Tips and tricks for effective technology scouting
The competitive environment has never been so intense across so many industries so organisations are increasingly looking to develop their breakthrough innovations in smarter, more innovative ways. Many organisations recognise the importance of making investments on their internal research and development capability and it is becoming more common place to look at the broader scale of options.
With technologies and innovation continually evolving and developing this has meant that lab research and development teams have been forced to put down their lab coats and get out there in the real world to share their discoveries and find out what technologies exist that can help them. Re-inventing existing things is not the most effective way to work and research labs now actively seek answers as well as develop them.
The most common conclusion is to look externally for enabling technologies. In recent years this has been called ‘Open Innovation’, and involves business activities such as licensing, joint ventures and spin-offs. Major companies have used this to great effect, such as Proctor and Gamble’s ‘Connect and Develop’ strategy.
Once a need has been defined, the first hurdle is to find enabling technologies that could be bought, licensed, or collaborated on. We view ‘Technology Scouting’ as a key part of what we do here at Cambridge Design Partnership and have optimised the scouting process which we can apply to any industry.
When undergoing Technology Scouting projects for clients and internal projects in the areas of drug infusion pumps, injection devices, domestic appliances, electronics, diagnostics and oil drilling etc., we have learnt the most important elements of successful technology scouting:
1. Create a clear brief. Identify the problems you wish to solve before undertaking any Technology Scouting activity. Define the specification parameters and any restrictions that might affect the options available to you.
2. Look outside the industry from which the need originates. We often find that the same or a similar problem has been solved in another industry for a different application.
3. Leverage networks of people. It is much more efficient to gain the experience and insight of contacts and experts than to start from scratch.
4. Do not repeat the mistakes that others have made. For example, past problems can be found by searching for product recalls or, in the case of medical devices, searching the databases of regulators.
5. Be open to collaboration. Some companies will only implement technologies or manufacturing processes that they already use. There is always a first time! If a given technology or process is not going to be brought in house, security of supply can be maintained by multiple-sourcing or forming a joint venture with the vendor.
6. Act on what you find! Implement a clear plan of action that is guided by the knowledge gathered.
Due to the nature of our profession, the range of industries we work within and the variety of projects we work on, Cambridge Design Partnership has a truly broad view of the technology landscape and we consider it a fundamental part of the value we add to be constantly on top of new and upcoming technologies.
If your organisation would like to discuss how Cambridge Design Partnership can help you with Technology Scouting please contact us on +44 (0)1223 264428.