Turning Innovation into Revenue

By: N. Harrison Ripps

As a member of your organization’s emerging technologies team, your mission is to rapidly explore emerging technologies via experimentation and use your findings to help the business decide how to continuously evolve your corporate technical strategy. In many cases, emerging technologies teams are very small by design, which enables them to work quickly and take big risks. However, this also means that when the team discovers a promising project, they are not the most ideally suited to bring that work to customers.

Rather, this puts emerging technologies teams in the position to answer important questions such as, “When your engineering experiment proves to be successful, then what?” Or, “If you are not in a position to deliver your work as a product, how do you get it into the hands of a team that can commercialize your efforts?” Work on a promising project isn't completely done until another engineering team, or in some cases an upstream community, has the knowledge and expertise to make that work commercially available to customers.

Start early

Transferring an emerging technology to the right engineering team or upstream community that can introduce it to an addressable market is crucial. The partnership between the emerging technologies team and the long-term owner should be established as early as possible—usually, once the technology is a demonstrated proof of concept. To determine the right partner for a project, the emerging technologies team needs to assess if the project is fitting for introduction to the organization’s current addressable market or to a future addressable market. Projects focused on current addressable markets follow different guidance on how and when to find a partner than projects focused on future addressable markets.

For most projects focused on current addressable markets, there is usually at least one—but possibly more than one—existing product or service in an organization’s portfolio that an emerging technologies team can partner with. In these instances, I advise emerging tech engineers that have created a demonstrated proof of concept to cease coding until they have identified a partner. This helps limit the length of an engineering experience to the shortest possible interval, and it ensures that the project has not been developed to the point that there will be a significant learning curve for other teams.

If a project is focused on a future market, identifying a partner team that can evolve to take ownership of your technology is crucial. However, emerging tech teams should also plan to spend a longer period of time with the project, both prior to a transfer and in the midst of it. In this scenario, it’s not uncommon for emerging tech teams to immerse themselves within the partner team for an extended period of time as the partner adds headcount and trains on the technology in question.

Innovations that focus on future market opportunities also benefit from early customer feedback as much as a good proof of concept. For example, if a net-new technology requires a dedicated engineering team, it’s easier to justify doing so if existing customers are willing to go on record with their interest.For this reason, emerging technology teams should expect to spend more time working with sales engineering and other field roles to ensure that the overall design and direction of their future-focused technical project is aligned with future market opportunities.

In general, the technology transfer associated with a project that has future market focus is going to take at least two to three times the time, effort, and coordination associated with an emerging technology with a current market focus.Much of this additional effort is related to the additional partnerships that will need to be formed to justify the technology’s development for the future market.

There is also another, more timely reason why defining partnership at this stage is so important. Before the current global economic climate drove hiring pauses throughout the tech industry, many emerging technology teams and their partners supported technology transfers with additional engineering and quality engineering resources that were tasked with taking on the new technology. With this in mind, emerging tech teams should focus on finding innovation champions and interested parties already within their own global engineering team—even those involved in the earliest stages of a project’s experimental work—to help drive the project toward successful outcomes.

Returning to an innovation-first mindset

This may be surprising for some to hear, but the sooner we can recover emerging tech team members from projects, the better. This sentiment—that emerging technology engineers should return to experimental mode as quickly as possible—is really about sustaining the business model for emerging technologies. While a partner team should never feel ghosted by their emerging tech comrades—left with nothing but access to GitHub repositories and the memory of what was once a fruitful partnership—it’s vital that these engineers, who are trained as experimenters and rapid iterators, return to an innovation-first mindset as soon as they can. The value proposition for emerging technologies teams is that when our experiments fail, the costs are 


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