Why it’s difficult, here in Australia, to translate research findings into commercial products and services?
Risk aversion has to be part of the answer to that question. Research can be uncertain in its output and commercialising innovation is risky. There has to be firm ground somewhere to offset that—and a culture that supports people with an appetite for the risk involved.
It seems clear that more needs to be done to reduce uncertainty, and I’d love to see that, but it also seems clear that this is an activity that will always have a lot of it going on.
One of the ways to mitigate that is to build networks and communities of trust and interest that will stick with you despite the hazards and uncertainty of the environment. They can also be a source of ideas, connections or funds if things get sticky.
I think the current culture of communication, social interaction and engagement makes it easier to build those networks and communities. Not saying it’s a snap but here are a few points for anyone in R&D and innovation:
- There is an appetite for great ‘content’ and a shortage of it too. You have great content and there are now so many ways to turn that into really interesting and compelling communications: web, print, audio-visual, live events.
- Once you have created that content you can publish, share and distribute, at will, over several channels: websites, social media, the many online and print magazines serving particular audiences, good old face-to-face. You don’t need big media gate-keepers or message-manglers.
- You have time, over the course of R&D and preparation for commercialisation, to build a narrative and get people familiar with ideas that might be difficult to explain or get across in marketing communications.
- You also have time to build a large and committed bunch of followers, which will put you on a great footing by the time you shift to marketing mode.
- It’s easier to tune in to feedback—not feedback to change your goals but perhaps to change the way you communicate what you are doing or the way you involve people.
- There is a strong and widespread desire for new ideas, change and better ways, coupled with a willingness to be part of engagement and consultation, which could be directed to getting a better product as well as community acceptance.
I admire people who are busting their guts to turn R&D into practical solutions to real problems. And I can see that the challenges are large and leave little time and money to do what is often thought of as nice-to-have. So it probably looks like just another decision about resources, and one of the less tricky ones too.
But if communication and engagement are how you build communities of trust and interest and those communities can help get you through the risk and uncertainty associated with R&D and innovation, then it might, in fact, be pretty smart to do it.