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Linking technology intelligence to open innovation

Linking technology intelligence to open innovation

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Linking technology intelligence to open innovation
Mark Veugelers
, Jo Bury
, Stijn Viaene
VIB, Rijvisschestraat 120, 9052 Ghent, Belgium
Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School
K.U.Leuven, Vlamingenstraat 83, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t
 Article history:
Received 20 April 2009Received in revised form 3 August 2009Accepted 18 September 2009
The explosive growth of the Internet has led to a dramatic increase in data sources for(competitive) technology intelligence. Appropriate implementation and use of IT tools togather and analyze these data is of key importance for the creation of actionable technologyintelligence. A strategy to optimize investments in the identi
ed technologies becomes of paramount importance if an organization wants to match knowledge and ideas originatingfrom outside of the organization with internal core competences. Such a strategy can createcompetitive advantage by effectively linking technology intelligence to open innovation.WeshowhowVIB,alifesciencesresearchorganization,hasestablishedtechnologyintelligenceprocesses to identify a multitude of external technologies of interest, which are subsequently
for their potential and
t with VIB using real options reasoning, thereby supportingopen innovation. Our methodology may be useful for other organizations which areconsidering implementing open innovation approaches.© 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Technology intelligenceOpen innovationLife sciencesReal options reasoningTechnology radar
1. Introduction
Changing technology, driven forward by relentless innovation, affects everybody's business. Smart organizations do not waitforchangetohappenbutactivelymonitorandtakeadvantageofchangingenvironmentsandnewinnovations.
approaches,whichimplementexternallydevelopedtechnologiesorideaswithinanorganization,havebeenproposedasaremedyfor decreasing product half-lives, faster technology cycles, and increased global competition[1].To enable open innovation, innovation intermediaries such as online technology transfer exchanges, which list technologiesavailable for licensing to interested parties, or technology brokers, who solicit new innovations by posting problems requiring asolution, have emerged to address speci
c technology needs. However, these intermediaries typically concentrate only on afraction of the technology intelligence relevant to an organization's strategy.Technology intelligence has been de
ned as
the capture and delivery of technological information as part of the processwhereby an organization develops an awareness of technological threats and opportunities
[2].To identify, as comprehensively as possible, all options for introducing new, external technologies/innovations in theorganization,itbecomesnecessarytoanalyzelargeamountsoftechnologydata[3],originatingfromdisparatesourcesoutsidetheorganization. Use of appropriate IT tools and extensive data mining analyses, such as text mining[4],can generate actionable technology intelligence. Technology intelligence can have many uses (e.g. in strategy, marketing or human resources). In thispaper, we will show how we have generated technology intelligence that allows for the systematic identi
cation of externallydeveloped disruptive technologies, which are probed for their potential value to and
t with our organization, using real optionsreasoning based technology investments. Our work shows how technology intelligence can be linked to open innovation inpractice.
Technological Forecasting & Social Change 77 (2010) 335
Corresponding author. Tel.: +32 9 2446611; fax: +32 9 2446610.
E-mail addresses:
mark.veugelers@vib.be(M. Veugelers),jo.bury@vib.be(J. Bury),stijn.viaene@vlerick.be(S. Viaene). 0040-1625/$
see front matter © 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.techfore.2009.09.003
Contents lists available atScienceDirect
Technological Forecasting & Social Change
2. VIB: focus on excellence in life sciences research and technology transfer 
VIB (http://www.vib.be) is a Belgian non-pro
t life sciences research institute established in 1996. A total of 65 researchgroups, encompassing more than 1100 scientists, are distributed over six research campuses. Using advanced gene technologies,VIB researchers study a wide variety of biological processes in the human body, in plants and in micro-organisms. VIB focuses onexcellence in science and in technology transfer.Technology transfer of in-house generated inventions to external parties and start-ups has been very strong at VIB. However,theadoptionoftechnologiesdevelopedoutsideVIBhasbeensuboptimalincertaincases(e.g.thetechnologywasacquiredtoolatecompared to the competition or the acquisition was too expensive compared to other options).In these cases, technology acquisition decisions were frequently made on an ad hoc, reactive basis by individual researchgroups, who did not suf 
ciently consider institutional strategy and synergies or, in some cases, alternative technologies.Such decisions could be explained as a legacy of VIB's origins and structure, as VIB was set up as a joint venture of individualresearch departments. Since several departments often acquired identical, expensive scienti
c instruments, leading to excesscapacity, it became clear that an institutional technology management strategy could improve technology acquisition, whilesimultaneously optimizing technology adoption and spotting of new technology opportunities.Tothisend,severalbarriershadtobeovercome,suchasthelackofappropriateprocessestoscanfornoveltechnologyopportunitiesand evaluate technology acquisitions froman institutional perspective, the preference for conservative riskaversion versus opportunityrecognition for novel technologies, and the lack of information on the progress of technology adoptions by other organizations.These barriers signi
cantly slowed down the acquisition of several platform technologies, even when these technologies hadalready established a low-risk pro
le and proven their potential to early adopters in other organizations.
3. A framework for technology intelligence at VIB
Several life sciences technologies have had a dramatic impact on scienti
c productivity since their introduction[5]. Theseenabling technologies led to bursts of scienti
c discoveries, publications, patents and commercial activity.A system to gather early intelligence on disruptive technologies and a correct timing of access or acquisition might facilitatesuccessful adoption of these technologies, leading to a competitive advantage.AretrospectiveanalysisofVIBtechnologyadoptions,aswellasofVIBdecisionsnottoadopt,identi
edseveralprocessesthatwerelacking or could be improved in order to support both external technology identi
cation and access to the identi
ed technologies.In 2006, VIB's management therefore decided to support the establishment of technology intelligence processes to identifytechnologies of interest to VIB. However, in order to make the intelligence actionable for technology sourcing, VIB's managementalso decided to allocate a limited budget to facilitating access to the identi
ed technologies.Linking actionable technology intelligence to a technology investment strategy could potentially facilitate VIB's technologymanagement. As the time dimension is important in technology intelligence, our aim was to identify and access fast-movingdisruptive technologies in a timely manner. Early access to the right high-potential, high-risk technologies could offer VIB theopportunity to increase its scienti
c and intellectual property output.
4. Technology intelligence identi
es technology opportunities
At the outset, we identi
ed two key questions to address:- What is possible with technology: which technologies are out there?- What technology is valuable and needed by our organization: which technologies
t with our organization?In order to answer the question
What is possible with technology?
we needed to gather and organize information on allcurrent life sciences technologies (current state of the art).These
baseline technologies
form the basis for the development of a technology intelligence process that allows for thecontinuous, cheap and ef 
cient updating of the organization on technologies with accelerating growth rates as well as for thedetection of signals of new, emerging technologies.To ensure comprehensive identi
cation of technologies developed by both recent start-ups and large companies, we performworldwide, continuous technology scanning. In the life sciences
eld, there are thousands of companies that develop tools andinstruments of potential interest to VIB, with the number of academic research groups being a multiple of this number. In addition toscanningfortechnologies,wealsodecidedtoscanfortechnologyadoptionsbyotherorganizations(competitivetechnologyintelligence).Establishment of a (competitive) technology intelligence process, allowing for the collection of real-time information on alltechnologies of interest and their state of adoption by other organizations, requires distinct steps, de
ned as the
technologyintelligence cycle
(Fig. 1). Five stages can be distinguished in the technology intelligence cycle (adapted from[6]):
newhichintelligenceshouldbeproduced[forVIB:(new)lifescience technologies with disruptive potential].
cation of sources: locating sources for data collection [for VIB: academic literature (Pubmed), patents and the Internet].
Primarysource collection: actual capturing of the data from the sources [for VIB: use of IT toolsand databases such as Thomson-ISI Web of Science, Matheopatent and Matheoweb].
M. Veugelers et al. / Technological Forecasting & Social Change 77 (2010) 335
Analysis and production: the primary data, consisting of thousands of documents, is analyzed for its usefulness and
ltered tofacilitate the analysis.Filtereddatais transformed intoactionabletechnology intelligence[forVIB: a
performsdata mining using software tools and synthesizes conclusions into technology intelligence pro
Reporting and information: presentation of the
ndings to decision makers and decision support for strategy. Feedback of decisionmakersisusedto
lespresentedtomanagementandemployeesthrough seminars and Intranet].The output of the technology intelligence process for VIB would be a set of technology intelligence pro
les on new disruptivelife sciences technologies of interest to VIB. Access to these technologies and/or co-development with VIB could lead tocompetitive advantage by facilitating the generation of new intellectual property, start-up companies with new business models,or joint ventures (open innovation in practice).Inordertooptimizematchingourinternaltechnologyneedsandabsorptivecapacitywiththetechnologyintelligenceobtainedonexternaltechnologies, we optedtostart on a small scale witha single, internal
technology scout,
allocated part-time, with aninitialfocus on gathering science and technology data and performing analyses leading to the production of technology intelligence.
5. IT tools and databases support the technology intelligence cycle
Establishing technology intelligence processes from scratch can be a serious challenge.Devising technology identi
cation strategies is not a simple task, and scratching only the surface can be dangerous, as it maylead to overlooking key technologies of strategic importance to the organization[8].The usual channels (market reports, suppliers, etc.) for identifying new technology opportunities are usually already wellknown to the organization, but these are far removed from a systematic process that continuously updates the intelligence ontechnologiesofinterestaswellasidenti
eld ofview.Inthecase of the latter,
You don't know what you don't know
too often gets in the way of acquiring information about technologiescurrently outside the radar of the organization.Effectivesearchstrategiescanbeasourceofcompetitiveadvantage[7],andthesmartuseofsearchenginessuchasGooglemayturnupinterestingresults.However,theInternetisgrowingsolargethatquickkeywordsearchesatlowsearchdeptharelikelytomiss a number of technologies of interest to the organization.Datasourcesfor technologyintelligencecontainmillionsof documentsandto automatethecollecting,processingandanalysisofmillionsoftextualdatasources,oneneedsappropriateITtools.Toselecttherighttools,anorganizationneedstounderstandtherole and possibilities of IT in the technology intelligence process, as this will allow the identi
cation, selection and installation of the appropriate, cost-effective software[9,10].Untila fewyears ago,the marketfor IT tools supporting technologyintelligence was considered a nichemarketwith justa fewtools available. The accelerating growth of data on the Internet has fuelled the growth of a wide variety
in terms of their price,capabilities and focus
of software tools for multiple aspects of technology intelligence[6]. Software packages as well asconsulting servicesare availablefor datamining,textretrievaland classi
cation,semanticanalysisanddocumentsummarization,patent searching, webpage tracking, and Internet monitoring using syndication technology. The situation is made more complexby software able to cover single or multiple steps of the technology intelligence cycle. An incorrect implementation of these toolsmay either lead to
information overload
or to
due to the non-capture of essential information.Asnomonitoringsystemorsoftwareisperfect,adecisionwillhavetobemadeonthetrade-offbetweenpriceandperformanceof the software and between its levels of precision and recall of technology data.Luckily,anorganizationwithno technology intelligenceprocesses in placecanget oneof thegroundat arelativelylowcost,asthereareavarietyofreasonablyinexpensiveyethighlyef 
cienttechnologyintelligencesoftwarepackagesavailable,whichcanbeinstalled on any desktop computer.
Fig. 1.
The technology intelligence cycle at VIB.337
M. Veugelers et al. / Technological Forecasting & Social Change 77 (2010) 335

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