Readiness Levels Drive Innovation

Urban Logic’s approach to innovation draws on the history of how pioneers of revolutionary industries succeeded and failed. Their success depended on more than the worthiness of their initial ideas or designs. Their success and barriers to success stemmed from how they pursued creating a business model to turn designs into products or services manufactured at scale that customers in the public and private sectors would buy, use and integrate into their existing and future operations. Thankfully, often we find inspiring and like-minded allies to move this research forward. Since 2019, Urban Logic CEO Bruce Cahan has collaborated with Dr. Sean Ross PhD at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (known as AFRL) and Ethan Strijbosch who graduated the masters program in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University. Sean, Bruce and Ethan have authored several papers yet to be published that lay out the historical roots of their approach. This post gives a high level introduction to their thinking.

Readiness is more than Technology in the Lab

Leonardo da Vinci had a great design for human flight, by observing how birds fly, which inspired later inventors, including Octave Chanute, to design gliders based on the shape of bird wings. The Wright Brothers who had been building bicycles took Chanute’s insights about wing designs and attached an engine and other enhancements. Glenn Curtiss who had a successful company building motorcycles and their engines backed by leading innovators of the day (Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas A. Edison) used his more powerful engine and Bell’s invention of the aileron to win the early days of aviation for human-controlled powered flight. Curtiss’ was more than a technology triumph. Curtiss harnessed the readiness levels needed to perfect and version his technical designs, manufacture the component parts for his airplane, iterate a business model that included teaching pilots to navigate and fly the new machine safely and communicate the compelling story of a yet to become era of air transport for civilian and military purposes so that investors and banks could support growing his business.

Early aviation, locomotive trains and other Industrial Age inventions and their inventor teams highlight the roles of Technology, Manufacturing, Business Model / Investor and Systems Readiness Levels.

The chart available at the link below illustrates how these Readiness Levels interact with each other. Technology at a high maturity level of 9 means little if there is no viable Business Model to sell it to customers who want to use it, if there is limited follow on growth Investment available to market and produce the new device at scale, and if using the new device would require a systems user (think a new gauge for the cockpit of a jet airplane) to wholesale reconfigure or replace their existing technologies, and the training and cultures of users accustomed to those technologies.

We look forward to seeing our papers published in the near future!

Readiness Levels Drive Innovation – Chart of Concurrent Activities



Bruce Cahan

Bruce Cahan is CEO and co-founder of Urban Logic, a nonprofit that harnesses finance and technology to change how systems think, act and feel. He is an Ashoka Fellow, aa Lecturer at Stanford University's Department of Management Science & Engineering, a Distinguished Scholar at Stanford mediaX and a former CodeX Fellow at Stanford's Center for Legal Informatics. Bruce was trained as an international finance lawyer at Weil Gotshal & Manges in NYC (10 years) and as merchant banker at Asian Oceanic in Hong Kong (2 years). Bruce graduated The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (B.S. Economics 1976) and Temple Law School (J.D. 1979). Bruce has been licensed to practice law in California (2006), New York (1980) and Pennsylvania (1980).

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