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What is technology scouting?

Technology scouting is the activity performed by innovation and research & development professionals to find technologies outside their own company. It is an essential part of the recently popularised open innovation strategy, where R&D-professionals look externally for technical opportunities.

How does technology scouting work?

Depending on the importance of a R&D-challenge, innovation teams traditionally spend time on the following channels to find the right technologies:

First look in the company In the old days, R&D driven companies developed technologies internally. From fundamental research to implementation, everything was in-house. Talking to colleagues and testing yourself was the only option. Sitting together in a meeting, or talking over a topic at the coffee machine might result in identifying the golden idea already.

Use search engines​ Before building IGOR^AI, the Findest founders used to Google for hours in their nanotechnology scouting company. From their own experience, they thought finding dozens of technology options through traditional search engines it to be time-consuming and inefficient, as the search query could not be specified enough.​​

Talk to your network of suppliers​An important source of technical information is your current and potential suppliers. The benefit is that they might have seen your problem before, and even have a solution for it. The disadvantage is that typically just have one solution, so you don’t get the full overview.

Get inspiration at big fairs and conferences around the world ​Now technological development is going so fast, and finding the technologies costs less effort. Still conferences and fairs remain a good source of information. You get to see many suppliers in a certain field within hours. Resulting in a lot of inspiration and comparison material. Due to recent circumstances fairs and conferences are canceled, resulting in a potential knowlegde gap.

Dive deep into scientific literature Science is an important source of new ideas and concepts to apply in industry. Proper science searching takes a lot of time. Time that typically isn't present in a commercial environment. By searching quickly yourself to get first insights, and collaborating with universities or interns, scientific articles can be a valuable source of technology information.

Lot's of valuable information is hidden in patents Patent search engines are very useful in eximining competitive activity, and researching freedom to operate. For ideation and technology scouting however, patents are often too broadly described and hard to interpret easily. The benefit is that this source is highly structured and open to explore.

Join a group of other innovators and find the solution together You can also join university or industry consortia to develop the needed knowledge together. An option is to even let one of the corporate R&D-team members join the university, and do fundamental research on core concepts. A smaller step could be to contact the Technology Transfer Offices and ask for help in solving a concrete problem.

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