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Transferring Innovation to Global Markets

By: Michael Doyle
Posted: April 6, 2010, from the April 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

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There’s no need to re-create the wheel with expensive experiments or tests that have already been done for other product launches, for example, as long as the knowledge gained through previous work is applicable to the new market strategy. To take advantage of these existing “information assets,” however, regional development sites need an easy way to both access and use R&D data, regardless of where it originated, or how it is formatted or stored.

Build a Shared Knowledge Base

Most cosmetic development does not start from scratch. Development teams begin with a product “chassis”—a basic shampoo or skin cream formulation, for example—and then add in unique attributes such as antiaging or pH balance, or herbal or natural ingredients that might appeal to consumers. For regional development sites, the chassis provides a head start for gaining a foothold in the target market and then can be extended with locally sourced additives. This approach enables organizations to save time and money since they only need to focus on locally relevant R&D.

To build on existing product innovation, however, developers need to be able to access, integrate and leverage all the research knowledge that has already been generated by the wider organization. But this can be a formidable undertaking, considering the massive amounts of data typically involved.

A typical product development project may span many scientific disciplines and include information related to thousands of possible formulation ingredients, numerous high throughput experimental results and pages of supplier details. This information is also often spread across a diverse array of formats and proprietary systems, such as text documents saved in an electronic lab notebook or images generated by a microscope.

Disciplinary silos create further complications, locking information within a particular department or research group. (Biology experiments may be conducted independently of chemistry experiments or toxicology testing, for example.) As a result, development sites may spend countless hours tracking down what they need, or they may simply miss critical knowledge entirely, burning resources on redundant experiments. But new advances in service-oriented architecture and collaborative technologies are changing this. A web services-based IT foundation for scientific information management can support the integration of multiple sources of R&D information in a “plug and play” environment, unlocking and integrating data previously marooned within disciplinary, system, application and format silos. Through this shared knowledge base, organizations can empower their regional sites with the information they need to get up and running in new markets both quickly and cost-effectively.