The real promise of new enabling technology
New technology from 3rd parties can be an invaluable asset in your product if it can be licensed, developed and productized. In many instances the shiny new technology capability can be difficult to actually design in.
This EEtimes article, about robotic 3D vision, is an example of new enabling technology that will have far reaching impact on robot makers; particularly outside of factory applications. Those robotic industry players without an equivalent 3D vision technology capability, have to find a path; to buy access to this sort of a highly promising technology improvement.
For instance, one could now forsee robots that can navigate complicated terrain; descending into an underground cave system and finding their way to an injured spelunker.
Further, if robots can couple advanced 3D vision with humanoid type dexterity then that would be ideal for an advance landing party on Mars; to prepare a mission landing site and structures for arrival of human crews.
The challenge of external technology acquisition, licensing and development
The possibilities of such new technology are endless and many companies want to acquire, license and design in appropriate 3rd party technology; to amplify the capabilities of their products. But there is a hard part to this even if you are an executive or engineering head who is not NIH (not invented here) afflicted.
Consider the following questions
- How will you select the right strategic partner?
- What type of licensing agreement is best suited for your needs?
- How will the quality of such technology be evaluated by your team?
- Is a combined license and joint development contract structure appropriate?
- For a joint co-development engineering effort what is the right engagement framework between the two teams?
Each of the above encompasses a minefield of gotchas and disasters in the making if one starts off on the wrong foot. Impact can range from time to market delays to unmitigated product failures.
Scenarios that could play out or may sound familiar
- “We picked the wrong partner! After 3 months of contract negotiations and 6 months of trying to make the collaboration work the plug had to be pulled, because the teams could not co-execute. We missed time to market for our product by a mile and had to cancel it just prior to production”
- “The quality of the vendor’s IP was so poor that we had to invest senior level engineers to help them fix problems; we were a year late to prototype”
- “Spent a year in a joint collaboration effort that should have taken 4 months. Sure, the contract was nailed down well and we thought we had it covered”. However the partner performance management structure, metrics and check mechanisms had not been defined. Lack of a predictable schedule and cost made the “OEM end customer extremely unhappy jeopardizing follow on work”
Foresight and planning can mitigate delays and costs
Careful consideration of third party technology acquisition, licensing and development challenges at the outset is highly recommended. And outside expertise can provide advice to reduce the risk of downstream pitfalls in external technology assimilation; avoiding stress for the organization, reducing time to market and saving money.