The IP needs to get where it needs to go. Innovation needs to be in the place where it has the most impact, makes the most difference. That is our job in tech transfer. But sometimes, it means we have to get out of the way. Well, not us, entirely. But our expectations, biases and assumptions need to in order for the IP to have applications beyond our wildest dreams.
If something is created with a certain application in mind, and then it is only marketed and discussed in terms of that exact application, then the reach and impact of that technology is being stunted. The potential of the IP is blocked by the imagination of the humans delivering it.
Here’s an example. Kuka AG in Augsburg, Germany made industrial robots for factory floors. The intention behind their technology was always factory floor robots. But, wanting to break into new (less competitive) markets, they had to start thinking beyond what they had in mind when they came up with their IP. And that’s how Kuka’s technologies ended up powering the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride at Universal Orlando. (You can read more about the specifics of this tech in our article about invention extensions here).
The point is, if you’re tunnel visioned on the factory floor, then you’re never going to fly a broom. You’re not going to be making these prestigious, talked about deals, you’re not going to be pushing the limits of what’s possible within your industry. And most importantly, the IP won’t get where it needs to go. It won’t be making an impact in the most varied and innovative ways.
Here are three ways to start thinking more innovatively about the possibilities of your IP:
Identify your biases
We are humans and we are biased - by our experiences, by our upbringing, by the things we see and are told. We need to identify and accept these, to know that the way we see the world isn’t the way everyone does - and that the application we assumed the IP would have isn’t the only possibility. Once you can see how and where the potential is held back by biases, then you can see where there are areas to explore further.
Broaden the search
Get outside of your usually, worn grooves when it comes to searching for potential partnerships. If it’s not the same old factory floors, where might there be opportunities to fly? What is the most fun application of this technology, what is the most meaningful, the most impactful?
Get back to basics
What does your technology actually do? Kuka was able to extend the applications of its robots because it knew that its technology was not about moving heavy things on factory floors but moving heavy things anywhere. What else was heavy and needing moving with precision? What other industries and contexts might have the problem your technology can solve?
With all of these, there are tools that can help - AI for automation and fast matching of tech to problems beyond your wildest dreams.
In Tech Transfer Today, my LinkedIn newsletter, I explore innovative tech transfer news and how new technologies, like AI, are helping to push it further - subscribe here to get it each week.