Are we there yet?

When is this product ready, was one of my first questions when I joined Spinnova. That’s also the question I now answer several times a week. So are we there yet? Where exactly are we?

EmmiAt first, it wasn’t easy for me to understand the R&D and technology processes that take place here. Spinnova has been around three years, prior to which the cellulose-based fibre innovation was developed on a laboratory scale with VTT. Why aren’t we further along, my impatient, usual self kept asking.

Now I know, and realize that everything is in fact far along considering the time frame. I also now see things through our potential partners’ eyes. Scouting for new materials is hard work, as there are so many innovations in different stages of their development, and brands need them ready asap.

Quando, quando, quando

Talking to potential partners, I’ve realized that a key factor that both parties need to be clear on is the maturity level of the innovation. It usually takes a good five years from the very first laboratory trials to an industrial-scale production, unless you have unlimited money and resources.

When can we start joint product development with new partners, we ask ourselves. When will we have the first prototypes, partners ask us. When will this be on the shelves, consumers ask our partners.

To be honest, it’s challenging to give exact answers and deadlines to any of these, as our greenfield pilot is still under construction and our product trials in process. Scaling our pilot up to an industrial scale is now very much on, and our main priority for 2018. Here comes a short answer to the question in the heading: We will begin pilot production by year-end, and commercialize our fibre product next year.

Brutal honesty

What everyone, including me, must bear in mind is that this is completely virgin territory. No-one has ever done what we’re doing now, so even if we use all our superpowers and apply all best practices from our R&D and scale-up experience, we can’t give answers that we can be 100% sure of. In a growth company in any industry, that’s a given, but the ways of managing expectations vary.

Partly due to, well, being Finnish, and the fact that our team consists of scientists, we want to be as honest as possible. Even when we have to say we don’t know when, we want to be honest to our partners.

Even if you don’t know when we’re there, thanks for joining us for the ride.