Next practices / technologies tools and methodologies: Innovation Scouting


Until relatively recent times, most companies used internal research and development as their only method of innovation. However, companies are now proactively considering all sources of innovation, both internal and external, to remain competitive. Many companies that are aggressively looking outside their boundaries for new technology are using Innovation Scouts, specialists tasked to identify new opportunities for partnership, co-development, licensing, or acquisition. Innovation Scouting is a key element of Open Innovation, but the practice of scouting for innovative products and services has been around much longer and has an established place in traditional business practices as well.

Innovation is a critical component in future growth. IT Companies are faced with the challenge of constantly replenishing a products and services pipeline. Companies are now proactively considering all sources of innovation, both internal and external, to remain competitive and explore into future. External Innovation sourcing can be called Innovation scouting, is an important tool for new product/services development in IT. The focus of the innovation scouting practice will be constrained to IT Industry in the following paragraphs.


  Open innovation represents a radical new way of bringing new products to market faster and with more control on cost. Companies are now proactively considering all sources of innovation, both internal and external, to remain competitive.

Open Innovation, also known as external or networked innovation, represents a shift from the traditional model where 100% of a company’s innovation originates from within, to a more open model where both internal and external ideas are combined to create a more collaborative advantage. In 2003, Dr. Henry Chesbrough coined the term “open innovation” as a paradigm that assumes firms should use external and internal ideas to support a firm’s innovation goals, as well as internal and external paths to market in order to advance their technology. Sometimes called “External” or “Networked” Innovation, this model has many facets that continue to evolve.

 Every organization as part of their open innovation strategy can employ innovation scouting to find, qualify, and help exploit new opportunities. Innovation scouts are specialists tasked to identify new opportunities for partnership, co-development, licensing, or acquisition. Scouting has been employed by adventuresome leaders to facilitate revolutionary change, innovation, and creativity throughout history. Scouts have been dispatched to explore, discover, and map both known and unknown territory.

The more integrated a company’s products are into other companies’ products, the higher the likelihood that scouting is considered important. There are many different approaches for implementing innovation scouting, with companies using internal innovation scouts, external partners, third party scouts, and consultants.

The scouting role is not always confined to internal R&D departments within an organization, but instead is often jointly sponsored across multiple business units. Innovation scouts use many methods for finding new ideas, with competitive intelligence the most prevalent source of ideas.

Open Innovation

Open Innovation

Barriers and drivers

Open innovation is now recognized as a critical tool for accelerating growth, and the rapid pace of change in emerging technology areas heightens the importance of scouting for and incorporating technologies from the innovation ecosystem .Successful innovation scouting is a combination of several factors: internal factors within the firm itself, together with external partners including research institutions, mainly in academia. Cost reduction does not appear to be the leading driver for many companies engaged in innovation scouting.

Companies have specific, stated goals for their innovation scouting programs. Some of the most notable drivers of Open Innovation include:

  •  Global talent mobility
  •  More market-focused academic research
  •  Emergence of private research institutes
  •  Internet and search technology

The need to optimize existing supplier networks for strategic value. Companies develop approaches for setting goals and implementing metrics for measuring the success of their innovation scouting programs. This is also true for evaluating the performance of individual scouts.

The best companies are learning to identify areas of interest and then develop both formal and informal mechanisms to create innovation networks. An ongoing process requires a company to approach business in a fundamentally different way, both externally and internally. The transformation of entire markets brought on by new technology-based options.

Sources of Innovation

 The most common techniques for uncovering external ideas include conducting competitive intelligence, attending relevant conferences and tradeshows, leveraging academic networks and relationships, and exploiting network of innovators. Other, less common methods include the use of third party networks, innovation bounty challenges, and crowd sourcing.

The sources of innovation to scout for Innovations in IT Organizations are

  • Company Profiles for information and analysis on key companies in the IT field
  • On-line tools including tables and Innovation Grids to filter to key companies to target
  •  On-demand Inquiry to obtain additional analyst insights and recommendations regarding technology innovators.
  •  To build  innovation maps and ranks potential partners for technology value and business fit


Innovation scouting is a systematic search for innovation in the field, bringing its findings to the attention of the decision-makers to determine whether and how to proceed with the idea to make it a product. The environment scanning brings into contact with an array of interesting and potentially disruptive innovations in products, services, technologies, and behaviors in it. The innovation scouts studying the IT industry uncovering major trends and weak signals for innovation. Perform continuous scan of trends and emerging futures, develop strategic foresights for a radically successful future in new product development arena.

Through a mixture of horizon scanning, and ongoing observation IT trends,   innovation scouts identify emerging hotspots for disruptive innovation—opportunity spaces between emerging consumer behaviors and new products, processes, in the IT industry. Innovation scouts analyze the drivers behind the industry innovations; identify important hotspots created by these drivers. The innovation hotspots are disruptive in nature such that they can alter the IT landscape. Driving and analyzing the next step in the evolution of the IT industry has a great potential for social and business impact.

Three stages to Innovation scouting realization-utilizing innovation know how (i.e. extensive knowledge and experience.)

i.          Scout – Innovation scouts find the opportunities from static, dynamic, and signal sources.

Innovation scouting involves the scan and tracking the universe of IT innovations, from start-ups to multinationals, for the most promising innovations.

ii.         Identify – Innovation scouts qualify the best opportunities quantitative and qualitative research and insights underpin identification of the real opportunities. They rank technology providers across a range of key metrics to uncover the highest potential partners.

iii.        Propose – realization of the opportunities communicating the opportunity and development, from stage gate to product development.

Business Value

In a connected economy, businesses cannot rely on the same old ideas from the same old people. To succeed, you need to seek out innovation from unexpected sources, in unexpected ways. Raising awareness of IP and fostering a culture of innovation is a key part of being an Innovation Scout.

Early identification of technologies, technological trends, and technological disruptors. Raising awareness of the threats and opportunities of technological development. Stimulation of innovation by combining the technology reports with business potential assessment. Facilitation of the sourcing of external technology innovation by reaching through the network of innovation scouts to their sources of information.

Future Evolution

It appears that more and more companies are moving towards proactive and systematic activities to obtain early information about innovations. Although in most companies’ innovation scouting has not yet reached a high standard of quality, it merits close attention, especially in competitive fields where capturing innovation can create a significant edge. The future of open innovation is going to be about leveraging collaborative talent networks, including both internal and external expertise. Companies that make a commitment to acquiring this knowledge will be taking a meaningful step in that direction. The continuous need for companies to explore and develop disruptors in new business areas, since their current domain becomes stagnant.


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