The Technology Roadmap
The Technology Roadmap Background and Process
The idea behind the Technology Roadmap (also called an IP Roadmap) is to explore what a company is developing and investigate who else is involved in the value chain and identify key issues that need to be solved to get the product to market. This allows the company to address those issues in a coordinated manner that maximizes the value capture for the business, whilst also helping identify relationships that need managing.
By necessity, most businesses concentrate on the portion of the value chain that they are good at and protect IP within that space as best they can. Whilst this certainly builds value in the business it has been found that some companies benefit less from their own solution than others involved in the same value chain and the idea of this process is to help flush out all those involved and who will benefit from your solution or approach to the issue. This existing process also tends to look backwards rather than forwards and it is possible that opportunities are missed in this approach.
In our new and forward-looking process we will first discuss the breadth of the problem which you have solved and then define the “product” in a very broad sense such as to give us a foundation upon which to base the rest of the process. The “product” is likely to be much broader than the element that you make or manage and, hence, other people will be benefitting from your work and it is important that you consider how you might capture some of that benefit. Additionally, the process will identify companies and individuals that you work with who will be the owners of IP which you need to ensure you have access to. By identifying the issues, you can solve any problems well in advance.
The “product” may include, for example, disposable components, a final product into which your solution is inserted, a consultancy or advisory service to run and maintain the product based on your solution, design services, verification software, updates to software and the processes for using your system if conducted on a commercial basis. Whilst patents cannot cover all these elements the addition of Know-How management, in-licensing and contractual services may well add value to the totality of the commercial opportunity and your company.
Most solutions have a number of problems that must be solved before a commercial product is available or fully commercialized. The Roadmap process will help identify the significant technical and commercial problems that have to be solved whilst also identifying who will be involved in solving them. This tends to identify relationship issues with suppliers, consultants and other companies who you are dependent on and allows you to tackle the issues associated with right of access to required IP, ownership and protection. Sometimes one finds that a crucial element of a product is supplied by an external partner and the rights to use the provided solution have not been appropriately secured and / or might not survive the supplier going out of business. Such issues can be addressed but are best addressed sooner rather than later.
If the element provided by the supplier is crucial then often it will be of great value to the competition too and you should consider how best to prevent the supplier working with your competition and / or acquire the IP rights from them as part of the contractual process.
Sometimes, some of the major technical issues have yet to be solved as they are less interesting or “someone else is going to do that”. Identifying these and placing some emphasis on them in the development program can be beneficial as, without a solution, there is no product. With an early solution there could be good IP and the potential to block-out your competitors.
We will identify and consider each of the above and place a weighting factor on each such as to identify which has greatest value and allow you to decide how best to manage the situation. Not all ideas should be patented but some patents could have a great protective effect. Items which are not patented may well form the basis of good Know-How but this is of little value unless you have a good system to manage it.
It is possible that there are too many issues to complete the process in one meeting so less important items may be held back for future consideration.
The process is inclusive with all participants having an equal say but as time is usually of the essence we may have to keep discussion to a minimum and would propose that the details of any specific solutions be reserved for discussion in a separate meeting.
We look forward to working with you and as no Roadmap has ever been the same, I am sure we will have an interesting day.