When it comes to product development, there’s rarely a shortage of innovative technologies that can help take your product to the next level — but how do you know which technology is right for your device? Evaluating emerging technologies can be a tricky business, and can often make the difference between success and failure for your product.
Megan Moore serves as marketing director and program manager at Battelle, a global R&D organization that helps bring together science and technology to produce products and applications. For over a decade Moore has managed her groups’ technology scouting and assessment business for consumer, industrial, and medical clients.
Moore has made a career out of helping her clients minimize the risks associated with adopting new technologies that can spark innovation and advance product development. Moore will be speaking on the topic of evaluating emerging technologies at the BIOMEDevice conference in San Jose on Dec. 6.
Moore recently sat down with MD+DI Qmed to talk about some of the key indicators of success to look for when evaluating new technologies, and covers a few dos and don’ts of the trade when it comes to deciding what’s right for your next product.
MD+DI Qmed: For starters, can you talk a little about some of the biggest challenges you’ve seen as a program director when it comes to identifying high-value growth areas in a given market, and how to promote technologies that can service those areas?
Moore: Identifying high-value growth areas is challenging and requires diligence. Listening to the market and understanding current unmet needs and future trends is critical. High-value growth areas are identified through diverse market feedback gained from both business and technical functions within an organization. In many companies capturing market intelligence in a central location is a challenge. Unless an effective knowledge management system is in place to input and share information, the knowledge resides in each individual employee’s head and is never collated to gain insight into the larger growth opportunity.
Another challenge is misalignment between market needs and your company's’ strategy and core capabilities. Targeting opportunities outside of your core capabilities, unless there is a strategic initiative for expansion into the area, often erodes potential profits and distracts from higher value growth prospects.
Promoting technologies to service growth areas starts with understanding the target market demographics, identifying competitive technologies, and building the value proposition accordingly. Limited early market evaluation is critical to obtain feedback and refine the offering before a wider promotion.
MD+DI Qmed: What are some key things to look for when it comes to identifying whether or not a core technology can actually meet the needs of the market and product requirements?
Moore: A few key things to look at when identifying if a core technology can meet product and market needs include:
- Technology development readiness level – does the level of technology readiness align with the implementation and market introduction timelines needed? Has function been demonstrated in the specific application?
- Risk assessment and mitigation plan – conducting a risk assessment and defining a mitigation plan must be conducted early and updated frequently for both technology and market requirements. What safety, performance, and human factors risks pose a challenge to technology launch and market adoption, and how can those risks be retired or mitigated early in the program?
- Ease of implantation into current product design and manufacturing methods – if it requires significant re-design and manufacturing processes, is the cost/benefit favorable?
- Accessibility to the technology – is the technology available for licensing or acquisition? Is the intellectual property protected? Is there freedom to operate?
- Total technology implementation cost – is the anticipated development cost in a feasible range with respect to the estimated cost of goods sold and ROI margins?
- Regulatory aspects – are there any concerns with meeting current or future regulations?
MD+DI Qmed: In a similar vein, what are some important steps that you think can be taken to help minimize the risks associated with new technology adoption without stifling product development and/or innovation?
Moore: Having a gated technology evaluation process is important to minimize the risks associated with new technology adoption. Early gate reviews requiring a small investment should be less taxing on ideas to allow for innovation and an expansive funnel for evaluation. As technology development advances and costs increase, gates should become more discriminating. This type of system helps to ensure product development is focused in the right direction while allowing for innovative ideas to be expressed in a low-risk manner. As part of the gate evaluation process, it is important to have a multi-functional review team comprised of technical, marketing, and business stakeholders. Each can offer valuable insight in evaluating a new technology and offer a more holistic assessment.
MD+DI Qmed: When it comes to device demonstration, what are some of the things you look for when evaluating whether or not a technology meets all of the needs for a desired product? Are there any red flags you look for?
Moore: When demonstrating a device, it is important to evaluate it in its use scenario as well as outside of the use scenario range to understand inherent limitations. Performance that drops off right outside of the intended use range is a red flag for technology robustness. It is also critical to consider the user interaction via usability analysis for normal use and foreseeable misuse scenarios.
MD+DI Qmed: As someone with extensive experience matching technologies to specific market needs, what are some of the key indicators of success that you look for when evaluating new emerging technologies?
Moore: When evaluating emerging technologies, we often look for technology solutions that have been successfully demonstrated in adjacent markets. This demonstration helps to address implementation risks. Additionally, having a working partnership with the technology originator helps to reduce the technology learning curve and identify implementable technology modifications to address requirement shortcomings if needed. We also conduct early back-of-the-envelope cost models to satisfy ourselves there is a profitable business case.
MD+DI Qmed: Finally, given all of the projects you’ve managed in the past, what would you say is one of the most important lessons you’ve learned when it comes to evaluating and identifying whether or not a new technology is the right fit for your next project?
Moore: First, technologies must be based on fundamental, defensible science and engineering. It is critical to understand fundamentally how the technology works. Second, technologies must be conducive to scale up. Technologies that work in a lab but cannot be produced at scale are not of interest. Finally, early market evaluation is essential. If evaluators do not like using a technology and cannot see the benefit, the technology is not the right fit for your product.