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If you do not know how to to ask the right question, you discover nothing  
W. Edward Deming
Across all industry segments and technology arenas, increasing numbers of large and mid-sized firms have instituted some form of External Technology Seeking function. Often at - and/or reporting to senior management - those charged with this responsibility are tasked explicitly to look outside the firm for available technologies, for potential IP placement - in- and out-licensing - and/or for complementary capabilities and skill-sets relevant to addressing current problems and anticipated future needs.
  • A range of intelligence gathering techniques may be employed -- from literature review and online searches to event participation and cultivating professional connection.
  • The forms of relationship to those external sources may range from small-scale technical collaboration at the operational level through quite substantial funded R&D; from (cross-) licensing transactions through equity participation to important, longer-term business collaborations

More recently, a key focus of these efforts has become that of trying to keep a finger on the pulse of development of new and potentially disruptive technologies. These are developments which will likely impact existing market conditions at some level and/or are those which could well represent new market opportunities.

Following the talent: who technically trained now work for
In the past, these types of external access arrangements have primarily engaged the universities, non-profit R&D facilities, the federal labs and, on occasion, other Lage Corporations. However, changes in the labor markets in recent decades mean that far more of the technical trained are now employed by smaller firms.
That critical shift has profoundly changed
the dynamics of the tech transfer process
.
Of necessity the Tech Seeker must also now confront the fairly serious challenge of following that talent - an often daunting task, given not only the numbers of firms involved but the fact that so many of the firms involved are very small and early-stage and not thereby always readily discernible on the 'usual' radar screens.
        In this context, a number of companies and organizations have evolved to support the Tech Seeker function in various ways. For many Tech Seekers the funneling and sifting device that is the federal SBIR-STTR program has become a particularly useful resource. Involving an important cross-section of the technology-based, small business community, Over the life of the program, SBIR Awardees now total now almost 21,000 firms - some being now well-known firms which are themselves now reaching back into the SBIR community. SBIR program participation serves well

 

  • to list companies involved, flagging their areas of activity
  • while also enabling some level of competency validation.

       There is also considerable value in the fact that the SBIR-involved firm brings to the table an access to resources in their own right -- federal funding of the high-risk R&D effort and, in many cases, access to downstream contract opportunity. These benefits can serve well to leverage on the internal resources of the Tech Seeker, underwriting some of the risk of working in that space and defraying part of that cost.

Contact information

Innovation Development Institute, LLC

   45 Beach Bluff Avenue, Suite 300
     Swampscott,  MA 01907-1542

  Tel:  (781) 595-2920

  support@inknowvation.com