The client company’s advanced technology uses massive looms, complex weaving algorithms, and sophisticated design software to create complex three-dimensional composite parts from carbon fiber or other materials. In recent years, the client has had considerable success using its technology to weave jet engine blades out of carbon fiber.

In fact, the company currently has the contract to supply all of the fan blades for the new LEAP engine being installed on every future Boeing 737, in addition to many other aerospace applications. With their future in aerospace reasonably assured, the firm’s leaders began to consider opportunities outside aerospace. Are there applications for their technology, in other domains? Which of these domains should they pursue, if any, and what would it take to succeed there? These were they questions faced as they were developing their future strategy.

By the Numbers

Together, we produced the following outcomes

What We Did Together

Over the course of 18 months, the client company and Inovo worked together to identify a set of attractive domains, explored the top domains to identify specific opportunities, and pursued a path to establish the client in one of the most promising domains. As the first step in this process, the Domaining initiative was critical to define those areas that held potential new business opportunities. The universe of possibilities is vast. Composites, and specifically carbon fiber composites, are finding new applications virtually everywhere, from sporting goods to high-end and performance boats, from infrastructure building to transportation vehicles, from oil and gas exploration to medical devices.  The client’s technology could, in theory, be applied in all of these domains. The problem was not the lack of alternatives but rather the plethora of alternatives, most of which sounded attractive at first blush.

Over the course of 3 months, the client and Inovo together examined the demand and design dynamics in a number of vertical domains (e.g. different industries) as well as horizontal domains (e.g. forms and functions). Numerous interviews and discussions were undertaken with both experts and users in many of the domains as well as technologists and marketers, academics and industry analysts. A large amount of secondary research was also undertaken to understand issues of value, performance, cost, business models and industry dynamics. A set of domain assessment criteria were used to evaluate the attractiveness of each domain and a “should-could canvas” was created to examine the relative strength of every domain under consideration. This helped the team narrow down the possibilities to seven domains of interest. Each of the final domains were rigorously discussed and debated to pressure test the assumptions and flesh out details and unanswered questions.

The Outcome

In all, 56 domain hypotheses were identified and examined. Through a process of iterative deepening, 13 high level domains were synthesized, and 7 of these selected for focused attention and shaping.  Each of these seven domains was assessed with respect to the client’s technology, the value potential, the industry structure (value network), prevailing business models, and ecosystem dynamics (i.e., companies in the space and partnership potential).  Four of these domains then went into our subsequent Discovery phase for active opportunity discovery.

I haven't seen the I-Council as excited about a group of well-formed concepts... ever. We literally couldn't sit down when we were deliberating about which opportunities to fund

Brandon Rowberry , Director Innovation Council

United Health Group