Tech Scouting: Evaluation and Assessment

Article #4: Evaluation and Assessment

While many opportunities seem promising, ultimately not all can or should be pursued.  Successful scouting programs rely upon rigorous, clear processes and criteria for evaluating submissions and leads.

Some industries and applications have more opportunities to screen than others; for example, consumer goods companies such as Kraft, General Mills, P&G, etc., receive thousands of submissions through their websites and other channels – other highly technical industries and applications may only solicit a handful.

In either case, it is important to know what you are looking for.  Breakthrough ideas come in many forms whereas specific technical solutions are more straightforward.

You may be evaluating emerging or disruptive technologies, product concepts, new markets, prospective partners, and more.

Basic Screening Criteria

Here are some criteria that can apply to every screening process:

  • Uniqueness/competitiveness: Is this idea/technology original and well-differentiated? How easy would it be for competitors to copy or work around?
  • Need fulfillment: Does it meet an identified customer need or gap?
  • Feasibility:  Do you have the capability to develop and commercialize it?  Is it cost-effective?   What is the current level of development?
  • Impact: If the idea is realized, how will it affect your organization?
  • Scalability: Can a technology or business model succeed in different markets or respond positively to repeated demand cycles? Are incremental costs and demands on the organization likely to decrease over time and volume?
  • Strategic Fit: Does theidea/technology/partner mesh with corporate direction, expertise, and culture?

Assessment Processes

Most companies use a brief to outline what they are looking for and many different forms of briefs exist.

At Unilever they must describe:

1. The consumer need

2. Technical features

3. Ideal Solution (benchmarks, action standards, Better If’s…)

4. Must Haves (Minimum expectations, Time based options)

5. Killers (Out of scope, Will fail if…)

6. What we already know

7. Budget and timeline

Corning uses internal expert groups to conduct “ideation,” a process that considers market dynamics, hypothetical value and whether a problem definition fits within Corning’s business strategy.  They winnow hundreds of white papers down to a key few to be considered for funding.  The preliminary assessment takes 4-6 weeks.

At Nokia leads must satisfy four basic criteria before undergoing any initial screening:

  • Does a potential partner focus on technology of interest to Nokia?
  • Does a company own exclusive rights to key IP?
  • Does the company have a skilled management team with relevant experience?
  • Is the technology under discussion scalable?

Oakland, a UK-based consultancy, is known for its 3A’s Matrix ®, a grid system that models the potential value, viability, and positioning of a specific technology option or market opportunity against three key measures:

  • Applicability: How well does this option meet requirements?
  • Availability: How quickly can this option be commercially deployed?
  • Affordability: Is this an attractive option in terms of cost?

There are other models as well, but most focus on the same basic questions. The challenges are in recognizing and agreeing on the answers.

Next week we will look at evaluating new technologies and IP – followed by how to evaluate partners and strategic fit.  We welcome your comments, questions and experiences.

This article published in conjunction with MRT’s workshop series:
Technology Scouting to Accelerate Innovation – Implementing an External Sourcing Program – check our website for the latest dates and locations of this popular seminar.

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