Investments in technological and engineering projects
Since the times of the nineteenth century inventor Kulibin innovatory approaches to solutions to engineering and complicated technological problems have been invented in Russia. Even TRIS (the theory of solutions to inventive problems) that is part of compulsory programmes of the world's top technological universities was produced by the Russian (then Soviet) scientist Genrikh Altshuller.
However, according to the World Intellectual Property Indicators rating for 2018 Russia only comes seventh in the number of patents, considerably losing to China (36 800 Russian applications as compared to 1.38m Chinese ones), as well as to the USA, Japan and other countries. Moreover, the number of patent applications in Russia went down in 2017 and reached the level of 2006, and their introduction to the market and commercial use are even further behind the developed countries.
Why can't Russia become the leading country in introducing innovation and developing technological startups? The problem is in the difference between invention and market application of the invented technology.
The first thing taught in the course of innovation management is that invention is no product. The product is determined by a customer demand and by what a customer is prepared to pay for, since this is an easier, faster and more effective – or cheaper – solution to a specific problem than tools and technologies that a customer already has. The focus is on "easier, faster and more effective or cheaper", meaning that for a user the point is not in a technology, but in a solution to the problem.
In Russia it often happens that inventions are generated by scientific research institutes that have never fitted into the new market reality and continue to produce solutions that do not have market prospects. This damages further application and commercial use of inventions.
More promising than scientific research institutes are internal R@D departments of enterprises that introduce innovations for solving their own production or organizational problems. However, even they often cannot extend the developed solutions to the market and define them as separate business trends as opposed to companies in the USA, China and other developed countries.
This considerably hinders the development of innovation at all levels – without considering consumer interests, inventions are not financed by investors who do not see their commercial attractiveness, while the initiators of the project are incapable of presenting and promoting it properly.
Marketing of technologies
When choosing a marketing or a consulting agency for the analysis, "packaging" and marketing of a technological project, pay attention to the following:
Has the agency worked with technologies of the same profile? If they do not have any relevant experience, the result may turn out to be unsatisfactory. When you analyze this point, consider not only their working experience in adjacent fields and technologies. Even though there could not be any direct applications of the developed technology, the agency should be aware of solutions to similar tasks by consumers.
Whether the agency has the experience of bringing technological projects to the marketing stage, in other words to sales.
If they do not have such experience, dealing with this agency will be reduced to theory and business plans, well presented, but practically useless.
Whether they have their own contacts in the relevant field and access to scientists and production engineers in the field relevant to the project. Even though it is understood that the company-initiator has its own database of experts, the agency should bring a new vision and to expand the feedback from experts, market players and consumers. Only such testing of hypotheses will protect the project and the investors from seeing everything through rose-coloured spectacles.
It is not uncommon when competent processing of the feedback at early stages of the project helps choose the most effective application of the developed technology and the appropriate business model.
An agency specializing on marketing technologies can help a start-up to attract investment from early investors, choose and then occupy a needed niche in the existing market eco-system. Read in our further publications about various types of investors in technological start-ups, methods of attracting investment and effective cooperation with professional marketing agencies.
The marketing of new technologies calls for an approach different from the marketing of products already existing on the market.
The first problem facing a market manager of such a project is the seeming absence of obvious direct competitors. Every product always has competitors, since consumers are solving their problems right now. This mistake often causes startups failures due to groundless too high expectations of future results. Even if the applied solutions are ineffective, customers have got used to them, and changing one's habits is usually undesirable, since it involves leaving "the comfort zone".
In the corporate sector, changing the business processes is not only complicated, but also expensive, since introduction of new technology calls for restructuring the existing production systems.
It turns out consequently that a universal market specialist cannot analyze the market properly and find comparative solutions to the technology that is being developed, in order to understand the competitive advantages of the project and focus on them in the marketing process.
Another problem is the choice of an effective business model. A mistake at the stage of developing a demanded product and the wrong choice of the model of engaging with a customer dooms the project to failure even before it started, and can result in losses for investors.
These problems can be solved by combining the work of a market manager specializing on technological projects and experts in a concrete field who possess the unique inside information about a particular market segment.
If such a team works with an experienced innovation manager, they can arrange the correct succession of activities for launching the project:
To develop and test market hypotheses,
To understand the existing competitive advantages or to create new ones for products that are being developed,
To choose the right business model,
To "package" the product for investors and to attract the capital needed for product development and production.
However, another difficulty is that marketing or consulting companies with such professional teams are not many, which makes it difficult to choose the right contractor.
Choosing a marketing or a consulting agency
Maria is a serial entrepreneur with 15 years of experience in launching, scaling and selling various businesses.