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 Research and Development Continuum

Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.

  EPA’s Research and Development (R&D) Continuum describes the progression of technology development from idea through diffusion in the marketplace. Successful environmental technologies progress along the continuum from conception to full-scale commercialization and utilization. Technologies that fail to perform or are economically infeasible are dropped. Current EPA partnerships that support development and marketing of environmental technologies tend to focus on the early and late stages of the R&D Continuum. EPA will begin to focus on partnerships in the middle of the continuum, the stage at which good ideas either succeed or fail in moving to commercialization. Partnerships needed at this stage may provide funding for verification, regulatory or market advice, a venue for demonstration, or an opportunity for scaling up a technology.

The continuum also serves as a guide to various programs that provide support at different stages. Opportunities have been mapped onto the continuum to help encourage academic, and public- and private-sector developers to invest time and money in the creation of new, cost-effective environmental technologies.

This continuum includes six stages whose boundaries and project-specific activities may be interwoven.

Research or Proof of Concept
Image: Scientist looking in a microscope
If a technology (or technology concept) shows the potential for solving a difficult or expensive environmental problem, basic or bench-scale research is conducted. This is the first stage of the continuum. The result of this stage is evidence that the technology has enough technical and in-market potential to warrant ongoing scale-up support.

Image: Concrete pressure test
The second stage of the continuum is the transition from bench- to pilot-scale research on the technology. This may entail a number of pilot-scale activities and false starts. The result of this stage is a one-of-a-kind technology that shows enough promise both technically and economically to warrant demonstration.
Image: Field Test
This third stage of the continuum consists of demonstration tests conducted on first-time or early-stage technology. The tests may be pilot or full scale and are conducted under varying conditions in order to show the technology’s range of performance, determine its applications and weaknesses, optimize its operational parameters, and determine its costs. The demonstration stage may be characterized by substantial redesign and debugging until final robustness and optimization can be established. Final results may be used to market to financial backers and even customers.
Image: Scientist on a computer
Verification is testing and publicly reporting the performance of a commercial-ready technology under specific, predetermined protocols designed by stakeholders and included in quality assurance procedures stipulated by EPA. Individual or classes of technologies are tested by independent organizations in order to assist purchasers and permitters in comparing the environmental and operational performance of competing products. Results, if positive, are used for marketing the product directly to customers.
Image: Technology at a conference
The fifth stage of the continuum includes preparing for, financing, and implementing full-scale manufacturing and marketing activities. The technology is reliably replicated and produced. This often includes developing business plans, entering into partnerships, securing working capital, arranging for manufacturing facilities, and developing channels for distribution.
Diffusion and Utilization
Image: Solar panel installation
Diffusion and utilization involve implementation of a full-scale marketing plan for a technology, including interfacing with appropriate authorities. This stage is characterized by intensive marketing to all appropriate stakeholders using an array of tools such as Web sites, targeted conferences, mailing lists, and information targeted to state and local authorities. This stage encourages the adoption or purchase of fully developed and proven new technology through the flow of information about the technology within the targeted environmental area and by removing regulatory barriers to the technology’s implementation.

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