Warren Hunt
Benchmarking the Materials Innovation Process
Warren HuntSeptember 24, 2015

As I’ve discussed in previous blog posts, the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) is a multi-agency initiative that aims to discover, develop, manufacture, and deploy advanced materials twice as fast and at a fraction of the cost. But to effect this type of change, it is first critical to understand the time currently required in each step of the materials innovation process—from materials discovery to deployment in the marketplace.

Benchmarking studies that establish the current time to market for materials innovations across industries, materials classes, and applications are critical to develop so that progress going forward can be accurately measured and assessed. In fact, as one of its milestones, the MGI Strategic Plan includes tasks that initiate benchmarking studies quantifying the current time to market for a subset of materials classes or applications.

I’m proud to say that Nexight Group and our partner Energetics Incorporated, with support from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, are heading up this benchmarking task. The work consists of two elements: 1) establishing the framework that describes the materials innovation process, and 2) carrying out specific case studies in targeted areas that utilize and test this framework.

To develop the framework in line with existing time-to-market models, we are working to establish beginning and ending points for each of the four stages of the material innovation process: discovery, development, manufacturing and deployment. Despite their potential for overlap, these stages are being treated as sequential steps in order to simplify the analysis. We are also exploring the development of a materials readiness level (MatRL) rating system—similar to the well-known technology readiness level (TRL) and manufacturing readiness level (MRL) systems—as a way to define and communicate the stage of maturity along the material innovation process.

While setting benchmarks is important to demonstrate progress, it is also critical that the materials community agree on the benchmarks and how they were established. We’re hosting two free webinars (October 2 and October 14) to provide information about our process and gather community feedback at this early stage. Each webinar will be identical in content and will provide background on time-to-market materials innovation models, as well as the proposed model for the MGI benchmarking study for community. Information will also be provided on the materials innovation case studies that will be developed to test the framework and establish quantitative benchmark information.

We encourage members of the materials community to register and join us to provide their input on this exciting effort. Register for free today!