Trilogy Tidings
January 2008
in this issue
     At year-end we were asked to respond to a request to judge the attributes and value of some existing and emerging imaging technologies for a particular medical device application.  This is right up our alley, so we developed a plan and now we're awaiting an expected go-ahead.  Since technology assessment is now top-of-mind, as they say, it was natural to pick that topic for this month's Tidings.
     If you ever have occasion to assess the goodness, appropriateness, or commercial potential of a new technology -- or at least one that's new to you --read on.


Technology Assessment: Why do it? 

     Technology assessment is a fancy term for a very simple notion: Making judgments about new methods of doing something.  It most often refers to "high technology", but that's not a requirement.  Every time you have to decide whether to adopt a new way to accomplish something -- brushing your teeth, sending a message, placing telephone calls, putting a vehicle into orbit, or a million other things -- you're talking technology assessment.  In other words, we all conduct technology assessment "in the background" on a regular basis.  It can be mundane and utilitarian (transporting yourself to work) or high-minded and generally ineffective (governments placing bets on certain technologies with taxpayer money in a hope for economic renewal).

     OK, let's get real.  I don't care about most of these applications right now.  Our firm usually gets involved in technology assessment to assist a client in making judgements about one or more "new" technologies as suitable platforms for a new product or a new category of products.  That's my context today.
     I've developed a checklist to serve as a rudimentary guide to carrying out technology assessment in this new-product context.  You can download the checklist here.  I'd just like to amplify a few of its points.  If you're still with me, read on. 

Thoughts to share?  Contact me.
Doing Technology Assessment Right 
     In my experience most people and organizations fail to perform this task in a comprehensive way.  They omit something important that causes their net assessment to be faulty -- sometimes catastrophic.  We try to avoid doing that by defining as best we can, in advance, the criteria that could matter.  If it turns out that some of these criteria ultimately prove to be unimportant, so what?  At least we'll have the confidence that comes with having covered all the bases.  The most common criteria are listed in our checklist.  I'll elaborate on a few of them here.
     Understand the technology's fundamental characteristics.  What's it like?  Is it revolutionary, evolutionary, or a minor tweak on an existing method?  Is it hard to understand?  Will its complexity be invisible to the user?  The greater its obvious complexity, the more difficult will be its adoption -- but the more dramatic might be its commercial impact in the long run.  And here's the wild card: Could you add your own ideas or combine it with another technology that might greatly enhance its value in the target application?  That's a nice outcome, and it's especially rewarding if the technology in question is sourced outside your firm.
     Judge all the attributes.  What are all (not some of) the attributes that matter in the intended application?  How does the technology measure up in every case?  What user benefits and limitations will result?  Demonstrating world-beating performance on one measure is not enough; poor performance on a single important measure can doom the new method.  (I believe this is the most common cause of new-tech failure in the market.)
     Understand the competitive landscape.  Not market competition; technology competition.  What other methods are available or potentially imminent.  Have you really scoured all the potential sources: company intelligence, clinical literature, scientific literature, patent literature?  Analyzing all this stuff is not easy and often not quick; it requires a very open mind and some technical savvy to imagine what might be possible.  In each case reach an objective judgement whether your technology is better or deficient in some important way.  Imagine each competitive method in the hands of your most powerful competitor.  Can you still win?
      Realistically judge development status.  Is the technology at the idea stage, a feasibility demonstration, a working prototype, a manufactured product, or what?  Obviously, its value grows substantially at each milestone.  Does credible evidence exist demonstrating performance on all important measures?  If not, what will it take to develop that evidence?  Who will do that, and when will it be done?  Meanwhile, who will bear the risk of failure?
     Consider and respect intellectual property.  This doesn't require elaboration.  You know it's important to assess your likely IP position in the technology realm of interest from both defensive and offensive points of view.  Without IP protection of some kind you're probably dead in the water.
     Getting from here to there.  How far is this new method from the market?  What steps will need to be taken?  Who will take those steps; how long will it take; how much will it cost?  Will it all be worth it?  While you cannot expect to develop accurate answers to all these questions during technology assessment, surely you should come up with your best, educated guesses.  It's quite remarkable how often the answer to the "is it worth it" question quickly becomes obvious -- one way or the other.  One more thing: Is the technology applicable beyond your field of interest?  If so, consider out-licensing or partnering to increase its ultimate value.
     Apply the right expertise.  Finally -- here comes the commercial -- you cannot always handle this job yourself.  Some outside resources can be critical (if the technology is sourced from outside) or helpful (if you developed the method in your own shop) to achieving an objective, reliable result.  Line up some experts who know the territory and the right means.  And, good luck! 
Thoughts to share?  Contact me .
What does Trilogy do? 
     Trilogy Associates facilitates business growth and renewal through commercialization of new products, providing the following services:
  • Opportunity assessment
  • Business planning and enterprise growth strategies
  • New-product conceptualization, commercialization and marketing
  • Market research and competitive assessment
  • Business development and partnering
  • Market and technological due diligence
  • Assessment of the therapeutic and diagnostic potential of novel technologies
  • Design of efficient and effective development strategies for early-stage biomedical products
  • Business and technical writing/publishing

     Inquiries to establish whether and how we might support your business initiatives are always welcome.  Contact us.


Contact Information
Joseph J. Kalinowski, Principal