For years, companies and research centres have been aware of the great importance of having information on the actions of their competitors, trends in the technological evolution of their sector and possible allies in the development of products and technologies. This information, based mainly on the compilation and analysis of published patent literature, has this informative and divulgative value which, among other things, will allow them to know the innovation associated with a competitor, or the technologies and products within a technical sector that are interesting to protect as a result of the research and development process of companies or research centres, allowing them to know trends in the sector, critical technologies, solutions to problems in the sector, etc.
This information can be very valuable for the development, differentiation, leadership and, in some cases, simply and basically for the survival of a company in the market, allowing the reorientation of the company and the reaction to new technological and market trends.
Despite this, companies often do not correctly assess these factors and only evaluate the costs of obtaining information and the time it takes to digest it, with a very biased or null assessment of the benefits.
Although it is very difficult to make a precise calculation, it is estimated that in Europe more than 25 billion euros of investment have been wasted on research and development of products and/or processes already protected or disclosed by patents (Escorsa; Maspons and Izquierdo 2003), which means that the investment in research and development made cannot be exclusive and may even infringe patent rights in force in some countries. This should be a stimulus that would increase the asset value of investment in technology watch and competitive intelligence, as opposed to the valuation of its costs.
But establishing a technology watch system, although necessary, is not enough to take the step towards competitive intelligence. The information obtained from the watch system must be filtered to analyse only the necessary and interesting information, in digestible quantities that avoid saturation of the department or people assigned to it and that make the information received and its analysis effective, as well as being directed to the appropriate people or departments so that it is useful.
In this way, technology watch gives way to the creation of Competitive Intelligence in the company, allowing the information obtained in the technology watch documents to be transformed into a system oriented towards decision-making capable of:
- Identifying investment and marketing opportunities
- Identifying potential threats
- Identifying own “core competencies”
- Making a competitor analysis
- Selecting and acquiring technology
- Planning the strategy and objectives of the R&D Department
- Defining technological areas and strategic alliances
- Identifying technical solutions
The awareness of companies and research centres must now be directed not only towards the acquisition of raw information but also towards dedicating time to filtering and refining it at source, distributing it to the right people and analysing it in a broad spectrum, allowing the achievement of Competitive Intelligence that carries with it the possibility of reaction, observation, adaptation, differentiation and improvement of its developments, converting an initial cost into a profitable investment within the company’s decision-making strategy.
Article by Xavier Prados