Every year, around 5.8 million scientific and technical articles are published worldwide, more than 3.5 million patents are filed and some 1.5 million collaborative projects are created. Not to mention the billions of pieces of data and information constantly pouring onto the web. Against this backdrop of information overload, managers and companies need to develop their ability to find and process relevant information. Mastering scientific and technical monitoring methods will enable them to detect and identify new trends, players, technologies or methodologies that could influence their business. This type of intelligence can help identify research and development opportunities or competitive threats. It can help to understand and anticipate changes in regulations, etc.
There are many strategic reasons to justify the need for serious technical monitoring.
The different components of technical monitoring
Scientific and technical monitoring involves collecting, analysing and disseminating scientific and technical information from a wide variety of sources.
It enables an organisation, whether it’s a business, a research laboratory or a government agency, to stay at the forefront of developments in its field, to detect opportunities and threats at an early stage, and to make informed decisions.
There are several types of intelligence, each focusing on a different aspect of information.
Technology monitoring focuses on the development of technologies, the emergence of new innovations, the state of the art in a specific field, and monitoring the strategy of the main competitors. For example, an industrial company can monitor advances in artificial intelligence to anticipate opportunities for developing new products. Monitoring patent applications is an essential part of technology intelligence, even for companies that do not file patents.
However, it would be a mistake to think that patents alone are enough to fuel effective technology intelligence. First of all, not everything can be patented. Secondly, some companies, sometimes for very good reasons, choose not to file patents. Finally, when you read a competitor’s published patent, you are on average 2 to 3 years behind their research activities…
Fortunately, companies are making fewer and fewer mistakes by limiting themselves to monitoring patents.
Scientific monitoring focuses on advances in fundamental and applied research. We look for signals and indicators of the production of new knowledge within academic and scientific research that could be of interest to industry in the future.
This monitoring also enables us to detect and select, where appropriate, relevant academic partners to collaborate on complex issues.
Scientific intelligence involves regularly attending conferences and symposia, but also reading publications of interest in specialist journals on a daily basis, monitoring collaborative projects being set up at national or international level and following the work of laboratories and eminent researchers in the areas to be monitored. The more the watch focuses on upstream subjects, the more the number of themes to be monitored will potentially increase.
Competitive monitoring keeps you informed about the actions and strategies of your competitors. It can help a company to anticipate its competitors’ movements, understand their collaboration networks, find out as much as possible about their research and innovation areas and develop effective response strategies. This kind of monitoring is as much about product monitoring as it is about research projects or start-up or SME acquisitions, where information is readily available.
Regulatory monitoring involves monitoring changes in legislation, regulations or standards that could affect the way your organisation operates. Keeping track of international groups working on new standards (in the telecoms sector, for example) gives you a very clear view of the market and the technical expectations.
The monitoring process in 6 stages
The scientific and technical watch process generally follows a fairly standard procedure consisting of several key stages. First and foremost, remember that this is an iterative process, which can be punctuated at regular intervals by requests for deep dives, state-of-the-art studies, mapping, etc.
- Needs definition: Identify the objectives of the watch you are going to set up. What are the strategic questions to which it is supposed to provide answers and signals? How often should updates be made?
- Search for sources: Carefully select the information sources that are most relevant to the specific need of each monitoring question. These may include scientific databases, specialized journals, patents, conference papers, company websites, discussion forums, social networks, etc.
- Gathering information: carefully construct search strategies to retrieve all relevant information (while limiting noise, i.e. irrelevant information) from the sources you’ve identified. This may involve reading articles, listening to conferences, following threads on social networks. It may also involve validation exchanges with a business expert. The result will undoubtedly be a much more extensive list of keywords than originally imagined…
- Information analysis: Evaluate the information you’ve gathered. What are the main points to remember? How does this information align or contrast with what you already know?
- Disseminating and exploiting information: Share the results of your watch with the relevant stakeholders (this may be within your organization or with external partners). This stage is often poorly mastered in companies. Unless the dissemination/sharing phase is well thought-out, monitoring often remains an individual activity, the prerogative of a few individuals. This makes it difficult to demonstrate its effectiveness at organizational level, to create strategic value, and consequently to motivate sufficient resources (human and financial). In organizations that have mastered the entire intelligence process, including this last stage, not only are the resources mobilized, but the job of the watchers takes on a rewarding strategic dimension.
- Evaluation: Finally, evaluate the entire process at regular intervals. Was the information gathered useful? Was the process efficient? What could be improved for next time? For example, how many deep dive requests were generated during the half-year?
Why is scientific and technical intelligence so important?
If you have any doubts about the benefits of scientific and technical intelligence for your business, read this section. You will see that, whatever your sector of activity, it would be wrong to neglect this essential activity.
One of the main applications of monitoring is to support decision-making. The data gathered through scientific and technical intelligence is fundamental to innovative industrial companies. Whether it’s a question of product development, process improvement, R&D investment or identifying new market opportunities, this information is vital to the growth and survival of the company.
Maintaining competitiveness generally comes next, in descending order of importance. In an increasingly competitive and frenetic business environment, intelligence enables a company to keep abreast of the latest advances, innovations and trends, which is crucial to remaining competitive.
Promoting an innovation-oriented mindset internally also justifies setting up a monitoring system. It exposes employees to a variety of research, discoveries and new ideas, which can stimulate their creativity and contribute to a mindset conducive to internal innovation, inspiring new ideas and fostering a culture of innovation.
Next comes risk prevention. Business intelligence helps to identify and mitigate risks by monitoring competitive developments, changing regulations and emerging technologies or practices, thereby contributing to the resilience and stability of the business.
All the issues associated with intellectual property also need to be considered. Monitoring makes it possible to keep track of the latest patent filings from academic research or competitors.
In particular, it helps to protect the company against infringement of its own intellectual property rights by third parties, but also to ensure that the company itself does not unwittingly become a counterfeiter, which can be very costly.
And let’s not forget the savings in resources (particularly human resources). By avoiding duplication of work already done or in progress, monitoring enables resources to be managed efficiently, which is essential for the company’s operational efficiency.
Finally, overall, one of the challenges of scientific and technical intelligence is to be at the heart of the strategic management of innovative companies. How do you think L’Oréal, Schneider Electric or Airbus have become world champions in their fields? Do you know how much effort and professionalism has gone into monitoring at the heart of these companies? This is also the case in thousands of lesser-known SMEs, which have also realised that they could not succeed in such a fast-moving world without the right information and tools.
Scientific and technical monitoring tools
There are many tools available to facilitate scientific and technical monitoring, ranging from academic databases to specific monitoring software. Here are a few examples:
- Databases of scientific publications, symposia and conferences.
- Patent databases: Google Patents, Espacenet (European Patent Office), and USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) allow you to search for patents filed and published in various technological fields.
- The technological and industrial press (specialised or generalist)
- Databases on collaborative projects
- Internet and useful websites (competitors, clusters, professional associations, etc.)
- Monitoring and analysis tools. Software such as IPMetrix is a tool designed to facilitate technology watch and business intelligence, to monitor and analyse patents and scientific literature. It offers advanced analysis functions, including technology mapping, patent portfolio analysis and technology trend detection.
The challenges of scientific and technical monitoring and looking to the future
Scientific and technical intelligence enables companies to stay up to date and competitive in an increasingly fast-paced and innovative world. It involves collecting, analysing and exploiting information from a variety of sources to inform strategic decisions, stimulate innovation, prevent risks, protect intellectual property, save resources and enhance credibility and reputation.
What does the future hold? The scientific and technical intelligence sector is likely to undergo major changes. The exponential growth in available data, thanks in part to the Internet of Things and Big Data, will offer unprecedented opportunities for even more precise and targeted intelligence. Artificial intelligence and machine learning tools will play an increasingly important role in the intelligence process, helping to filter and analyse ever larger volumes of data, and providing more relevant insights in real time.
Patents, scientific articles, collaborative projects, theses, web articles… IPMetrix is a multi-source monitoring software that enables you to monitor all the areas you want, without getting lost in the mass of existing information. Thanks to our tool, you will be able to classify, detect and comment on each piece of information, giving you all the resources you need to carry out optimum scientific and technical monitoring. Would you like to find out more? Contact us!