The recently published Inquiry into Australia’s Future in Research and Innovation by the Joint Select Committee on Trade and Investment Growth highlighted a generally accepted view that while the innovation output of Australia is relatively high on the world stage the successful translation of such innovation into commercial outcomes is poor. Over the years numerous factors (many of which are touched on in the Select Committee report) have been suggested as contributing to this record, including:

  • a relative paucity of entrepreneurial skills;
  • a low appetite for risk;
  • a lack of venture capital;
  • few academic/Australian industry partnerships;
  • the low innovation output of Australia’s largest companies; and
  • decades of ineffective government policy.

Addressing these issues will not be straightforward and there is likely no “quick fix”. For the most part they touch on the very fabric of Australian business culture.

However, one factor that can strongly influence translation of innovation into the provision of successful commercial outcomes, and which may be proactively and easily tackled, is the extent to which an entity appreciates the global landscape within which it operates or proposes to operate.

Many entities lack such knowledge, innovating and developing with insufficient regard to historical and current competitive developments. Often, these developments can dilute the value of an innovation. In extreme cases a wheel is re-invented.

It is important to realise that true breakthrough technologies are rare. The majority of innovations are based on incremental improvements of existing technologies and therefore are exposed to a likely significant amount of prior published developments, developments that may cut across perceived new technology.

Proactive companies know this and take advantage of the wealth of publicly available data so as to positively influence forward strategy, de-risk their innovation processes and effectively maximize their chances of translating innovation into successful commercial outcomes.

Big Data and Patents

Big Data, analytics and sophisticated visualization platforms are transforming the way that business decisions are made through the access, organization and presentation of valuable information which can impact a company’s bottom line.

Such developments are touching intellectual property, particularly in the world of patents. Some 50 million patent records reside globally and this number is rising at an ever increasing rate. Arguably, patents are the best available representation for the state of development of a given technology.

However, accessing patents, and, more particularly, organizing patents so as to provide business relevant information, is challenging, particularly where there is limited experience in such analysis. Of course patent search and analyses has been at the core of the patent system for years in the form of validity or freedom to practice studies. However, modern analytics platforms have extended these exercises into something much more powerful: the ability to search and organize thousands of patent records in a relatively short period of time and at a cost which is a fraction of the cost of an entity’s research or development program.

Using such sophisticated tools a comprehensive picture of the global technology landscape may be obtained and augmented with business and other publicly available information. A company’s innovation can then be readily compared to related competitive developments. Critically, state of the art tools allow such a landscape to be regularly updated so as to keep abreast of rapidly evolving technologies enabling ongoing and dynamic valuation of an innovation.

Knowledge is Power

Positioning the value of an innovation in a global competitive landscape provides valuable information as to the chances of a successful commercial outcome. At best, such information can underpin a solid business case for future investment, at worst it can deliver the message that the value of an innovation is much less than originally thought. In such cases, investment can therefore be directed in other, more fruitful, directions.