Making Sustainable Plastics a Reality – Overview

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Innovators are driving forward to create new Green, BioSourced and Blue Economies.  New ideas and technology are rapidly emerging to emphasize recyclability, biodegradation, sustainable sourcing, reduced energy consumption and circular economics.  These new Green and Blue innovation ecologies fuel new supply chains, melding into a new “Teal Economy”.

Big challenges are addressed using a diversity of viewpoints, insights, and experience. Today’s big challenge is twofold: we need to reduce greenhouse gases and emissions and we need to develop sustainable processes, products and practices. A sizable piece of this dual challenge rests on materials. The world is currently facing a pressing need for new sustainable materials.  There is a pressing need for innovations and approaches that reuse and recycle materials, new materials that enable energy and greentech innovations, and more sustainable approaches to the commodity materials that people have integrated into their lives. There is a wealth of new valuable innovation produced by Universities, innovative teams, start-ups and established companies seeking to be better stewards of our planet. How do great ideas become great solutions in the world? And what can we learn from each other to move more good ideas into production, supply chains, products and solutions?

Our inaugural Master class focuses on plastics, an area with both huge potential for sustainable solutions, and significant challenges and innovations in lifecycle management.  “Making Sustainable Plastics a Reality” brings together several very different real world perspectives and experienced professionals to provide a window into the possibilities and needs in this area.

By bringing together new ideas and initiatives in sustainable materials and manufacturing, our inaugural Masterclass combines practical knowledge from sourcing and supply chain experts, insights to leverage manufacturing processes and right-sized co-development partners with experts’ real-life process and product development and commercialization stories.  When we tie these threads together with a better understanding of risks, valuation and the challenges of facing both innovators and their development partners, we can start to envision a new Economy.  We use the description “Teal Economy” to encompass innovations in Ocean based sourcing and technology – the “Blue” – and land-based “Green” innovation and the exciting possibilities at their intersection.

The Teal Economy Summit will bring Innovators together with right-sized technology partners.  Together we can build the links between new sustainable Blue + Green sources and the wide world of manufacturing and markets, creating resilient Teal supply chains.

Innovation is difficult, necessary, and a driver for so much good change.  

There are challenges that face innovators and new technologies as they progress from a marketplace of ideas into real markets.  Many innovative teams face a make or break moment when they start to scale up new technologies.  They need to leverage existing manufacturing approaches to avoid costly and long process development and custom manufacturing.  

At the same time, Industrial processes and specifications are often opaque.  This creates an apparent chasm of risk and uncertainty.  Often the chasm is an illusion, merely a gap that can be bridged with a few handshakes and shared knowledge.

There is typically a mismatch in skills and terminology on both sides, and a lack of common network connections to cross the gap.  Innovative start-up teams are often outsiders to an Industry, bringing their own unique interdisciplinary approaches to solve Industry needs.  Industrial specialists may have limited experience with very new tech – and little to no bandwidth to work through challenges presented by new technology.

Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) alongside Business Milestones

Technology Levels from 1-12 are shown as a pathway of arrows, alongside typical business milestones that coordinate with technology development level. Pilot testing through process scale-up are often the “Valley of Death” for companies engaged in complex manufacturing – Innovative Materials and Advanced Manufacturing. These Technology Levels trigger early customer-facing business milestones, adding to the complexity and challenges faced by innovative companies.

Technology readiness levels (TRLs) help articulate some of the challenges new technologies face, especially new materials and complex manufactured goods.  Most innovators are extremely expert in everything required to reach TRL 5 or 6.  In contrast most Industrial partners require TRL 9 or 10 to source a new material.  Even co-development partnerships typically require a higher TRL than many innovators’ zone of expertise.

This gap can be bridged by experts who work in the gap, by a clearer understanding of the strengths and risks on both sides of the gap, by giving innovators a clearer picture of the range of leverageable process tech – and relevant application areas (and then markets), and by giving supply chain and technology development partners a clearer picture of the new technologies available, their potential, and their readiness level.

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