From ideas to inventions

By Michael Padilla

Photography By Krissy Galbraith

Friday, July 21, 2017

Brandon Heimer delivers TED-like talk on Techno-Economic Analysis

What’s the value of your technology? That question was the subject of a recent TED-like talk presented by Sandia systems analyst Brandon Heimer (8712). Brandon discussed how techno-economic analysis (TEA) can help transform ideas into inventions that create social value.

He focused on how TEAs can assist researchers in determining the worth of their technologies and research, as well as the cost associated with producing inventions at commercial scale. In his remarks, Brandon made the case that the competitiveness of a new technology in the marketplace is largely a function of the value created for users of that technology and the price charged for it.

“TEA tools can estimate the cost of producing new technology products to help innovators determine whether their inventions are commercially viable relative to existing products and substitutes on the market,” Brandon said. “Using these data-driven analyses can help R&D organizations successfully transfer technology developed at Sandia to the marketplace.”

Performing a TEA before beginning a project can enable researchers to quickly gauge the commercial viability of their ideas, Brandon said.

“When initial assessments return unfavorable results, innovators can identify factors that must change to increase the viability of their ideas and refocus their research efforts on other projects with greater potential,” he said.

According to Brandon, TEAs with favorable results can help researchers clearly articulate the value propositions for their R&D, forming the basis for proposals with strong appeal to stakeholders and funding agencies. The TEA process can identify the highest costs for producing technologies and inform research decisions to prioritize R&D efforts that will provide the greatest benefit. In addition, multiple TEA scenarios can be evaluated to help researchers choose among competing technology approaches.

With regards to the TED-like talk process, Brandon says the preparation was fun but required quite a bit of work. “The TED format is quite different from the technical talks researchers are more familiar with here at Sandia,” he says. “For one thing, the slides are much more minimal.”

Brandon recommends that anyone interested in presenting a TED-like talk be prepared to commit much more of the story to memory and become familiar with both the TED style and process. “And, last but not least,” he says, “practice, practice, practice.”