A Matter of Life and Death

Dear {subscriber_first_name}

I hope you’re keeping well and having fun. Today I would like to take a few minutes of your time to discuss what I believe to be a critical innovation topic – technology scouting.

Technology scouting is an approach used by many companies to support innovation, where so called technology scouts research technology topics which are likely to be important to the company’s future growth and profitability plans. Sometimes technology scouting can deliver important breakthroughs to the business; however, in my experience, more often this activity is disappointingly unproductive. Why should this be? After all, we are often challenged by the statement that someone somewhere has already solved our innovation challenge so technology scouting ought to be a smarter, more efficient way to find breakthroughs than trying to develop them ourselves.

I would argue that we fail to find the right “answers” simply because we first fail to ask the right question. Poorly directed technology scouting is a little like looking for a needle in a haystack without checking if we are actually looking in the right haystack in the first place! Even after completing an expensive technology scouting activity, we might be totally unaware of technologies which could completely resolve our problems and innovation challenges. In my experience, to be effective in technology scouting, we should first focus on the functionality we require and then seek out the specific industries or research areas where the need to deliver this functionality well is vitally important.

In “Function Oriented Search” – an approach particularly suited to technology scouting activities, we start by identifying the key required functionality. Next we generalise the function and link it to “Leading Areas”, the places with the highest likelihood of solutions. Leading Areas are industry sectors or scientific research disciplines where the target functionality is often routinely delivered. The most productive areas are where effective delivery of the required function is literally a matter of life of death. For example, if I want to control the way crystals form to give certain physical properties in a solid, as might be required in injection moulded polymer parts; a leading area worth investigating is the pharmaceutical industry. If the morphology of the crystals of a pharmaceutical formulation is incorrect, the resulting drug may be ineffective or even harmful, with potentially very severe consequences. As a result of the critical need to control crystal formation in pharmaceuticals, a large amount of focused technology development has taken place over many years resulting in a number of robust “ready-made” technology solutions.

A major benefit of the Function Oriented Search approach is that we often don’t need to invent anything new, meaning that product development lead times and implementation risk can be radically reduced. Over a number of years you can even develop a database of Leading Areas related to specific functions (as we have), enabling rapid and effective research of seemingly new technology challenges.

Could you boost your innovation output through Function Oriented Search? Click here to find out more about our approach.