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Technology Intelligence for R&D

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Article on the use of tools to enable better identification and assessment of technology trends, threats and opportunities, otherwise known as technology intelligence.

Article on the use of tools to enable better identification and assessment of technology trends, threats and opportunities, otherwise known as technology intelligence.

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  • 1. SEPT. 3, 2008 Using Technology Intelligence for R&D Instead of spending weeks and months on R&D, companies are now able to cut this time to seconds and minutes. B Y J O E B U Z Z A N G A , P R O D U C T M A N A G E R , E LS E V I E R I n today’s networked economy, the most effective What is “Technology Intelligence” — and what R&D goes beyond a company’s four walls and does it mean for the bottom line? explores what’s going on in the outside world The concept of Technology Intelligence plays an — in terms of technologies, products, strategies, in- important role here, referring to: novations, thought leaders — and how this infor- mation can be harnessed and applied to internal in- “…the activity that enables companies to iden- novation. But this is not an easy task. Consider this: tify the technological opportunities and threats in 2007 the global top 1,250 R&D companies spent that could affect the future growth and survival of over $479 billion on R&D. their business. It aims to capture and disseminate the technological information needed for strategic This has resulted in an accelerated movement planning and decision-making. As technology life around the information retrieval process and a cycles shorten and business becomes more global- hunt for technology that accomplishes for business ized, having effective Technology Intelligence capa- researchers what Google has done for consumers. bilities is becoming increasingly important.” This is because corporate R&D ends up wasting valuable man hours, brain power, and resources on We’re moving from the “Information Age” to the information retrieval. Some additional statistics: “Intelligence Age.” The former was all about build- ing the database — i.e. the Web and its vast amount • According to recent Forrester Research, the vol- of content — but today we’ve progressed to creating ume of the world’s data doubles approximately contextual access to the right pieces of information every three years; to derive intelligence, meaning and insight. • Per week, corporate R&D professionals (scien- Traditional methods for extracting such “intelli- tists and engineers) spend 5.5 hours gathering, gence” range from manually sifting through pub- looking for or pulling together information, and lications and journals, networking or attending an additional 4.7 hours analyzing and applying tradeshows and focus groups, hiring outsourced this information. consultants, or just standard surfing the Internet. Simply stated, 1) there is a lot of information out Yet both in their individual silos, as well as when there, 2) companies recognize the value of this in- mapped out across each other, these methods still formation and therefore are willing to spend money prove to have a number of drawbacks: difficult to to retrieve and analyze it, but 3) seem to spend too identify relevant information, take weeks or months much time doing so. Bottom line, people aren’t lack- to complete, resource intensive, expensive, and in ing information, but rather need insights gleaned the end return unpredictable results. from this information. Going a layer deeper, the actual information that Building upon the principles of Open Innovation, such approaches present often falls short of its po- there are new techniques and technologies that tential. For example, any search engine to date, paid bring structure, relevance and meaning to unlock or free, provides results in the form of records with content on the Internet for actionable business pur- citations (i.e.: title and abstract), similar to a Google poses. This goes beyond simple Google keyword search. But an important transition is happening in searches, and leverages approaches that intuitively the technology intelligence field, shifting from cita- search based on real-world problems and solutions. tions to meaning: actually understanding citations In doing so, instead of spending weeks and months that are in the search results, and then extracting on R&D, companies are now able to cut this time to meaning and insights from this query data. seconds and minutes.
  • 2. APRIL. 2, 2008 One way to think of this is in a simple formula: From this introductory summary screen, you can CIsquared: providing Intelligent Information within click on categories or specific items to drill down Context. By combining Web content, premium and look at some of the specific items returned. For scientific journals and patent information with example, if you select “heat recovery” as one of “smart” search technology and analysis, there is a the approaches returned, you receive a number of new breed of technology that allows companies to records which highlight the “benefit” (in this case quickly search and summarize answers that are not “reduce energy consumption”) and the solution. available through traditional search tools. The key One such results from a scholarly journal reports difference here is in the approach and results: this is that, “In mechanically ventilated buildings, heat a first attempt to cut information overload and find recovery from ventilation air is the single most im- the solutions to technical and business problems portant means of reducing ventilation energy con- with results that are relevant and have meaning. sumption.” From there you can click on the text and be directed to the original content source. For example, a Fortune 100 materials company might research who offers a technology that they can What’s unique is that, because this leverages in- license or acquire to complete their product line, tuitive search technology called text analytics and and find multiple M&A candidates. Or, a chemical “semantics,” the results are analyzed, relevant and company can search for who they can license exist- organized to be easily accessible and actionable, ing technologies to, and uncover opportunities with cutting lots of time from R&D efforts. All-in-all, a several totally new candidates. In other instances, very comprehensive, but even more importantly companies can use it to identify who might be vio- relevant, accurate, and applicable set of solutions lating their patents in specific areas, and discover are provided in minutes, as opposed to the days and multiple infringers in an adjacent market. In other week (or months!) that research would take with instances companies can use it quickly scan tech- more traditional methods. nical approaches to research problems, often un- This approach is a tool that can be leveraged in covering novel or unexpected “long tail” solutions. speeding up the retrieval, access and distillation of Let’s look at a specific search... data, and thus serves as an agent of this transforma- tion of change. Intelligent Research in Practice — and in Seconds Looking Ahead to the “Intelligent Age” A company looking to gather information on how Thought leaders in all industries are recognizing to “green” their facility could set out on a search the benefits of looking outside one’s organization for innovative methods and strategies manufactur- for information, from academic institutions such ers can deploy to reduce their energy consumption as Harvard Law School opening up their scholarly while running cleaner-and-greener facilities. As content for public access, to corporate entities like opposed to hiring an out-sourced consulting firm, 3M and P&G adopting new technologies such as El- tapping into focus groups, analyst research or even sevier’s illumin8 to transform their R&D efforts. A doing a keyword Google search, a knowledge work- variety of industries are finding that these tools can er can use such technology intelligence tools. Basi- serve as a massive boost for the quantity of produc- cally, just type in “reduce energy consumption” as tivity as well as the quality of output. the “benefit” which you are trying to gather infor- mation on, similar to what an end-user would do in The ramifications of such workflow and produc- a simple keyword search. Further refinement can be tivity enhancing solutions help facilitate more ef- made — akin to an “advanced search” — to encom- ficient scientific research, branching outside an or- pass relevant synonyms that should be included in ganization, bringing new ideas in and, as a result, the query. developing innovative, scalable products that meet objectives in the manufacturing process. By mas- When you click “search,” in less than a minute a sively condensing these practices into a consoli- comprehensive, organized summary of information dated search, companies can exponentially speed is returned based on gathering data found on the time to market to grow quicker than they ever could public web, as well as premium subscription jour- before. That is the power — and future — of the nals, scientific content, patents and abstracts. The evolving information age. In fact, I think we might initial screen provides a high-level solution sum- start to call it “the intelligence age. mary, broken down into a variety of categories such as products, companies, organizations, thought leaders, and approaches. For example, here the EPA Joe Buzzanga is a product manager at Elsevier which and Department of Energy both returned high re- is a publisher of scientific, technical and medical in- sults in the “Organizations” category, while lighting formation products and services. www.illumin8.com and insulation provided a number of solutions in the “Approaches” category. Copyright © 2008 by Penton Media, Inc.