ESA Ministerial meetings. The space sector in the UK is growing strong and showing opportunities for new companies to enter. Forgive the (very bad) pun, but watch this space…..

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