NC State: Matching academic research to business opportunity
A challenge facing many large research institutions is how to identify technologies derived from that research into potential business opportunities. How can the data from numerous web-based sources (grant databases, engineering project databases, departmental/college level information sources) be combined in a meaningful way--and how can web data be reviewed with an eye towards potential partnerships and relationships with interested third parties? Further, could data be exposed so that the organization tasked with identifying these opportunities (in this case, North Carolina State University's (NC State's) Office of Technology Transfer) can be proactive in matching the research with the commercial opportunities these technologies provide?
Myriad challenges present themselves when considering a solution for this need: can the data be parsed in a timely manner? Will the information be decipherable and helpful to the technology transfer specialist? How can the system be automated to reduce workload on the technology transfer team? Can the solution aid in identifying opportunities which may not have been obvious, or were subtle in nature?
Enter Text Analytics
The IBM jStart team worked with NC State's Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) and the university's Center for Innovation Management Studies (CIMS) in NC State's Poole College of Management teams to create a solution which would mine large amounts of unstructured web data using advanced data and text analytics offerings from IBM. Working hand-in-hand with the staff members from the NCState OTT and CIMS, jStart was able to produce analytics results that identified potential companies that could be interested in licensing technologies created at NCState. "Capture and evaluation of web data remains a formidable challenge when considering both internal and external resources especially if there is a large amount of unstructured data to sort through. The jStart team proved that unstructured web data analysis solutions can achieve better data driven decision making. In addition, the data analysis solution provided from the jStart team helped us realize that it is possible to access previously untapped data sources such as web sites to extract valuable information," remarked Mike Kowolenko, CIMS Industrial Fellow and former Senior VP, Wyeth.
By leveraging three specific technologies, LanguageWare™ (part of IBM's Information Management portfolio), BigSheets (an IBM Emerging Technology offering) and IBM's Cognos Content Analytics, a system was created which could aid the Office of Technology Transfer and Center for Innovation Management Studies to accomplish some key objectives:
- Gather, parse, and store large amounts of web data from a variety of sources
- Conduct data analysis to find correlations that would be meaningful for the tech transfer staff
- Leverage text analytics to discover relationships between technologies/researchers and solutions needed/partners
- Give the tech transfer staff a tool which they could easily perform tasks which, here-to-fore were too time consuming
- Present the Office of Technology Transfer opportunities that it may not have discovered previously due to subtle/hidden relationships
The NCState OTT and CIMS provided the jStart team with a list of primary keywords related to two specific NCState owned technologies. The keyword hits were further refined based upon other secondary keywords or phrases that were contained within either the same sentence or paragraph to find strong or weak hits. Data sources accessible via the web were crawled such as blogs, forums, corporate and governmental web sites. The analysis results and data visualization output were able to help the NCState team identify companies which might be interested in licensing the NCState innovations as well as identify appropriate contact people inside those companies.
These technologies deployed were able to capture, synthesize, and perform a number of "noise reduction" techniques in order to raise the relevancy of the results for the client. In addition, since the technologies were able to parse structured as well as unstructured web data, data sources previously difficult if not impossible to access were made part of a unified algorithm.
Business Value Created
The solution developed for the NC State Office of Technology Transfer enabled the group to identify, execute, and follow?up on opportunities that were previously difficult to perform??not to mention discover. It allowed the team to concentrate on negotiating intellectual property licenses while simultaneously enhancing their ability to identify potential opportunities for both the university, and for their commercial partners. "This technology has given us abilities we simply haven't had before," noted CIMS Director, Paul Mugge. "BigSheets, LanguageWare, and IBM Cognos Content Analytics allowed our team to understand the potential opportunities, while at the same time reducing the tedious workload...allowing us to concentrate on those activities of highest value and payback for the university."