Is R&D Solving the Right Problem?

Monday, 22 July 2013 06:30
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Technology scouts are often called upon to solve specific technical challenges. However, they are usually not seeking a technical solution in isolation. Rather, their R&D client is often seeking technical solutions that will enable Marketing (their internal customer) to make and be able to support certain marketing claims. If this is so, shouldn't this significantly alter the mission and the nature of the deliverables?

Curious to learn more? Read on, dear friends....

Is R&D Solving the Right Problems?

Do corporate R&D managers seek solutions for specific technical challenges, or solutions that will support particular marketing claims? While the right answer to this question is both, I would argue that the answer is often closer to the latter than the former. Let me provide one example. A corporate snack food manufacturer is seeking nutritional solutions that provide technical benefits in cholesterol lowering. R&D commissions a technology scout who identifies a dozen different solution options, each of which has demonstrated technical benefits in this area. However, the types of legally allowable marketing claims pertaining to cholesterol lowering are very limited without the ingredient and product being required to be designated as a drug. So, in this case, the question may not be which of the available technologies offers the best performance. Instead, it could be, which of the technologies offers the least expensive means (all other factors being equal) of allowing marketing to legally substantiate "Supports Heart Health" claims.

I imagine that many technology scouting missions would be considerably different if the scouting brief emphasized the types of marketing claims that the technology should be able to support, rather than stressing their technical performance requirements in isolation of the business considerations. Since R&D is often responsible for translating Marketing's "wants" into "technology needs", if marketing claims are not currently included in the dialogue and incorporated into the deliverables success factors, perhaps they should be. 
What are your thoughts?

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