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Surveillance, intelligence, disruption and innovation 

Technological surveillance as a strategic tool for promoting R+D+i.

Javier Alberto Urgilés Ortiz – Specialist in Knowledge Management and Technology Transfer, CEDIA. 

Technological surveillance (TV) should be an activity undertaken by all organizations that create science and technology; and, certainly, in our country, a large part of higher education institutions, as well as the business sector, are unaware of its importance. It is common to hear the terms "technological surveillance", "competitive intelligence", "competitive advantage", "technological disruption", among others. However, what is hidden behind them? What advances has the Ecuadorian R+D+i ecosystem had and how can I apply them in my day to day?   

“Technology surveillance” consists of frequent and systematic observation and analysis of the scientific and technological environment to identify threats and development opportunities. While "competitive intelligence" converts the information captured into inputs for decision-making in the organization. In this analysis of the technological environment, patents stand out as a valuable source of information. They provide detailed state-of-the-art information on technical solutions for different technologies that are not available elsewhere, and are the most prolific and up-to-date resource on applied technology 1 . Through this mapping, the monitoring of available cutting-edge technologies is addressed, some of them capable of generating new products or disruptive processes; Despite this, patents remain an unknown but valuable source of knowledge.

In this way, surveillance and intelligence stand out as strategic tools for the exploration of technologies based on patent analysis, these being keys for research, development and innovation (R+D+i). 

From 0 to 1: Deploying an emerging concept in the Ecuadorian environment  

Those who share a passion for innovation and the conviction that technological solutions are a key component to improve in Ecuador know that achieving it is not easy. Therefore, introducing TV to promote R&D+i in the Ecuadorian ecosystem requires a great effort. CEDIA, through its Innovation and Technology Transfer (ITT) team, has led this journey. Since 2019, its efforts have focused on two initial components: 1. The promotion of VT culture and 2. The transversal application of VT in research and innovation projects.  

Thus, CEDIA's first step has been to materialize an interactive digital space with new knowledge for R+D+i. This is how CONNECT was born, “the first magazine on surveillance and technology transfer in Ecuador”. Its differential component corresponds to the development of technological bulletins that promulgate analyzes on Smart Specialization Areas (AEI) relevant to the national context and present key enabling technologies (KETs) as a basis and input for the development of the research itself.   

The core of "CEDIA's technological surveillance" is not the patents themselves, it goes further. CEDIA has turned VT into a fundamental tool for the consolidation of new innovation scenarios based on national experiences. Currently, VT relies on open educational resources developed by CEDIA (REDI, RRAE), the linking of academic experts in the AEI as technical advisors, as well as the generation of initiatives in conjunction with the "Knowledge Management Expert Network".  

On the other hand, CEDIA has focused on directly supporting researchers. It has launched, for about two years, a program to support projects in the execution phase. Its initial objective was to overcome the "unaccustomed" of new users to the sources of information used in technological surveillance. In this, CEDIA specialists align VT to the needs of multidisciplinary projects to explore technological solutions that have been developed around the world, feed the theoretical background of said projects and, of course, promote R+D+i with the aim of not only "not to repeat" what has already been done, but to promote the development of new solutions in different technological fields.  

These first steps demonstrate the momentum of our collaborative services and encourage support for efforts to promote this new knowledge management among R&D&i practices. It is important to highlight the importance of joint work and the network-financed project model at CEDIA. After almost three years of operation, "VT by CEDIA" has already established itself as a benchmark for the Ecuadorian R+D+i ecosystem. In this way, CEDIA democratizes TV to its members and anyone interested in exploring "technical solutions" for research and innovation.   

From 1 to n power: Transforming surveillance into intelligence and innovation  

There are great challenges to overcome. The adoption of technological surveillance is not an isolated activity, its success within an organization is linked to several factors. First of all, it is necessary to understand the complexities that higher education institutions (HEIs) present for the implementation of these systems, as well as to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses to promulgate innovation and address the transfer of knowledge and technology.    

We have started the path, the collection of local information is essential for an analysis with greater territorial relevance; For this reason, a next step will be the incorporation of technological mapping and the promotion of the technological offer. This initiative also hopes to strengthen the university-State-industry synergy.   

There are potential and unexplored technological fields that are waiting for curious people to study them and design solutions (technological and social). The commitment is to work in collaboration with more players in the ecosystem, setting the guidelines to incorporate TV in R+D+i processes, evaluating the next disruptive initiatives aligned with sustainability and an entrepreneurial mentality.   

Undoubtedly, technological surveillance is a key piece in the innovative culture of organizations. Transforming surveillance systems into intelligence systems, core areas, which make it possible to create new opportunities based on science and contribute to the improvement of research and innovation indicators is one of the following challenges. Promoting a competitive development approach, based on technological surveillance, with collaboration and networking in the scientific ecosystem, will allow Ecuador to become a high-impact research and innovation pole in Latin America.

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