For almost any material, the market is challenging. We’re faced with soaring deficits and reluctance by congressional leaders to address the funding issues necessary to put out large capital programs for transportation. Everyone’s going to be scrambling for whatever money’s available. However, everyone does recognize the deteriorating state of our transportation industry warrants a large amount of funding to bring it to where it needs to be.
The future of transportation will be good, and the opportunity has never been better for composites. There is an emphasis from the industry and the current administration to recognize that it is more responsible and to focus on sustainability. We’re seeing that now. The existing national highway system coincided with baby boomers; it’s 40 to 50 years old, and was built with then-current technology, but is now reaching the end of its service life. A lot of the rate of construction will reach that critical point at the same time. It wasn’t a linear development of the system. We need to be a little more responsible than just putting band-aids out or fixing with the least-cost solution. That’s where composites have a tremendous opportunity. Although the commodity prices of composites are more expensive, they offer a better value, and people are becoming more cognizant of that.
What will be an effective commercialization strategy?
The commercialization strategy for anyone is a triumvirate. You have to entice the owners to convince them of the technology. You have to gain trust of the design engineers who will impact the end product. Finally, you have to gain the confidence of the contractors that it’s a viable technology to make their lives easier. Our strategy is to reach out to all three of those facets simultaneously and build a level of trust and confidence that this is a product that will change the future of an industry.
It’s difficult as a new company to penetrate a conservative industry with a new technology like this. It’s going to take time, and the time is more important than the money. A general rule of thumb states that it takes 18 years for a new technology to make it in the transportation sector. I can validate that, because we’ve been working on this for 14 years. If we had deep pockets and could throw $10 million to 20 million into the product, adoption probably wouldn’t have happened any faster. I think the industry is beginning to embrace this technology and that we’ve gained their trust. As demand increases, we can scale up our capacity.