Technology Spain , Valladolid, Wednesday, May 13 of 2015, 14:47

Researchers from the UVA design a methodology to apply competitive intelligence

The model developed is based on three essential mainstays: knowledge management, technological surveillance, and results management. Its aim is to make SMEs and small research groups more competitive

Cristina G. Pedraz/DICYT On occasion a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) invests time, money, and effort in designing a new product, but when the time comes to patent it and launch it onto the market the SME finds that it has already been developed. Another possible scenario is that the product is patented and reaches the market, but after a time it fails.

Minimising these risks in R+D+I and in the last analysis optimising the results available is the main objective of Competitive Intelligence. It is a business tool that seeks to get to know the details of the internal situation of the company itself by knowledge management, by monitoring the environment through technological surveillance, and by transmitting this information to those in charge so as to support them in their decision making.

Researchers from the Company Organisation Department of the School of Industrial Engineering of the University of Valladolid (UVA) have developed a methodology to apply Competitive Intelligence in a simple way, which is designed to make entities with limited resources, such as SMEs and small research groups, more competitive.

“We have analysed the state of the art of the methodologies of Competitive Intelligence and technological surveillance and we have created our own. It is a lightweight methodology so that a small company or research group does not have not invest much time and effort to implement it”, explain Pedro Sanz, a lecturer at the School of industrial Engineering of the UVA, and Jesús Galindo who is doing his doctoral thesis on this subject.

The model designed is based on three essential mainstays: knowledge management, technological surveillance, and results management, tools which are used separately in Competitive Intelligence and which by means of this new methodology are grouped together and interconnect to improve the whole process.

Knowledge management is the starting point. “It is necessary to know yourself and your suppliers, clients, the surroundings, etc. to know what a company or a research group requires, as very often technological surveillance (the second step) is carried out without the needs being very clear”, they emphasise.

For this reason they have designed a questionnaire and an implementation procedure: on a first visit to the entity generic questions are asked on the company's needs. The answers are analysed and a second visit is organised with more guiding questions that are examined once more. The results of these analyses will indicate what kind of effort is required in R+D+I.


Technological surveillance

Once the needs have been clarified, the next step is technological surveillance, which is an organised process of the capturing and analysis of scientific-technological information so as to pinpoint the main technological trends, the latest novelties, or possible partners and potential purchasers. All this information is studied and made available to those in charge of decision-making within the organisation, who can direct their plans and technological strategies in a less risky manner and anticipate change.

In the methodology carried out by the UVA researchers technological surveillance is carried out by studying patent databases and scientific articles. “We have carried out a study of all the software and tools that can be used to research patents, which are products that are already approaching the market, so as to select the most appropriate one in keeping with needs and available resources. The results are supported by the research articles, which generally represent a stage prior to that of patents. In this manner we can anticipate what will be on the market in 10 or 15 years' time and obtain a competitive advantage”, they point out.

For example, when a company or a research group wants to invest in a new product and wishes to know whether it will really have any future, patent analysis can constitute a clarifying element. “If the increase in the number of patents is not exponential, i.e. it does not grow annually, this means that the product is in decline and that it is not therefore a good idea to invest in this field of innovation”, they specify.


The final step is results management: the notification of the findings and decision-making. “We proposed to show the most relevant information for decision-makers on a single page instead of submitting an extensive report so that they do not have to invest much time. In this stage the human factor comes into play and it is case of facilitating or at least orientating decision-making”.

To test the methodology, the researchers have applied it to an actual SME devoted to industrial supplies with good results. This experience is allowing them to adjust all elements and conclude the optimisation of the model.