External technology networks consist of industry experts, supply chain partners, university researchers, start-ups, and government research laboratories. These technology networks change as new partners emerge and new technologies are unveiled within existing partner networks. In order to gain an accurate landscape of technology trends, groups must expand their technology network to capture the greatest number of potentially relevant technologies. To quickly expand a technology network, teams should leverage online IP marketplaces, set up external portals, and track their long-term network partners in order to maximize their innovation efforts.
#1 Leveraging Online IP Marketplaces
All businesses, even large multinationals, have a finite amount of bandwidth when it comes to technological developments and their applications. This means that all opportunities cannot be pursued, as organizations are constrained by the resources needed to successfully carry out a project. As such, this limits the scope of technology scouting for organizations, with many companies relegating their R&D functions to internal R&D labs or geographic locations with a high density of innovative firms (usually large cities or select university communities).
However, this leaves companies vulnerable to entirely missing large changes in industry technology or innovation, as no company has more than a 1% share of global R&D spending. Relying entirely on internal R&D or physical technology scouting gives organizations a myopic view of industry trends.
Online IP marketplaces alleviate this problem by allowing organization to greatly expand their geographic reach and search capability. Rather than being constrained by geographic reach or relationships with organizations, companies are able to index and search the global IP market and identify technologies that can solve problems or improve products. These marketplaces allow access to intellectual property from universities, research institutions, and other organizations.
More importantly, IP marketplaces offer the opportunity for deep data analysis, as tech scouts are able to track broad trends on the market; users are also able to develop alerts for new technologies based on keywords, filter results, and other search functionalities.
#2 Developing External Portals
Another strategy for developing technology networks is establishing portals for external researchers to submit ideas, proposals, and other intellectual property that could be beneficial to the company. Frequently taking on the form of a crowdsourcing 'contest', portals can be used to pre-select users and submissions in such a way as to maximize their impact. Many organizations use portals as a means of building relationships with external institutions, as they can be pre-authorized and encouraged to submit intellectual property.
Companies can pre-sort users based on their technical qualifications and skills, and offer challenges or submission calls based on the needs of the organization; this method increases the signal to noise ratio, as pre-sorting singificantly boosts the usefulness of the submissions. Such portals also allow for data to be submitted directly to a centralized system, meaning that time-consuming data entry work is mostly eliminated.
#3 Tracking and Cultivating Long-term Relationships
The most traditional -- and most effective -- means of developing a technology network is by building and maintaining partnerships with promising organizations, universities, and research institutions. Many effective technological developments come from long-standing partnerships between companies and institutions, but these relationships tend to be hampered by the natural rates of attrition on both sides; as such, companies need the ability to track all of the interactions and key personal contacts that occurred on a project.
Imperfect data collection can lead to project failure during transitions, as key pieces of information may be assumed as common knowledge by previous staff but was never properly recorded, meaning new associates can fly in the dark in terms of project details, contract terms, etc. Rather than relying on an ad-hoc system of folders, shared drives, and emails, a unified system of record allows organizations to maximize their knowledge retention.
In order to remain competitive in the new open innovation dominated world, companies must be able to expand their geographic reach, develop and maintain long-term relationships with key innovation partners.