- Eliot Cooper

Bringing new technology to the market isn’t an easy process. The technology adoption lifecycle can be long and there are various stages the product will go through before it’s been adopted by the early majority. The challenge for innovators and marketers is to narrow the chasm between early adopters and the early majority and accelerate adoption across every phase of adoption. In this blog, I’ll explain what it takes to provide new chemistry solutions for the in situ remediation industry.

For a deeper dive into the application of new in situ injection amendment, check out my on-demand webinar, "How to Decide if a Technology is a Good Bet for your Remediation Project." I was joined by environmental consultant, Craig Bruno, of Landmark Environmental, and Brad Droy, from TEA, where we discussed when it makes sense to consider new technology for your site. 

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What is the Life Cycle of Technology Adoption?

In Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey A. Moore showed that in the Technology Adoption Life Cycle - which begins with innovators and moves to early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards - there is a vast chasm between the early adopters and the early majority. While early adopters are willing to sacrifice for the advantage of being first, the early majority waits until they know that the technology offers productivity improvements. The challenge for innovators and marketers is to narrow this chasm and accelerate adoption across every phase of adoption. But what does this have to do with environmental remediation?

a graph showing the adoption life cycle of technologies

Image source: Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore. 


When a new remediation technology is offered to the market (after vetting against existing technologies in terms of efficacy and customer demand), it goes through a similar Technology Adoption Life Cycle.


Technology Adoption for Remediation Amendments

Typically, new remediation chemistry technologies go through the following internal development phases:

  • Identify a customer need. Remediation engineers may be searching for a solution for reducing cost per pound and total life cycle cost, addressing recalcitrant contaminants that are chemistry resistant (e.g. PFAS), enhancing safety, or finding a solution that is easier to inject and make contact, perhaps when dealing with colloidal solids, or a solution with higher persistence to address a contaminant mass sorbed to soil or in the NAPL phase. ”Build it and they will come” doesn’t work well unless a specific remediation challenge is addressed. Surveying customers also supports the customer's need.
  • Identify competing chemistries and define how the new chemistry provides added value.
  • Identify the supply chain needed to produce the chemistry.
  • Secure funding for initial chemistry development.
  • Develop a “generation one” product that utilizes expired intellectual property previously published in the literature. Evaluate existing related patents that are easily challenged due to a lack of patent reviewer experience in our industry.
  • Obtain applicable regulatory approval requirements, e.g., Waste Discharge Permit, Los Angeles Water Board.
  • Publish bench scale data that demonstrate efficacy at the lab scale as well as any known byproducts of concern. The Department of Defense (DOD) supports this phase through its Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) program.
  • Publish pilot scale data that demonstrates efficacy in the field. The DOD supports this phase through its Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) program funding.
  • Publish full-scale case studies.

Remediation “innovators” are the most likely to bench and pilot test these chemistries at their sites that have only progressed through the bench-scale development phase. They are frequently looking at new chemistries to improve their in situ remediation results and may not be satisfied with the existing chemistries available to them. Depending on the nature of the chemistry efficacy, they may fund bench-scale studies themselves on their site-specific soil and groundwater. Innovators are also looking at new chemistries to develop an advantage over competitors, which in this case are environmental and engineering consultants.

“Early adopters” who come out of the “innovator” phase move quickly to the pilot testing phase to start applying new chemistry technologies to their portfolio of contaminated sites. These early adopters typically develop case studies that help them sell their remediation approaches to private and public responsible parties.

At this phase, market adoption can stall, failing to move forward to “early majority” and “late majority” customers. Typically, these potential customers are more pragmatic, reluctant to change, and adverse to risk. The change to a new chemistry requires significant project success and published technical data.  “Laggards” in the Technology Adoption Life Cycle are typically set in their technology selections and don’t take risks. While this is a common strategy in the industry, often these “laggard” companies are left behind and lose customers to the “majority” adopters. Additionally, as the remediation workforce switches over to a new generation of professionals, they will be more open to innovation.

So How Does One Effectively Cross the Chasm?

A chemistry developer must have a robust sales and marketing capability to promote their bench, pilot, and full-scale successes to obtain the trust of their potential customer base. In many cases, design support is required since the customers don’t know how to inject and dose these chemistries. Some chemistry providers can’t fund a robust effort and require other approaches to sell and market their chemistries. For example, association participation, trade show booths, and platform presentations are their only strategy to reach out to customers, as well as leveraging social media platforms like LinkedIn. Other chemistry providers develop strategic relationships with in situ remediation field services contractors or environmental labs; however, exclusive relationships are rare.

Since in situ remediation is an event-driven business, chemistry providers find it difficult to develop a sustainable revenue stream, since once a project is completed, the next project must be found quickly. This can be problematic since remediation projects that move to the field can be years in the making, taking into consideration site characterization, feasibility analysis, work plans, site access agreements, stakeholder involvement, insurance carrier approval, and regulatory approval.

The Site Characterization-Injection Challenge

Most chemistry suppliers rely on a site characterization conducted by a consultant and injection into the subsurface by remediation contractors. With the key performance objective to obtain contact with contaminant mass, chemistry suppliers often rely on these outside parties for their success. In some cases, chemistry suppliers supply these characterization and injection capabilities themselves to have better control over project outcomes. 

Also, in many cases, the remediation results are not shared with the chemistry supplier, preventing them from continually improving their chemistry, how it is dosed, and how it is injected.

Key Takeaways

Chemistry growth in the marketplace has been a slow process to get “majority” adoption and may never “cross the chasm.” However, this growth cycle can be expedited with chemistries that better address remediation needs, where traditional chemistries have not met expectations.  For example, the in situ remediation industry has been dominated by oxidant, reductant, and biological chemistries that have been proven to be successful in reducing contaminant mass, but usually don’t move responsible parties any closer to the closure of the NFA finish line. “Almost” typically doesn’t provide any regulatory or liability relief, which in many instances results in responsible parties who are reluctant to invest in future remediation. New chemistries that provide quantifiable regulatory or liability relief will move through this lifecycle faster to majority adoption.

Sign up for our webinar-on-demand, “How to Decide if a Technology is a Good Bet for your Remediation Project,” to hear from a chemistry manufacturer, contractor, and consultant about their thoughts on when and how to choose new technologies. 

Register today >>


About the Author

Photo of eliot cooper

Eliot Cooper is the Vice President of Technology and Business Development. In this role, he helps clients design efficient and cost-effective remedies using high-resolution design optimization (HRDO) and a vast array of remediation options. His specialty is finding the right combination of tools and technologies for complex sites and ensuring every step of the remediation process is optimized to achieve results. Most recently Eliot has led the Cascade Chemistries team to bring more cost-effective colloidal solids for PFAS, solvents, and petroleum that are injectable and can get you across the finish line faster.

Eliot draws on a career that spans more than 30 years in the environmental remediation industry and includes hundreds of projects nationwide. He’s remediated sites that involved hex chrome, fuel spills, and chlorinated solvents. He specializes in injected remedy delivery, remediation design support, characterization of VOCs, and tackling complex sites by combining multiple remediation technologies.

Eliot previously served at the Environmental Protection Agency in both air pollution and hazardous waste management programs, as well as in the private sector providing thermal combustion and in situ remediation field services. Eliot now leads Cascade's in situ remediation solutions team to evaluate available technologies to meet client goals, provide advanced delivery techniques, and ensure HRSC results in actionable solutions.

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