Which way do you pick your horse for the Grand National? Would you use your personal relationships to speak to someone in the horse and racing game or would you use the latest technology?

This two-part series will explore the topic Innovation Matchmaking. The series opens by considering how organisations are using various technology solutions to tackle everything from scanning, searching and matchmaking. Part two, will take a much deeper look at the school of thought and community of players that think whilst technology is powerful it’s the personal relationships and acute understanding of organisations needs that enable the best match matching.

Technology Platforms for Better Innovation Strategies

Out there in the innovation support ecosystem there is a lot of work going on to make innovation policies smarter, more socially beneficial and fit for the future through addressing the lack of evidence and suitable data to make good decisions, the persistent exclusiveness of innovation, and the challenges of anticipating and exploring new trends in technology and globalisation.

A number of organisations are looking to get a more systematic approach about scanning for and analysing new trends in innovation policy and innovation management. This thought piece builds on the Fostering Innovation With Technological Solutions series and explores the growing demand for organisations to use technology platforms to assist them to formulate better innovation strategies and essentially pick the innovation challenges or races the organisation wishes to compete in.

Evidence and feedback from clients is that they are typically solving the problem of Innovation Matchmaking by purchasing advisory reports written by consultants from across the broad innovation ecosystem. Whilst you have the classical scenarios of getting what you pay for, and how long is a piece of string, the typical client investments range anything from £5k to £100K. You can certainly get something for less but the scope and focus of the outcome will not tend to have incorporated specifics of your organisational circumstances. This is a commonly understood scenario which as the client looks to garner more specific insight to determine where to place to bets or which races to run they necessarily may need to make more of investment. However, another typical classic challenge on going down the route of just commissioning the external consultants to write you a report is the natural inherent bias for the organisation to sell more stuff or call out areas that play to their strengths. There is nothing inherently wrong with this scenario if all parties know what to expect and what the nature of the engagement norms are. Also, this thought piece isn’t in anyway intended to be an investigation into the innovation consulting ecosystem practices and from my perspective it is phenomenally difficult to innovation right, with more failing than succeeding, and the opportunity to bring in specialist subject matter expertise is always a sensible way to go in any walk of life.

Innovation matchmaking is being transformed

Digital technologies such as data analytics, machine learning and network science have revolutionised sectors such as dating and shopping by connecting people and organisations in new ways. These technologies can also be used to bring together expertise, knowledge, resources, problems, solutions and data to enhance innovation through a process I’ll describe as innovation matchmaking. The second part of this short series will look at the array of organisations across our Innovation ecosystem that help you remove the friction on both sides of the equation to make it as simple as possible to find the right partners.

Innovation matchmaking is being transformed by a wide range of new players using digital technologies ultimately generating more effective innovation collaborations. Given some of the challenges facing the innovation management vendor community that it is becoming increasingly crowded with almost 200 vendors offering similar functionality and that the ‘traditional’ idea management functionality is increasingly seen as ‘commodity’ and a mechanism for vendors to compete on price and basic functionality, I recently completed an investigation into how the various players are tackling this problem and if that meant they were spinning into new areas with new value propositions and potentially new competitors.

As with any technological advance and development of a new sector, the application of digital technologies to innovation matchmaking has not always been successful, and there is a strong cohort of players who will champion the power of personal relationships and personal services, over and above the technology-based value propositions. More from this group in the follow up of the series.

The Innovation Matchmaking investigation attempted to group and codify the different offerings available presenting the findings in the slide seen in the image below.

The key takeaway is that no standalone market category for innovation matchmaking exists and that the best fit could be argued to be the foresight-based tools group. Functionality exists in other adjacent or analogues categories which brings with it the challenge of offerings essentially being a solution looking for a problem and not starting out with that core problem they were looking to solve.

The Innovation Matchmaking technology software as service sector could be argued to be underserved at present with < 10 real credible offerings. This is arguably a fantastic opportunity for some players out there and gives plenty to play for as clients are looking for technology help, beyond idea management, to pick their innovation races. This market is showing signs of change as clients search for credible technology offering.

The Research and Insight Platforms that typically serve the academic and niche research and development communities are setting the standard. This group includes the likes of Figshare, Expernova (now part of Questel) and Mendeley. One can argue that it has been easy for these propositions to mature as the use case is significantly more refined given the recognised standards of components such as how many times a piece of research has been cited and by who.

Foresight applications adjacent to the Horizon Scanning use case are growing. These solutions are typically a combination of consulting and technology with the advisory service working through a series of predefined templates to populate the technology platform. The client can then access and engage with the solution in managed and controlled manner with typical collaboration functionality.

Another adjacent category of applications are the digital platforms that help corporates scout startups. These tackle a range of different use-cases for start-ups and corporates but are essentially environments where matching and collaborations can arise from. Large entities SI’s, Government departments run and manage their own Startup engagement platforms as means to support procurement needs.

Each of these categories or groups of value propositions have their place but as organisations, such as governments, international institutions and foundations, that want to get better at designing and implementing digital tools that enable new innovation collaborations they are increasing looking for specific fit for purpose offerings.

Plenty to play for

According to Forrester the Global Innovation Management Market accounted for USD 325.4 million in 2016 growing at a CAGR of 32.33% during the forecast period of 2017 to 2024. As emerging technologies continue to mature, the outcome will be more advanced digital platforms that enable the organisations to scan, identify and come together. It may be that specialist offerings for each function materialise and the overarching one stop shops fall away, but at this stage there is plenty to play As some of these players develop the functionality to be used prior to the traditional idea management application, they can begin to help clients to understand their strategic gaps in order to establish more pertinent and relevant challenges or to pick the right races they should be running. Now when that begins to happen there will be plenty of winnings to go around and we may just begin to see a reduction in ‘failing to succeed’.

Please look out for the follow-on part of this short series that will take a look at the other end of the innovation matchmaking spectrum of personal services that search out your exact requirements across the ecosystem. I’d also like to call out the a mandralic version of innovation matchmaking and the two challenges we are running.