Identifying cutting-edge technology is simply the first step of technology scouting. The key to effective tech scouting is to capture the right opportunity at the right time. We assembled a list of five tactics to help you streamline your process.
1. Discover the Unknown
While an abundance of new start-ups and patents has made scouting more worthwhile than ever, information gathering is becoming more difficult. The AUTM survey released earlier this year revealed an 11.3% increase over the record number of patents issued set in 2013 and a 12% increase in startups launched . Given this growth, technology scouting has become a key strategy for companies to remain competitive and augment their R&D processes. While there is no lack of ideas, the challenge has become identifying high-value opportunities.
To continuously tap into these valuable opportunities in your scouting process, first, establish clear criteria for what you are looking for and how it aligns with your strategy.
Next, utilize marketplaces and search tools to discover opportunities. Marketplaces such as Flintbox or AUTM GTP are free to use and provide the latest technologies from universities across the globe. This is an excellent way to contact inventors and learn about their developments. CrunchBase is another valuable search tool for discovering innovative companies and their investment history.
Set up notifications on specific companies or technologies of interest. A best practice is to monitor and re-engage when the time is right.
By leveraging all of these searching efforts you will be able to tap into the unknown throughout your scouting process. Find the right opportunity fast or accelerate time to kill the deal.
2. Reduce the Number of Tools in your Toolshed
After collecting data from your scouting initiatives, what do you do with it?
When data is stored in multiple systems, information silos make it problematic for colleagues to access data in different locations. The most common tools for tech scouting are typically ad hoc systems such as Excel and SharePoint. These tools just do not scale with the growth of your organization. Utilize a systematic approach leveraging a purpose-built tool for evaluating your tech scouting opportunities.
Manage your portfolio of opportunities in one place to eliminate silos of information and better coordinate communication across departments, geographies, and partnerships to open up awareness of information that exists. Imagine that you have an attractive opportunity and can see that a colleague is evaluating a similar opportunity. By having that information at your fingertips, it allows you to ask questions and come to decisions quickly.
Ditch obsolete tools. Integrate your information management to enable visibility throughout your team and external partnerships for a highly collaborative environment.
3. Build an “A” Team of Collaborators
As your opportunities and partnerships continue to grow, it becomes challenging to connect with your team to discuss opportunities. A team evaluating multiple technologies per month will face issues of re-evaluating opportunities and build an unmanageable pipeline. Managing partners can become time demanding and inefficient without a framework for communication. Opportunities slip through the cracks because there is no way to track communication and potential partners.
An “A” team streamlines communication by leveraging tools that have technology scouting processes in mind. This guides you along how to set clear criteria to make evaluations and provides a framework for you to build a process. It is more efficient to have a framework for tech scouting than to create workflows from scratch. An “A” team utilizes a common language and uniform standards for consistency.
Learn how Thermo Fisher handled a 33% larger portfolio with the same headcount by leveraging a purpose-built system for tech scouting.
Next, coordinate action items among your team and create visibility into multiple ongoing interactions for quicker and better decision-making. This simplifies communication and allows everyone to be aware of responsibilities from the start.
Simplify projects with external partners by allowing them to communicate and collaborate in real-time.
Lastly, make essential information visible to all by tracking your pipeline visually to see which opportunities are currently being evaluated in which stage gate to avoid duplicated efforts.
4. Recognize Success
Communicating your successes to management is indispensable for assessing not only team achievements, but determining which partnerships have been successful or project to be. It only takes one great success story for management to champion your innovation programs. Everyone loves backing a winner! The challenge lies in finding financial data, partnership information, and details relevant to your presentation. Collecting information from external partners can be time-consuming. By the time you gather information, your success story may be outdated or irrelevant.
First, you must increase visibility into ongoing interactions in order to pull up information at your fingertips wherever you are in the world. This allows you to keep everything organized and comprehensive for detailed story-telling. Be ready with supporting data when leadership pokes holes in your logic or content.
Next, actively manage and update your growing pipeline to ensure that information presented is accurate and relevant. Streamline the process of collecting financial data and details from partners for precise information.
Finally, add valuable information to your stories from recent funding or recent news. A startup you evaluated may have had a significant investment worth adding to your story.
5. Identify Trends in Your Tech Scouting Puzzle
Reporting is essential for making quality decisions, which is fundamental to the tech scouting process. Don’t be the team who can’t show metrics on your impact or you risk becoming a target for waste elimination. Yet, it can become challenging to gather information from departments and various conferences and compile it into a meaningful report. Information scattered across numerous documents and sharing sites makes it a nightmare to capture all information and create accurate reports.
According to a survey by the Economist, 56% of senior executives were concerned about making poor decisions because of inaccurate or incomplete data . Quality data is crucial to making proper decisions.
To make reporting simple, start by leveraging a single enterprise system to self-manage your reporting. Be diligent in tracking every opportunity without letting it slip through the cracks.
Next, streamline electronic communication with other departments and gather information quickly and easily. Automate reports for weekly or monthly pipeline updates to know exactly where your opportunities are.
Finally, identify patterns in your reports with big picture visuals such as dashboards to optimize your strategy and make better decisions.
It is important to create visibility for your team to be more efficient and productive. Advancing your tech scouting initiatives evolves from establishing a process and streamlined communication. Innovation doesn't only happen when opportunities arise but cultivates from the continuous execution of the right opportunities fundamental to your organization's growth.
What are your tactics for improving tech scouting and how do you manage your growing pipeline of opportunities?
 Association of University Technology Managers. "Highlights of AUTM’s U.S. Licensing Activity Survey FY2014." (2014): 1-12. 2014. Web. 26 July. 2016.
 In Search of Clarity Unravelling the Complexities of Executive Decision-making. Report. http://www.businessobjects.com/jump/emea/economist/report/EIU_In_search_of_clarity_8_August_2007.pdf.