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Your Guide to Innovation Technology Scouting

What is Innovation Technology Scouting?

Large organizations are often faced with huge obstacles when it comes to developing new innovations in-house, including a lengthy time-to-market, cultural friction, and high risk. Innovation & technology scouting allows companies to bypass these obstacles and deliver new products, services, and solutions that can dramatically enhance their value proposition. Through this process, an innovation scout is empowered to offer a strategic overview of all startups, technologies, patents, and experts that have the potential to impact your company.

What are the Benefits of Innovation Technology Scouting?

Ready-made Wins

Developing your own technology requires huge amounts of resources and can be restricted by your own internal innovation limitations. Often, it makes more sense to augment your R&D with ready-made technology that can be put in place right away, either through partnerships, licensing, or even mergers and acquisitions. You’ll enjoy a faster time to market, with much less effort.

Competitive Advantage

Every innovative company is on the lookout for the latest solutions to expand their product offerings and win a larger market share at your expense. If you can get there first by speeding up your time-to-market, then you can be the one to leverage that cutting edge technology or solution.

Product Improvement

Often the new solution you scout will not only be profitable in itself, but also increase the value of your existing products, enabling you to provide a more comprehensive solution to your customers. A strong portfolio is always greater than the sum of its parts. If the new tech is the right fit, all of your products will feel the benefit.

Talent Acquisition

Scouting for technologies and solutions is highly effective, but it can be even more beneficial to approach the talent behind the innovation and work with them. Talent scouting should play a key role in your innovation process.

Innovation Inspiration

When you are innovation scouting, the journey is just as important as the destination. The process of searching for new technologies and talent will expose your personnel to a goldmine of exciting new ideas and possibilities. This will broaden their creative horizons and fuel their own innovation efforts.

What are the challenges of Innovation Technology Scouting?

Identifying Opportunities

It can feel impossible to even know where to start looking, let alone how to catch new opportunities early in order to gain the edge on your competitors.

Too Many Data Points

With so much information to gather from so many sources, key insights always get missed.

Tracking Everything

Without the right processes in place, too much time gets spent trying to find and manage the data you already have.

Information Sharing

It can be a real dilemma to identify the right communication processes and channels to make the flow of information between scouts and stakeholders as smooth as possible.

How to Build an Innovation Technology Scouting Program

Let’s take a look at the most important aspects to consider when launching an innovation technology scouting program.

01 / 06
Understand Your Objectives

Before you get going on your search for innovative new companies and solutions, you need to figure out which direction you want to take. It can be overwhelming when there are infinite possibilities, so the more specific you can be with your criteria, the easier it will be to make progress. Here are some of the ways you can narrow down your initial focus.

Innovation Strategy Alignment
an innovation gap analysis chart for building an innovation scouting program

Ideally you will have a clear set of priorities and goals that you need to accomplish as part of your scouting process. If your company doesn’t already have a clear innovation strategy, then you probably need to make a start on defining it yourself! This can be an intimidating task, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. You can start small by proposing a foundation of core principles and align those with your senior leadership. From there you have a springboard to build a framework for delivering innovation across your organization.

Innovation Gap Analysis

No company is perfect. There will always be inefficiencies and challenges preventing you from achieving your full potential. This is often the best place to start when deciding where to focus your innovation efforts in general. Scouting can be a lengthy process, so you need to look for chronic gaps that cannot be filled before you find a solution. It’s also important to prioritize the topics that are most relevant for scouting, such as the identification of cutting-edge technologies.

Innovation Trends

Sometimes there can be a stigma attached to following trends, but in the world of innovation it’s often the best way to get ahead. Innovation trend management is a dedicated domain in its own right and can deliver some incredible opportunities to explore through the scouting process. You should keep your ear to the ground as much as possible but try to listen out for specific trends that connect with your broader innovation strategy and scouting process.

an innovation gap analysis chart for building an innovation scouting program
02 / 06
Choose Your Targets

Once you have a good idea of your objectives, the next step is to decide what kinds of opportunities you will search for. You can of course target all of these channels at once, but some of them will require different tools and processes to manage effectively, so choose carefully!

Startups

Every enterprise wants to innovate like a startup. Working with them can bring you ready-made technology to drive your innovations and cut down your time-to-market significantly. But tapping into startups’ innovative potential is often easier said than done. You not only need to find one that meets your specific requirements, but they also need to agree to your commercialization or licensing approach. There’s usually a lot of competition when scouting for startups, but if you find the right one it can make it all worthwhile.

Experts

If you’re operating at the cutting edge of your field, you need the best and brightest minds to push you forward and drive innovation. The best way to do this is to look outside of your organization and involve the wider expert community. You can invite them to join your company full-time, or just involve them on an ad-hoc basis with specific challenges. Either way, their expertise and creativity can make a critical difference to your innovation portfolio.

Patents & Research

This is an important but often overlooked aspect of the innovation ecosystem. Many of the biggest technological innovations start life as part of academic research or through a patent that has been registered. If you can find a way to monitor these opportunities through your scouting network, then you can identify a potential game-changer at the earliest possible opportunity.

Trends

We mentioned before how you can base your scouting strategy around pre-existing trends. However, it’s also possible to actually search for and manage trends as part of your scouting process. This is usually a preliminary stage where you seek to understand trends in the market before deciding on a direction in which to scout for solutions.

Discover Trend Management

03 / 06
Consider Your Commercialization Approach

There are many different ways to leverage the assets that you manage through a scouting process. The approach that makes sense for you will depend on your requirements and budget, but there are always factors that are beyond your control. If the right innovation comes along then it’s worth being open to the possibility of any commercialization approach necessary to deliver it for your company.

Procurement

This is one of the more common methods of commercializing your scouting efforts and involves purchasing products or services and incorporating them into your company’s own goods, services or processes. In many cases, companies will approach multiple vendors and invite them to take part in a competitive bidding process to achieve the best possible deal.

Partnerships & Licensing

Another popular route to commercialization is to license the use of another company’s technology or patent, allowing the licensee to generate revenues from it in return for royalties paid to the owner. Alternatively, organizations might enter into a partnership agreement with the owner of the innovation. This might grant them access to a white-label version of the technology or include an agreement to cross-sell one other’s products.

Mergers & Acquisitions

These represent the highest level of investment as they relate to the purchase of an entire business rather than simply paying to use its innovations. While the costs are high, the organization will benefit from outright ownership of those innovations and its patents and will acquire the talent who produces them.

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Consider Your Internal Stakeholders

With any technology scouting process it is critical to ensure you are aligned with your internal stakeholders at every stage. Scouting involves some very difficult decisions, so you’ll need to gather feedback and insights from a wide array of experts and teams before moving forward with confidence.

Innovation Team

The innovation team should be one of the closest internal partners for your scouting efforts. First and foremost, this is to ensure your scouting portfolio is aligned with the strategic innovation needs of the entire company. However, a scouting team can also play a critical role in helping the innovation team to understand the opportunities that are available outside the company.

C-Suite

With any strategic initiative, the most important team you need to engage is leadership. If you can’t secure buy-in from your C-suite, then it’s unlikely that you will be able to even begin your scouting efforts. You should engage with leadership regularly and involve them in the decision-making process if you want to make things happen.

Research & Development

Scouting for external technologies and solutions will clearly have some big implications for your R&D department. Firstly, you’ll need to ensure that the solutions you are scouting cannot reasonably be developed internally by your R&D team. When it comes to evaluating your scouting portfolio, your R&D team can also play a critical role in providing key insights and expert opinion.

Business Development

So you’ve identified a list of the most exciting and relevant startups that can revolutionize your industry. What’s next? This is where your business development team comes in. Whether you’re looking at M&A, partnerships, licensing, or simple procurement, it’s worth inviting a specialist to be involved with managing the relationships across your deal flow process. If you prefer to conduct startup relationship management or partner management yourself, then no problem! But it can be valuable to consult with your business development colleagues to refine your approach.

05 / 06
Choose a Methodology

There are a few distinct approaches to scouting, and there are various tools that can help you. To leverage all of the potential opportunities that are available to you, you should consider employing multiple methodologies at once.

Marketplace Research

Traditionally, the most common way for scouts to identify opportunities is by conducting research. A scout will gradually build up a portfolio of relevant opportunities and gather as much data as possible, before deciding which opportunities to proceed with. Depending on the tool you use, this can be an effective approach. However, there are additional avenues that should also be considered.

Corporate Incubators

Many of the biggest global brands have launched incubator programs in recent years to collaborate with startups in-house. The idea behind this is that large enterprises have the expertise and resources to help startups and entrepreneurs develop their innovative solutions much more effectively than they would do alone. So rather than searching for solutions externally, you grow them within your company. There are many ways of achieving this, but the scouting team should always be involved.

Hackathons & ‘Call for Solutions'

Some enterprise innovation scouts have realised that it can be more effective to simply request that startups and solution providers reach out to you, rather than you searching for them. This process is made even more effective when a competition format is employed, and you offer incentives for participation on a specific challenge. It can sometimes be difficult to gain the necessary levels of exposure to get the most out of this approach, but if you are representing a well-known or innovative brand then people will always be eager to collaborate with you.

06 / 06
Choose the Right Format or Tool

Companies around the world take various approaches to running their innovation scouting processes, and the one that’s right for yours is going to depend on your own business and its objectives. That said, some of the more rudimentary approaches to managing scouting efforts can be inefficient and inadequate, whoever is using them. The most widely adopted tools can be categorized as follows.

Search Engines & Spreadsheets

The most basic means of finding new opportunities is to do it yourself using the standard office tools available to everyone: search engines, spreadsheets, email etc. But if you’ve tried this method before, you’ll know why it doesn’t work: it’s messy. It might just about serve small businesses, but at larger ones it’s impossible to manage an extensive scouting portfolio across channels and platforms that weren’t built for the task.

DIY Tools & Project Management Applications

Companies often attempt to use other forms of software already available to them to handle their scouting activities such as project management platforms. The chances are that software made for another purpose might serve a certain stage of the process adequately but will fall down at others. Other companies develop their own home-made solutions, but often find that they don’t have the resources to create a solution that has the extensive range of features and functionalities that they really need.

Startup Databases & Content Providers

One of the most valuable resources for an innovation scout are the platforms and sites that gather data so that they don’t have to. These usually specialize in a specific asset type or geography, but when you put them all together, they can build a good picture of the overall scouting landscape. Unfortunately, they lack many of the other features that scouts need, including deal flow management and crowdsourcing of solutions.

Innovation Scouting Software

This is a class of software that is tailored specifically to the challenge of implementing a strategic innovation scouting process at a modern organization. These platforms vary in sophistication and price, but in general they offer a wealth of features to manage opportunities at scale, from discovery through to commercialization. If this sounds relevant for you, read on!

What is Innovation Technology Scouting Software?

Many scouts are using basic and inefficient tools to tackle just one aspect of innovation scouting. Innovative companies are using dedicated tools that open up whole new capabilities for innovation scouts, while also enhancing the activities they currently perform.

How does Innovation Technology Scouting Software work?

Innovation technology scouting software supports you across the full deal flow process from discovery through to deployment. On a basic level, this kind of tool will allow you to gather and manage a portfolio of opportunities that can be valuable for your business. However, more advanced tools will offer built-in research capabilities with access to millions of data points, along with powerful collaboration features to engage key stakeholders.

Below is a summary of the typical stages that are included in an innovation technology scouting software workflow. However, it’s worth noting that not all tools can support every step of this process:

 

Scout
Manage
Engage
Evaluate
Commercialize

The Innovation Technology Scouting Process:

Scout
The first step, of course, is to find relevant opportunities. As covered above, this can be achieved in a few ways:

  1. Researching through a database
  2. Launching a hackathon for crowdsourcing proposals
  3. Manually gathering and inputting opportunities

Whichever approach you choose, you need to gather the criteria and data points that will be most valuable for you when it comes to evaluating your opportunities.

Manage
Once you’ve identified your opportunities, it’s crucial that they don’t just sit there. Innovation software should provide various task-tracking and management features, as well as reminders and notifications to help you develop your opportunities efficiently.

Engage
In any scouting program there will be a number of internal stakeholders and decisionmakers whose participation in the process will be required at various stages.  The right solution will facilitate collaboration and help you make sure that everyone knows what they need to do, and when. 

Evaluate
The best scouting solutions won’t just help you to find new opportunities, they’ll give you the tools you need to make informed decisions about them. You should be able to run comparative analysis against your KPIs to identify the most promising opportunities.

Commercialize
The final step is to manage the deployment or implementation of your matured scouting opportunities. To do this effectively, you’ll need features to help you track KPIs and calculate ROI, as well as robust and comprehensive reporting tools.

Our Solution

Q-scout

Leverage unlimited innovation intel. Tap into a global network of endless growth opportunities and collaborate with key stakeholders to manage an intelligent deal-flow process involving start-ups, experts, academia, partners, and more.

Benefits of Q-scout

Manage Your
Scouting Portfolio

Easily track and control your strategic innovation scouting efforts

Master
Your Pipeline

Examine and evaluate your scouting opportunities against predefined deal flow KPIs

Engage
Decision Makers

Digitally recruit and communicate with key stakeholders and business owners

Unearth Amazing
Opportunities

Deliver the next ground-breaking solution for your company

Don’t Just Take Our Word For It…

We’re seeing ROI in both savings and earnings, with ideas to improve processes, existing products and services, and even new businesses and markets.

Qmarkets allowed us to make incredible progress and gain meaningful input and insights from the public.

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This platform contributes to the transformation of our company into a customer-centric obsessed agile organization.

PMI logo

We are very satisfied with our experience of both the Qmarkets platform and the team behind it. The Qmarkets platform assisted us to streamline our innovation efforts and help materialize the important ones.

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More Innovation
Management Solutions

…And that’s technology scouting! Now you have a good understanding of the subject and how to build a successful technology scouting program. Next up, learn out about the other approaches within innovation management by visiting the pages below.

Idea Management

Idea management is the structured process of collecting, screening developing, and implementing ideas that can help your organization to be more innovative and efficient.

Explore the Solution

Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement is exactly what it sounds like – the practice of continually improving and incrementally enhancing the performance of a company’s products, processes, or services.

Explore the Solution

Trend Management

Trend management refers to all the activities involved in scouting for and acting upon trends to fuel an organization’s innovation efforts.

Explore the Solution

Innovation Portfolio Management

Innovation portfolio management is a term that describes the maintenance and progression of an organization’s various innovation projects.

Explore the Solution

Innovation Technology Scouting Resources

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