Clare Farrukh and colleagues from the Centre for Technology Management (www.ifm.eng.cam.ac.uk/research/ctm/) have been researching the question of how to establish the value of a new technology, in recent years via the Strategic Technology and Innovation Management consortium (www.ifm.eng.cam.ac.uk/research/ctm/stim/) project. On 20th March Clare shared some insights in a workshop at the Engineering Department where participants also used some of the tools that have been developed within Clare’s work.
The core of Clare’s research has been to develop a practical approach for engaging both commercial and technical stakeholders in evaluating a technology project in order to demonstrate potential impact at an early stage.…..an early view of ‘what’s it worth?’
The key is to get multiple viewpoints and perspectives, because such diversity provides the means to uncover the richest sources of value in a new technology. This means involving not only people who understand the technology, its potential and its constraints, but also people who understand the problems faced today, how they’re addressed and therefore what is the current competing solution to any particular problem. And indeed, there may be an adjacent problem that is worth more and is more easily solved by the new technology – so that may be a better first target. The important task is to find the overlap between a market problem that has a value and the technology’s capability to address the problem better than current approaches.
Clare’s work has established a pragmatic approach to build the outline and key elements of a business case for the technology. Industry likes having templates to drive more effective thinking and to pursue the efficiencies of allowing people to work independently, followed by workshops to drive outcomes and commitment. Clare explained that 70-80% of the work is done beforehand though emails and phone calls with only 20-30% depending upon workshops. And those workshops are well structured to get the most value from participants’ time.
This approach need not be used only at the early stages of development; changes in the marketplace, discoveries during development or changes in company strategy would all be triggers for a rerun of the approach. By keeping the dialogue alive there are more and better opportunities to spot value.
Clare presented the core structure of the workshop and the checklist of important questions (see Figure below)
Workshop participants then got an opportunity to explore the process. We looked at two technologies, led by Tanya Hutter of Sensorhut (www.sensorhut.com/) with a technology for sensing volatile chemical species at very low concentrations and by Arman Hashmeni (www-csd.eng.cam.ac.uk/people/staff/arman-hashemi) of the Centre for Sustainable Development with a thermal window shutter technology. After the leaders had introduced their technologies the participants explored the technology capability, the users’ needs or the new opportunity and then, critically, the technology-need combination and, finally, the expected returns. (Figure to right) This provided a framework for the next step.
Choosing one of the technology-need combination, participants then looked at the structure of the industry (see template below). This aims to find to whom the technology could offer the most value – and can lead to some valuable insights and non-obvious ways forward.
Finally, participants looked at the ‘performance dimensions’ of the problem to be addressed, the new technology and the current solution. This unearths the different criteria and different sources of value that may be available, and also maps out possible development opportunities, either for the technology itself or for the way in which it is taken to market and exploited.
Reviewing the workshop, the technology ‘owners’ commented that the approach had identified new and previously unexplored opportunities. It is clear that following the process is important in order to avoid prior mindsets driving the team to old solutions, while the diversity of viewpoints helped to flag up new insights.
Finding the different drivers of value also made it possible to focus attention to where there may be quick commercial wins, perhaps interim stepping stones, to larger, more valuable opportunities that are harder to access.
If you’d like a copy of Clare’s slides then please contact Charles Boulton (cb683 at cam.ac.uk).
Continuing the theme of exploring a research agenda alongside an industrial partner, this seminar will be followed up on Thursday 30th April when Nicky Athanassopoulou will discuss how to use roadmapping to build better partnerships based on shared views and expectations between academic researchers and their industry partners.