Philips uses Focus' “Goldmine of insights” to improve investment decision making
Philips has been a world leading innovator in the medical space since 1924 and is always trying to bring cutting edge technologies to the market.
How to make sure that you do not invest in a disruptive medical technology too early, or too late, but exactly at the right time
The insights provided by Focus led to a well-informed decision on when, and how much, to invest. Philips also got a clear overview of their competitive position.
Since Philips is always on the lookout for the next big thing, it works with top researchers, institutions, and partners, to discover & develop new ideas globally. Consequently, a steady stream of new technologies flows into Philips every year.
It is up to Philips’ management and R&D leaders to sort the wheat from the chaff in order to develop the right technologies at the right time. Generally, it is quite clear whether a new technology has potential or not. The hard part is to figure out how quickly the technology will be able to improve so that it may realize its potential.
Ramping up investment into a promising technology at the right time requires an accurate prediction of how the technology will develop. Gathering information about the current performance and costs of a technology is relatively straight forward but predicting how this will develop in the future is a different story altogether. For such predictions, Philips relied on expert opinion. Technologies tend to improve exponentially, but unfortunately, people have a terrible intuition for exponential change. This makes it extremely difficult for experts to make reliable predictions, which in turn makes it hard for Philips’ management to ramp up investment into promising technologies at the right time.
Because of the sensitive nature of the information, we cannot disclose which technology was the subject matter of this case, other than mentioning that it was a disruptive medical technology.
"We have known this technology is promising for years, but deciding when to ramp up investment is a really big challenge."
- Daan van Manen, General manager DXR
The challenge: Investing at the right moment
As the technology in question matured, a big decision came up. Does Philips invest millions in prototypes today, is it too early to do so, or should it have happened yesterday given how fast the technology is improving?
To answer this question, Philips needed an accurate overview of the technology’s developmental history and a forecast of how the performance and costs of the technology would develop in the future.
The solution: using Focus’ technology forecasts
During the first half of 2022, Philips partnered with Focus to create an accurate historical overview and forecast for the disruptive medical technology in question. The first step in the process, was to identify every single invention that related to the technology. To do this, Focus trained an AI classifier that was taught how to identify relevant inventions.
After training, the AI classifier was let loose on >146 million patents to identify relevant inventions. With completion of this step, we had a dataset that contained every single relevant invention. With this data, Focus could analyze the technology’s developmental history and create a forecast. It is important to mention that we are not talking about patent trends, but about the speed with which the technology has been and will be improving in the real world. Focus’ methodology has been verified together with MIT and two peer reviewed papers have been written on the topic (Paper 1 and 2 ).
To get a good overview of a technology’s developmental history, Focus measures two things: Cycle time, and Knowledge flow. Cycle time looks at how many years it takes for a technology to create a new generation of itself. Technologies with shorter cycle times iterate faster, and thus improve quicker. Knowledge flow measures how freely knowledge flows within the domain. Actors in domains with high knowledge flow tend to be more aware of relevant inventions made by others. When actors are aware of each other’s progress, they can use that information to improve their own technologies. Thus, technologies with high knowledge flow tend to improve faster as well. The higher the knowledge flow and the shorter the cycle time, the faster a technology improves. Together, the cycle time and knowledge flow measurements allow Focus to estimate the overall improvement speed for any technology.
The above mentioned measurements are automatically made in Focus’ interface and a set of charts showing all metrics are always provided.
Next, we made a forecast for Philips by extrapolating from the current technological performance with the estimated improvement speed, so that Philips could get insight into how it needed to time its investment.
Philips got an overview of the entire developmental history of the technology in question, and a forecast of when the technology would be able to perform at a level that would make it a competitive market participant. Philips also got an overview of all competitors that are active in the same technology domain, including their portfolio sizes, trends, geographical focus, and portfolio quality.
With Focus’ insights, Philips was able to take a well-informed investment decision.
"Focus provided clear, actionable insights that we could use to inform our decision making."
- Daan van Manen, General manager DXR
Technology forecasts made with Focus are cost efficient and fast to make. Similar analyses performed by analysts or external consultants typically take months, often produce inconclusive results, and are orders of magnitude more expensive than Focus. Focus’ methodology is quick, accurate, and proven to work on >32 technology domains in outstanding peer-reviewed research.
- Philips was able to get an overview of the developmental history of the technology and got an accurate technology forecast
- Philips got access to insights that are not available anywhere else and only paid a fraction of what it would have cost internal analysts or external consultants to generate generic reports
- The insights created by Focus were used by Philips to take well-informed investment decisions.