Technology Scouting

We are living in a world where everything comes instantly, need some information, Google it, need to talk to a friend, WhatsApp them, need to buy some groceries, go online and get them delivered straight to your door. Everything is getting faster and this is the same for technology in business. You need a plan and technology scouting is the way to do it.

What is Technology Scouting?

So what is technology scouting may you ask? Technology scouting is the identification of new technologies that can be used to further the development of a business or to give a business a new competitive advantage. But do I need it in my business? To ensure that your business keeps up with the rapidly changing digital environment, technology scouting activities need to be used in some way. If this does not happen then your company will not grow, evolution is necessary to survive, it is the same in nature as it is in business, you do not evolve you will become extinct.

How does Technology Scouting work?

How does it work? Traditionally technology scouting first comes from an idea that has been created from prior knowledge and intellectual thoughts. This leads to the invention of a tangible product or process. Technology scouting then comes into play when innovation is needed to further improve the product/process. The common practice in technology scouting is to focus on the identification of inventions that remain unutilised. It then tries to turn such inventions into innovations by trading the invention to an outside business. Hence traditionally technology scouting aims to produce revenue by selling inventions to outside businesses (Sassmannshausen 2011).

Which methods can be chosen?

How do I know which methods to choose? There are many different methods of technology scouting. It is important that you chose the right method or combination of methods to fit your business requirements. To help in this decision R. Rohrbeck has divided the technology scouting methods into two areas, the market side and the technology side. The methods are also organised in a matrix to demonstrate what context each method should be used in, this is depicted in the following diagrams.

Technology Scouting: Bild 1Technology Scouting: Bild 2

Advantages of Technology Scouting

The advantages of technology scouting are clear to see. When done correctly it will give your company a competitive advantage and keep you evolving into the future. Continuous monitoring and innovation in new technologies will ensure that you are first to market and in the ever changing digital climate being first makes a huge difference. This all seems well and good, however there are some limitations to technology scouting. In the context of the corporate world Rohrbeck has identified three main limitation of the two most common methods of technology scouting (automated data mining and expert interviews), these are as follows:

  1. They do not involve the internal stakeholders (e.g. product managers or R&D managers) and thus produce results with little internal acceptance
  2. There is a time lag between the initial technological development and its direction by the technology scouting method. In a database search a lag of at least 12 to 18 months should be expected as a result of publication and patenting processes
  3. There is no link established to the source of the technological information. For technology scouting strategic relevance, further interaction with the information is needed. For promising technologies to emerge companies need to be able to have direct contact with the technology developer and its initial source


There are a vast many of different technology scouting methods. Many of which can be used in the field of social media. It is essential that the choice of which methods to use are done carefully. If this fails to happen then the results will be unreliable and money and time would have been spent on wasted resources. Social media is one of the fastest growing technologies today and research needs to be done on what direction it is heading in the future.


Rohrbeck, R. (2010). Harnessing a network of experts for competitive advantage: technology scouting in the ICT industry. R&d Management40(2), 169-180.

Rohrbeck, R. (2014). Trend Scanning, Scouting and Foresight Techniques. In Management of the Fuzzy Front End of Innovation (pp. 59-73). Springer International Publishing

Sassmannshausen, S. P. O. (2011). Entrepreneurial technology scouting: fostering academic entrepreneurship beyond the obvious. In Proceedings (Vol. 1).

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