How to realize a state-of-the-art ? How can Open Innovation help ? Some simple answers below.
State-of-the-art : definition
A state of the art is the identification of previous knowledge to avoid reinventing. Making a state-of-the-art makes it possible to verify or justify that one produces new knowledge, for a thesis of doctorate or the filing of a patent, for example. The state-of-the-art often also includes the identification of actors – academic or industrial – who are at the origin of knowledge : the “ecosystem”. Better, this ecosystem can be questioned to complete and strengthen the state-of-the-art. This is where Open Innovation comes in. Especially since the algorithms of data mining and classification of Open Innovation platforms allow an acceleration of the research tasks for publications and actors which are often tedious. Let’s have a deeper look to a state-of-the-art example.
State-of-the-art example: dead leaves
For this state-of-the-art example, let’s take a real case treated by an industrial company we know: the problem of fallen leaves on train tracks in autumn. The dead leaves cause a loss of adhesion between the rails and the wheels of the trains, in particular because of the transformation of the leaves at the passage of the trains. The transformed material causes a loss of adhesion between the wheel and the rail which requires lengthening braking distances, and hence disrupts the timing of the trains.
Start with scientific publications
The state-of-the-art will consist of multiple queries using a search engine. We recommend starting with an investigation of scientific publications (which are often richer and more explicit than patent sources). In our example, this exploration begins with a combination of keywords such as “wheel”, “rail”, “leaves”,”adhesion”, which will return publications on these topics.The interesting publications are saved.
Identify keywords & draw a mindmap
The first results of these queries will also make it possible to identify other keywords which are useful to deepen the subject : “friction”, “adhesion enhancer”, “adhesion coefficient”, and will gradually make emerge research themes that we will have to structure (we recommend using a mindmap) : ways to restore adhesion, study of the “black layer” that forms when the wheels crush the fallen leaves, cleaning techniques of leaf layers (by laser heating, by projection of substances, by air jet, etc.) As queries progress, the knowledge deepens, is structured, new publications are saved and added to the right place in the mindmap.
Find Interesting patents
In a second step, the most interesting queries are exploited with patent data sources. In addition to identifying interesting patents in the field, they help better understand the ecosystem. In our case, a very rich university ecosystem (and, to a lesser extent, industrial) has appeared in Europe (Great Britain, Germany, Ukraine, Netherlands, Italy, …), in Asia (China, South Korea, Japan) and in North America (United States, Canada).
Contacting experts: a specific approach to Open Innovation
Finally, to complete the state-of-the-art, the industrial company decided to contact a number of university groups. This step, which is optional, is also specific to an Open Innovation approach. It has the advantage of giving the possibility to talk to specialists in the field who can update the state-of-the-art with the latest and even unpublished research data. Even through a conversation lasting less than an hour, it is possible to identify the important points or to project oneself in the future, which a purely bibliographic search allows only in a very limited way. It’s like going to an annual conference and interviewing the world’s most famous experts !
Contacting experts: asking the right questions
A final remark. In any case, before contacting an expert to refine a state-of-the-art, one must ask himself “why would he/she spend time on my subject ?”. In our case on dead leaves, a large corporation was at the origin of the question and many experts are interested in a dialogue that can lead to collaboration. But other options are possible : a simple exchange of information, the possibility of setting up a joint project, remuneration, etc.
A fair / balanced relationship is one of the keys to succeed in Open Innovation projects.
To know more about using ideXlab platform to establish a state of the art, register to one of our platform demonstration.