By: Stephen K. Markham, Stephen J. Ward, Lynda Aiman-Smith, and Angus I. Kingon


The article uses the metaphor of 'Valley of Death' as a visualization of the gap between two ends of product development. It suggests that there are relative more resources on one side of the valley in the form of research expertise (in universities) and on the other side (industry) by commercialization expertise and resources. The study shows that significant development takes place before projects enter into a firm’s formal product development process - usually within the research side (university). The data also support the roles of champion, sponsor, and gatekeeper as major actors that work together to develop and promote projects for introduction into the formal process. Champions make the organization aware of opportunities by conceptualizing the idea and preparing business cases. Sponsors support the development of promising ideas by providing resources to demonstrate the project’s viability. Gatekeepers set criteria and make acceptance decisions. These players are interdependent on each other so that the product moves through its development stages. There also has to a dynamic interplay and established channels of information flow between these roles to enable the learning from one stage to be effectively passed on to the next. Within this valley the set of interlocking roles move projects from one side to the other. The research concludes that the Valley of Death is a productive tool for identifying and understanding a critical area of development and that companies must understand the challenges in the valley, must develop the skills, and must make resources available to master the front end of product innovation.


The 'Valley of Death' is an apt metaphor that has tremendous relevance for Water Policy. For the past 3 decades research and idea development has been done about concepts like Water Footprint, virtual water, water use efficiency etc. However, the learning has stayed on the side of the research institutions and the non-profits. It has, largely, not been able to cross the valley of death and enter the policy maker space.

B for Water has been made to enable this transfer. It will aim to create the necessary institutions and networks to play the dynamic roles as mentioned in the article so that technological, management and multi-disciplinary learning is developed and shared within each side and across the valley of death. 

Also, please refer to network paper here, to see an example of how flexible government institutions can play a role in technology transfer to enable compliance with norms.