One of the trends in small business we follow is the shift to lightweight business infrastructures. This is the trend towards business infrastructure of all types (IT, manufacturing, distribution, etc.) becoming cheaper, smaller and easier to use.
Computer controlled manufacturing tools are a good example. A decade ago computer controlled laser cutters cost over $250,000 and required skilled technicians to make them work. Today they cost less than $3000 and even hobbyists in garages use them.
In what may be the ultimate example of this trend, the Toronto Star has an article on small scale nuclear power plants.
Traditional nuclear power plants cost billions of dollars, take many years to build and generate hundreds of megawatts of electricity.
The article highlights Hyperion Power Generation, which is developing a 25 megawatt nuclear power “module” that will sell for around $30 million. Big enough to supply the electricity needs of roughly 20,000 homes, Hyperion hopes to have their first customers in place in 2013.
About the size of a minivan and weighing 15 tons, the modules are targeted at remote, off the grid industrial and community applications. They come sealed and are designed to be buried underground. Hyperion claims installation can be done in a few weeks.
Using technology developed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the modules use low grade nuclear fuel that is unsuitable for weapons. And, at least according to Hyperion, the modules are incapable of meltdowns because they are run at low temperatures.
Lightweight business infrastructures lower capital costs, reduce risk and allow small businesses to enter markets traditionally reserved for large corporations.
If Hyperion is successful, it is likely that small nuclear power generation companies will exist within the next decade.
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About the Author: Steve King is a partner at Emergent Research, a research affiliate at the Institute for the Future, and senior fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. He is a co-author of the Intuit Future of Small Business report series, and he blogs at Small Biz Labs.
Steve is a member of the Small Business Trends Expert Network.