Moving from the lab to the practical world
There is constant research going on in government, university and corporate labs but we are left wondering how much of it is actually commercialized. By most estimates only a small proportion ever is. Presumably the rest sits on the shelf in the hope or expectation that someone, someday will find a use for it. Too often we expect that the breakthroughs discovered will be self evident and the market will come to them. There is a way to try and improve on this record by going back to our jobs to be done analysis.
As we have discussed in a number of posts, a technology will be marketable if it helps someone do a job they are trying to do better than they could without it. If there is a solution in a lab that will fit this purpose then it has an opportunity for commercial success. When we find a job to be done that we believe can be done better we can look then to research breakthroughs to see if there is something we can utilize. By framing the breakthrough in the jobs to be done analysis we start to bring it out of the lab into the practical world. From there we can apply the business plan process to test it out in the market and, hopefully, scale up a business around it.
There is another trend happening that creates a variation on the jobs to be done analysis. Organizations are performing meta analysis where they gather data from basic research that has been done and look for ways to put some breakthroughs together in a useful manner. If this form of analysis shows some patterns with a potential market viability we can then look for jobs that would be effected and determine if they could benefit. While we have gone about it in a reverse manner (i.e. starting with the technology) we still need to tie it to jobs to be done before we can assess the potential for market success. A technology that does not provide a practical world solution will not be successfully commercialized.
I believe that the reason universities and some corporate research facilities fail to commercialize technology breakthroughs is their technology first mindset. They assume that any breakthrough has value in and of itself. They need to link these technologies to uses in the market which is something they have little experience in. That is why corporations have to ensure there is a good communication flow between their business units and their research facilities. There a further opportunity for corporations to make breakthroughs they can’t use available to other organizations who can capitalize. This step would create additional value for the company doing the research turning their facilities into profit centres. It also benefits society when value is created from something that would otherwise sit on a shelf shielded by patent protection.
Universities and government labs have to ensure they work with private enterprise or even other government departments to find market benefits. The non-research government departments need to start becoming more market aware as well. There is no reason why it should only be private enterprise commercializing technology. Governments around the world are facing critical financial problems that need innovative solutions. Maybe they should be looking in their own research labs.
There is a hesitation in sharing that results from parties wanting to monopolize the financial and publicity benefits of their discoveries. However these benefits will not arise if there is no commercialization. So universities, government labs and corporations need to work out reasonable profit sharing models or we will be here next year, and the years after that wondering why we can’t commercialize discoveries. It all starts with the people making the discoveries working with the people looking for ways to improve on the jobs being done.