Case | HBS Case Collection | December 2009 (Revised April 2012)

Neoprene

by Tom Nicholas and Felipe Tamega Fernandes

Abstract

In 1931, during one of the worst economic crises in U.S. history, Du Pont announced the discovery of an innovative rubber synthetic product—neoprene. Yet at the time of the announcement, Du Pont did not have any neoprene to sell. Manufacturing facilities were still being erected and production remained at laboratory scale. Rubber synthetics had been developed in Russia, Germany, and even in the United States before, but large-scale production had never taken off. Would Du Pont's announcement and public disclosure of the basic science lift the barriers to commercialization? What made Du Pont so confident that it could succeed at this uncertain time?

Keywords: Financial Crisis; Business History; Innovation and Invention; Product Development; Risk and Uncertainty; Science-Based Business; Commercialization; Chemical Industry; United States;

Citation:

Nicholas, Tom, and Felipe Tamega Fernandes. "Neoprene." Harvard Business School Case 810-084, December 2009. (Revised April 2012.)