Innovation of Business

and the
Business of Innovation™
Innovating Technology Transfer

Increasing the Impact of Sciences and Technology

All R&D owns two responsibilities, whether in industry, government, or academia.  In exchange for funding, R&D is responsible for both discovery and the impact of its discoveries.  Responsibility falls jointly on individuals, research teams, and laboratories.  Though discovery is broadly embraced and excellently performed, impact may be weak.

In part, skills are missing.  Professional educations in science and engineering rarely include the impact-oriented sciences of innovation and marketing.  Indeed, universities can reasonably be accused of fostering “build it and they will come” mentalities.  When hired into research positions, new employers reinforce the same paradigms, evaluating mostly on technical competence and productivity.
In part, priorities are also missing.  Sense of mission and corporate culture can focus on science and projects, not on customers and return-of-value to the organization.  The creative work can be absorbing.  Reporting channels often have an inward focus.  Though situations vary by lab and within labs, R&D as a whole can be quite isolated from the marketplace, even when the larger organization is truly customer-facing.

Impact requires innovation.

Gate Zero

Technology transfer drives the impact of R&D by moving science and technology toward markets, both internal and external to the organization.  Effective movement helps turns ordinary R&D into innovated R&D.  (see:  Innovating R&D)  Innovated businesses in industry have formalized movement into productive engines.  Valuable lessons can serve those still struggling.

In industry, successful research makes the transition from R&D into the product value chain (e.g., design, manufacturing, launch).  Product success then leads to a chain of impact that potentially includes the company, allies, distributors, retailers, end customers, competitors, and the direction of global markets.  Federal and academic laboratories can make similar impact by transferring research results into the value chains of existing or start-up commercial companies.

Stage-GateTM is both process and metaphor for management of product development.  To justify moving R&D into the value chain, the company evaluates a business case for investing in the project.  The same due diligence determines investment in transferred research.  
R&D costs are small relative to commercialization.  Justification invites large investment, and thus is not taken lightly.  Research into Gate Zero processes recognizes six facets of a formal proof.

Technical Proof:  "It works!"  (at least at this stage of development)
Control Proof:  "We own the intellectual property!"
Safety Proof:  "We will be free of liability!"
Value Proof:  "Customers want it!"
Economic Proof:  "A sufficient market exists!"
Attractiveness Proof:  "It fits corporate strategy!"

Successful projects then move from R&D into early stage productization.  "Technology transfer" includes the processes of finding the right product value chain, justifying investment (e.g., the Six Proofs), and accomplishing the movement.  That is, transfer from R&D to productization, in itself, takes an investment.  Organizations may focus investment into science and engineering to the point of leaving movement of technology almost to chance.


Innovated Technology Transfer

Let's contrast normal and innovated technology transfer.  "Sources" and "adopters" of technology are the two sides of a transfer.  "Technology transfer" will be anthropomorphized and given the initials "TT."  Though language refers to a "business," lessons apply to any organization.  And these lessons apply to all of technology management, not just to Gate Zero.

Normal TT sees a technology as a thing, a prototype, perhaps described by a patent.  Innovated TT knows that a technology is abilities - the suite of abilities needed to make another one.  Think about that for a moment.  We hold technologies in our minds, not our hands.  Until those abilities are captured in processes the company can't even claim to own its own technology.  Its people are the owners, because only they can make another one.

Normal TT sees transfer as an event - an agreement to productize, perhaps written into a license and/or contract.  Innovated TT knows that transferring abilities takes processes not complete until the adopter truly owns the technology.  "Ownership" is adopter ability to build another one (e.g., prototype) - all by themselves in their environment with their tools and standards - that operates up to specific levels of performance.  Think for a moment about the implications of ownership and the implied requirements for transfer.

Normal TT is technology driven.  Transfer is justified by the technology itself.  ("Build it and they will adopt" mindset)  Innovated TT knows that no one ever adopts a technology.  Adopters acquire the value of the technology.  They adopt to save money, gain an edge, and build customer loyalty.  They care about time to payout, net present value, and overall expected return on investment.

For adopters, features are interesting, yet a small part of the picture.  Indeed, the first three proofs above are just the ante to get to the table.  The second three proofs make the difference, and making those proofs requires an entirely different view of the project.  Normal TT promotes clusters of features as results of science and engineering.  Innovated TT presents a vision of value and economic potential.

To summarize, normal TT promotes a prototype with features and sees transfer as an event.  Innovated TT promotes the potential value of the final product, and collaborates to ensure full ownership.


Attracting Adopter Attention

Normal TT misunderstands adopter motivations and decision processes.  Innovated TT leverages four key practices of commercialization to attract attention, build durable relationships with adopters, and successfully transfer technology.  
1. Technology Visioning creates a product vision as the sum of decisions typically made by product marketing.  The key result is a value promise for the technology, connected to a true name, brief functional description, and slogan that captures the essence of value and uniqueness.

Brand Concept Analysis - Licensing
Technical Concept:  Features
What is it?  What will it be?
What can it do?  What will it do?
Application Concept:  Capabilities
What can one do with it?
How might it be applied?
What problems could it solve?
Market Concept:  Customers, competitors
Who needs those capabilities?  
(potential users)
How are those needs met now?  
(current products, competitive products)
Who serves those potential users now?
(Potential partners or licensees)
Value Concept:  Needs/Benefits Analysis
Completion Concept
What would a commercial product look like?
What would be involved in completing a commercial product?
Who might choose to complete, market, and service such a product?  (Potential partner or licensee)
Attractiveness Concept:  Licensee view
What factors will licensees use to decide on investment?
How important is each factor?
How does this technology do on those factors?
Brand Concept:  Integration of value promise with name, functional class, and slogan.

As odd as it sounds, do the most extensive vision development for technologies that will transfer easily.  The idea is to gain best leverage from your most valuable technologies to help transfer those with lower profiles.  For most technologies, a Brand Concept AnalysisTM will suffice.  (see the box)

2. Branding is the strategic process of persuading market acceptance of and commitment to brands.  Normal TT has little concept of brand or branding at technology or lab levels.  Innovated TT knows that a brand is a value promise, accepted by the market, and attached to a name.  Normal branding thinks the company owns the brand.  Innovated branding knows that brands live in the minds of the marketplace.

Pre-Planning develops the brand concept (language the company owns) as the integration of  name, class, slogan, and unique value promise.  Innovated TT bases the source-adopter relationship on visibly making and honoring value promises, including the promise of ownership.

3. Launch is initiation of external marketing via an integrated marketing and branding strategy.  Example communication strategies include advertising, website, trade shows, and direct customer contact..  Normal launches focus on product features.  Innovated launches are more strategic, focusing on durable relationships through brand development.

4. Customer service helps achieve full ownership of the functionality of a product.  Innovated TT extends that to ownership of abilities to make another prototype.

Pre-Planning develops value and attractiveness proofs.  Pre-Planning done early leads to projects more likely to fit corporate strategy and satisfy end customers.

Technology Transfer and Agents of Change

Technology transfer is the key to the impact of discoveries, yet few labs invest in the culture and processes of technology movement.  Applying commercial practices leverages a vast knowledge base, yet R&D doesn't need MBAs to ensure impact.  Innovating R&D for technology transfer is a matter of changing key mindsets and adding a few skill sets.  That is, innovated TT develops agents of change who can both do research and produce impact.

Three core attributes of agents of change were discussed in v1n7-2005, "The Innovator's Edge Part 1".  Agents of change are strategic (not tactical), value driven (not technology driven), and customer centered (not self centered) in communications.  Other attributes have been identified here.  Agents of change know that a technology is a suite of abilities, that ownership is the ability to make another one in a new environment, and that the key to successful transfer is creating adopter ownership.

In the long run, strong visible impact of science and technology drives funder satisfaction.  Funding then enables new research, and research enables ongoing impact.  Transfer closes the loop, completing R&D in a way science and engineering can't achieve on their own.




43. A polyp would be a conceptual thinker if a feeling of "Hollo! Thingumbob again!" ever flitted through its mind. (William James)

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