Agree it's complicated to understand what products need to be introduced, and making the calculations surrounding return of investment.
In the ROI calculation, things like market share, synergies coming from existing products, company profile, trends in society, etc are taken into account. Take a mega trend like energy efficiency, for example. It's here to stay this time around, and it would be a wise thing to capitalize on in bringing new products to the market Ė to make stuff people canít be without.
The tough part about photography, and film photography in particular, is that the market has been in decline for many years, all while being highly mature technology with little to no room for improvement. Just how can somebody come up with something new and fresh that is groundbreaking enough to alter or better how the final print is arrived at? I think that small incremental improvements have been the way it's gone for many years, if not decades now, but also, as you mention, consolidating product lines, or replacing old ones with components that become unavailable.
The only small game changer I have seen is the Ilford Art 300 - bringing back a textured paper to the market for those who mourned the loss of Foma 532 and 542. Variation on a theme, sure, but now we see Freestyle bringing out a textured paper as well, via Fotokemika, so a bit of a new trend has been set.
A new film? You're obviously a lot more qualified than I in calculating the cost. I work in the product marketing department, and get to be part of discussions surrounding bringing new products to the market, and justifying the cost via market research, and customer interviews. But a new film - I wouldn't even know where to begin to look.
It's an interesting discussion, especially if you look retrospectively. For example, why did Kodak discontinue Panatomic-X? Or Super-XX? Or Royal Pan? They thought they had something they could make more money on, and release it as something superior. Perhaps new trends could be to bring back old favorites. ADOX with their APX 100 and APX 400 replacements, for example. They wouldn't be doing that unless there was a demand for it, but Mirko has also been on this forum letting us know that the game has changed to a point where less R&D staff can be justified in bringing the product forward. This just proves your point about justifying a project based on return on investment, a composite of demand and cost of all sorts.
Perhaps ADOX is finding out why it wasn't viable for Agfa to sell the film they sold at the price they did, based on the cost of production, meaning they'll have to raise the price to a level where few will actually shell out for it, APX or not. I'll be perfectly honest and say that I shot APX mainly because I could afford it. Where I lived it was a lot less expensive than Kodak, Ilford, or Fuji, but with comparable quality. Cost matters. Unfortunately, today the cost of developing a new film is likely higher than it was 30 years ago, more restricted due to availability of materials, but then youíre punished with a market that is a fraction of what it used to be, meaning payback time will be much longer, unless price is increased significantly to raise the margin to a sustainable level. You have to make enough money on every sale to make a profit.
To me, the two most important areas of R&D should be:
- How to make the product less expensive to produce, while maintaining or improving the performance.
- How can you make production lines flexible enough that you can run small runs of specialist materials on the same piece of equipment that you also run bulk materials like Tri-X or HP5+?