Exploring Adjacency in Innovation & Technology Scouting

Looking Beyond your Industry

Scott Simpson Cohen, co-founder of Innovation Leader recently wrote about challenges in scouting for technology and emerging trends, based on his organization’s new research, “Best Practices: Scouting Trends & Emerging Tech.” One of the issues Cohen cites is “identifying the right areas to scout” and that “what’s holding large corporations back … is that they don’t know where to look – many only hunt near their headquarters, or at their annual trade show.”

This is certainly true, and it is why technology scouts and organizations must embrace the concept of adjacency in their scouting efforts. That means looking not just beyond your region, but to other continents, and not only at your industry’s annual tradeshow, but also at other industries’ tradeshows and emerging technologies conferences.

Adjacency in the Automotive Industry

For example, look at the automotive industry. If U.S. automakers didn’t explore adjacent regions and industries, they’d be limiting themselves to sourcing technology and innovation to (mostly) companies in and around Detroit and those in the automotive supply chain. Instead, today, we’re as likely to see innovative technology and prototypes coming out of CES as we are the North American International Auto Show (commonly called the Detroit Auto Show).

Between CES and the Detroit Auto Show, we’re seeing innovations that years ago were far beyond the scope of the purpose of a car: to allow someone to drive themselves from one location to another. We’re now seeing biometrics in cars as an added security measure, integrations with Alexa and other smart systems, and, with autonomous cars on the horizon, some automotive companies have announced infotainment systems and are looking at becoming content providers. Yes, there are advancements in sensors and safety, but being able to stream content while you are (not) driving or riding would not have been considered fundamental to car technology a decade ago.

Robotics, Drones and Wearables

And while Forbes informs us that there were “more than 400 meetings already confirmed among technology startups, financiers, automakers and suppliers” before the Detroit Auto Show even started this year, it’s safe to assume that there are automotive industry technology scouts at shows and conferences for robotics, drones, wearables and more.

In fact, just this week, CNET reported that Jaguar Land Rover is experiencing significant adoption of its Activity Key, a wearable RFID device that lets drivers leave their expensive key fobs in their cars and SUVs, and instead wear this shockproof and waterproof device that enables them to unlock their automobile. It’s on-brand, on-message, and solves a customer need. But who would have thought that a wearable device made sense for an automotive company? It’s an excellent example of adopting adjacent technology to solve customer problems.

There’s more to learn about adjacency by taking an even bigger step back and examining the history of the automotive industry. Henry Ford invented the production line, which, history shows, was successfully co-opted by every industry. Where would we be if production manufacturing remained the domain of the automotive industry?

 Adjacency is a key component of all our technology scouting initiatives. For example, one yet2 client, a power company, engaged us to help find a solution to prevent trees from downing power lines. Our technology search included looking at drones, technologies and advances in agriculture, trends in automated farming, and researchers working in the space at universities worldwide, not just at the “local” universities.

In today’s world of disruption, the savvy tech scout might want to consider adjacency to be the antidote to complacency: if you search only within a confined space, you are limiting what you find. If you broaden the regions, the industries, and the parameters for your searches, you open up more possibilities.


Read yet2 case studies related to adjacency:

Agriculture technology scouting: Naturipe sought proposals for the development of an industrial prototype of an automated blueberry harvester for berries to be sold as fresh fruit.

Retail marketing technology scouting: a yet2 client needed commercial technologies for consumer in-store activation that would interactively showcase products for sale.

Personal care technology scouting: a global company was seeking a way to strengthen hair permanently using safer chemicals.