Shining Some Light in the Black Box
As a technology scout, I am often called upon by clients to identify a variety of solutions to address a single problem. For example, I may be tasked to identify different approaches to treat diabetic ulcers. Solution options can range from topical ingredients (which can range from natural to sophisticated, highly engineered materials) to medical devices. So, how does the client decide which solution(s) to adopt...if each of the technologies accomplish (at a high level) the same thing?
For each problem a company may wish to solve, it may develop and apply different decision making criteria to help them judge the suitability of various options. These criteria enable clients to separate the top candidates from the rest. In the example above, the screening criteria could include:
- Novelty (i.e. is this a new approach, or is it something we have previously considered?)
- Healing properties on particular ulcer types.
- Performance versus competitive benchmarks,
- Consumer usage factors (how easy/difficult it would be for consumers to adhere to regimen),
- Intellectual property status (type of protection, geographic considerations).
- Regulatory status (types of approvals necessary and have been achieved, effort, cost and time required to earn these). Would a new drug application be required?
- Markets and channels in which the technology/product could be sold,
- Safety testing
- Drawbacks (e.g. it stings when applied to skin)
- Cost (including whether it would be affordable, competitive)
- Supply considerations (availability, scale, capital, etc...)
Recognizing that there are a host of important criteria that could be weighed, the client may select only a subset of these and decide to only consider opportunities that nominally meet these, and to reject the rest. It isn't that the other approaches are necessarily unworthy. It may just be that the amount of work, investment and time required to complete their development may exceed a company's tolerances...especially if it is aware of other available candidates that are further along the development path.
Having greater insight into the solution screening process may help some would-be technology providers better appreciate what goes on "behind the curtain".