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EVALTEC, Management of Research and Technological Development

Project management - Commercialisation of Technologies - Internationalisation


Technology Watch


Technology Watch consists in carrying out in a systematic way the capture, analysis, dissemination and exploitation of technical information useful for the survival and growth of the company. Sometimes it overlaps or missunderstoods with economic or competitive intelligence, been in any case an important part of both. Technology Watch must alert on any scientific or technical innovation susceptible of creating opportunities or threats to the organisation.


There are four main areas under the general concept of Watch:

1 -   Technology Watch: relates to available technologies and those emerging.

2 -   Competitive Watch: focusing on current and potential competitors.

3 -   Commercial Watch: based on costumers, markets and providers.

4 -   Environment Watch: social, political, legislation, ecological, etc.


Technology Watch is key for management of innovation and particularly for research and technological development. Information on technologies and products on which reseach is been carried out, through analysis of patents and scientific papers published, dynamic of technologies, new emerging technologies, research domains of main companies competing in an area, research centers, leading teams in generating new technologies, are all of key importance for such management and efficient planning and monitoring of research activities.


Benefits from Technology Watch can be easily figured out, but we will only mention that they can simply mean the company surviving to the competitive environment.


Traditional Tecnology Watch


There have always been Technology Watch activities. We can point out some of them that are still valid and should be used together with more innovative ones, such as specialised magazines, trade fairs, competitors' products, personal contacts, etc.


Advanced Technology Watch


Obviously there are more efficient ways of practising Technology Watch including access to patents' databases, science papers' databases and Internet.


80% of science knowledge is estimated to be contained in patents' and science papers' databases. Nowadays access to these databases is relatively easy through Internet and with sophisticated last generation search engines real possibilities of managing these knowledge are considerable.


However, these Technology Watch activities are complex in the sense that they require the participation of experts on the issues, an exhaustive and adequate selection of the available databases, as well as skills in their use. A considerable experience is required to carry out satisfactory searchs, and interpretation and analysis of results are also key for the success of the whole process. Cost is another element to be taken into account and some of these databases are not free. For instance, databases for market studies are particularly expensive.


Sciencemetric tools


Databases are structured so they enable systematic access to information. For instance, documents in patents' databases are classified with fields such as title, authors, company in which research was developed, country, descriptors and key words for the thesaurus of the database, sorting codes, abstract, etc. Same happens with science papers, information is structured in a similar way on databases. This enables working in a quite efficient way with computers when applying sciencemetric tools and results are remarkable.


The two main sciencemetric tools are count and co-word.




It is just counting and analysing frecuency of certain terms apearing. These terms can be the authors, co-authors, number of publications, number of patents, companies patenting, or number of patents under the international classification. A detailed analysis on the frecuencies of these terms can provide a quite clear image on the issue or technology we are considering.


This enables, for instance, knowing the amount of science papers published along the time so we may obtain an indicator on the development of a particular technology.


Number of Papers published



It is interesting to analyse which are the magazines or publications that are editing more papers on a certain topic, or the institutions that are publishing more considering their relevance on the basis of the frecuency of publications. We can also determine who are the authors or where these scientific advances are taking place, even grouping them by countries, for instance.


Publication of Science Papers per countries

One of the most important aspects is that we can not only describe the past and the current scenario, but also anticipate the future evolution of certain technologies and their life cycle. If we compare papers published in time with patents generated we can determine what technologies are arising, maturing, or even which ones are declining or near to the end. This enables, in practical terms and for some cases, to describe in advance the life cycle for technologies.


Co-relation Science Papers - Patents


The same way, we can identify the terms that apear or disapear in time. This is what we know as "weak signals" that may show us what is going to happen with technologies or new uses for the elements related to the terms.


All this information also enables us to elaborate a technological profile of the company in which we may include all the patents or groups of patents that determine the strategic areas of the company, the main researchers and collaborators, co-operation with other firms, etc.


An interesting issue is the comparison of the technological profiles of competing companies in a graphical way. For instance, through the areas in which they have patents, determining their specialisation niches.


Comparison of technological profiles of companies


All this information is obtained simply by counting terms, the analysis of their frecuency and comparison of the results obtained.




Co-word consists in determining if two or more terms apear together in a text and how close they are. For instance, if the terms opto and electronics are very close in numerous documents, a new technology could be apearing, the opto-electronics. Another example, the combination of two chemicals, chlore and silver, that apear frequently or very close in the text, could determine the introduction of a new technology based on the use of both of them.


This also enables us to establish relationships between companies and technologies and representing these relationships on graphics in form of technology maps. In them we can show niches of technologies or markets, like for instance bio-materials related to companies manufacturing or using them.


Technology map on bio-materials and companies


Other sort of relations between the terms analysed enable us, for instance, to determine clusters and axes of co-operation that can hardly be deduced from the analysis of thousands of documents without the use of these sciencemetric tools. Simply the co-word of companies, science topics or technologies is analysed and represented in a graphic format.


Technology map with clusters and co-operation axes



There is no doubt on the usefulness and importance of the results from applying these Technology Watch methodologies, although the analysis and interpretation of information should be carried out by experts and outcomes should be also carefully contrasted. The vision that they provide is very relevant for making decisions and help in many cases to clarify the context or scenario of those.


The future of advanced Technology Watch


Until now we have based our analysis on structured sources of information, basically patents and science papers databases. However, there are many other information sources, particularly on Internet due to its easy access, but they have big inconvenients in order to process the information they contain. Most of these information is on text format, but it is not structured. This is what we call free text, like for instance, press news, books, letters, memoranda, etc.


Apart from data mining, advances in text mining enable us now to structure free format information to process it in an appropriate manner. These new developments based on semantic and grammar analysis together with taxonomies that enable structuring the meanings of terms, even in several different languages, are implying a significant increase in the possibilities of information management. Incidence is mainly on the number of sources, their update and relevance, and in the knowledge management in general, that together with Technology Watch are substantial parts of Competitive Intelligence.



Source: Presentation by Prof Dr Pere Escorsa ©2002 - IALE Tecnologia.         *   twitter @ialeT



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