Identify the Right Opportunities with Front End Innovation

Curious about how to kickstart your innovation process? Learn how front end innovation identifies the right opportunities for you to pursue and how to find the startups and technologies that advance them.

The innovation process from ideation to launching new products can be split into three major steps. Front-end innovation or phase zero is the first step in the innovation process and focuses on identifying opportunities. It is in this step that companies identify emerging technologies that they carry forward to new product development (NPD) and commercialization. As the first step in making decisions about where research and development (R&D) resources are to be utilized, front end innovation is extremely critical to the long-term success of any organization.

Traditionally, companies use a push approach to NPD. They would create new products and then push them to the customers through appropriate marketing channels. However, increasing competition and resource constraints make this approach unviable. Front end innovation allows companies to take a pull approach by integrating customer feedback and industry research into product development.

Steps in Front End Innovation

Preliminary Analysis

In a hypercompetitive market, a company needs to be always innovating. Despite their large research budgets, there is only a limited number of research directions companies can explore. The startup ecosystem, on the other hand, is buzzing with innovations. Open innovation allows companies to identify and work with promising startups working on emerging technologies. The challenge here is an excess of choice.

Technology landscaping allows companies to scan the entire landscape of emerging technologies in their industry. Moreover, companies often use open innovation for idea generation as well. Companies don’t always know which ideas to prioritize — it is called the fuzzy front end of innovation for a reason. A high-level analysis of the technology or industry landscape provides insights into which ideas are worth pursuing.

Customer Discovery & Assessment

Increasingly, companies are realizing that customers are an integral part of the innovation process. At the fuzzy front end, customer discovery & assessment is crucial to assess the impact of innovation on business outcomes. Earlier, the only question that needed answering was if there are any customers at all for what the company plans to create. Now, data-driven approaches offer deeper insights into the sentiments and behavior of customers.

Will your existing customers like your new product? Is there an opportunity to enter new customer segments? Can a new technology create entirely new markets for your businesses? Customer analytics is vital to making decisions on which innovations to incorporate into product development. By enabling companies to enhance the value proposition for the customers, it increases the competitive advantage.

Technology Discovery & Development

Even when companies know what innovations they need, it is not always possible to build them in-house. They may not have the capabilities, resources, or time for another research project. With open innovation, companies seek innovations externally, most commonly in the form of startups. However, the data on startups and technologies are often disparate and internal innovation teams may not be equipped to scout them.

This is where data-driven startup scouting and technology scouting come in. The former identifies startups and scaleups that can support an organization’s innovation goals. When companies identify such startups, they analyze their potential to decide whether to work with them, acquire them, or onboard them as vendors. With technology scouting, the focus is on identifying technologies, albeit again being developed by startups or scaleups, that the companies can incorporate into their processes.

Should you Move to Product Development?

The quality of the front end innovation process has a significant impact on the success of what comes after — product development. Not all promising ideas make it to this stage. As an innovation manager, you need to answer the following questions before a project moves to the development stage.

  • What are the exact specifications of what you need to build? Even before product development, having a good answer to this allows you to identify the most relevant startups to work with.
  • Why do you need to develop a particular project? Is it to create a new market, offer a cost-competitive alternative, or launch a disruptive new product?
  • Who do you work with? In an open innovation setting, this specifies which startups you work with and which internal teams support them, if at all.
  • When do you expect to launch the product? Timing is important. You do not want to spend years developing a new product only to find it outdated at launch.
  • How will you (or your startup partners) build it? Will new materials require new supply chains? Do you have the required infrastructure for it?

Identify Opportunities with Front End Innovation

Leveraging innovation intelligence allows you to find startups and technologies that meet your innovation goals. Depending on your innovation goals, we offer a range of services enabled by the StartUs Insights Discovery Platform covering over 2,5 million startups & scaleups globally. Some of our services that help you achieve your open innovation goals include:

  • Trend Landscaping: Identify emerging technology trends and developments that will impact your industry
  • Technology Scouting: Reveal emerging technologies that match your innovation goals
  • Startup Scouting: Discover over 2,5 million startups & scaleups globally, scouting the right partners & saving you weeks of desk research
Front-end-innovation-StartUs-Insights-noresize

Open innovation allows you to identify promising startups that match your innovation goals.

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