Accelerating R&D

Collaboration is key to R&D and innovation, but large organizations can struggle to effectively access internal knowledge and experts. A digital platform, developed by our Innovation Center, can help!

Collaboration is key

The rise of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, cloud-based software, automation and robotics is already transforming how research is undertaken, making scientific work easier and faster. But this digital transformation also offers opportunities to speed up progress by helping scientists share knowledge and forge new collaborations.

Collaboration is key for driving success in R&D. And this is particularly true for innovation projects, which are usually complex, disruptive, fast-moving – and involve combining several technologies.

But the R&D landscape within large global organizations is often very complex and dispersed over many sites, countries, and sectors – creating barriers to effective collaboration.

Did you know?

  • 80%

    of knowledge within a large company remains uncaptured. [1]

  • $47m

    is the estimated annual cost of inefficient knowledge sharing to large businesses. [2]

  • 5.3hr

    per week lost by employees waiting for vital information or recreating existing knowledge. [2]

The scale of the challenge

It is estimated that 70-80% of all the knowledge in a multinational organization remains uncaptured [1]. Put simply, a large company doesn’t know what it knows.

According to a recent report, inefficient knowledge sharing costs large businesses $47 million per year, with employees wasting an estimated 5.3 hours per week either waiting for vital information from colleagues or working to recreate knowledge that already exists within their company [2]. That leads to delayed projects, missed opportunities and frustration among employees.

Within R&D organizations, key decisions about strategic initiatives may be based on out-of-date information about internal capabilities, skills and expertise. And truly pioneering research requires researchers from across different specialties and geographical locations to work together.

“If you are working in innovation, it will usually involve a combination of several technologies,” says Oliver Klaeffling, Head of our Innovation Center. “You can’t do these types of projects alone – you need to collaborate.”

Especially for project teams that require input from experts working across several different technology fields, it can be a cumbersome exercise to find the right colleague or capabilities – even from within their own organization. This can lead to an over-reliance on private networks and time wasted searching for external collaborators.

“To foster global collaboration and knowledge sharing, you need to empower the people in your organization. That’s why we developed a platform at our Innovation Center that is owned and fed by the people who use it – our internal scientific community,” says Klaeffling.

A digital platform to foster collaboration, now commercially available

We have created a digital platform that enables R&D organizations to quickly and efficiently build a catalogue of their entire technology portfolio across sites, organizations and countries. Internally, we are already using this platform successfully. Together with the software company Empolis, awarded by Gartner for its Knowledge Graph Technology, we will now market it globally under the name "Empolis Intelligent Views Platform" as a Digital Knowledge Workplace to make it available to other companies as well.

“The platform provides managers, experts, technology scouts and strategists with a unique and up-to-date insight into their own company. Instantly and transparently at your fingertips, you can access what’s going on,” explains Oliver Klaeffling.

Using information entered by researchers about what they are doing, the system allows individual users to see how a project connects to others – or see how it relates to a certain trend or application. 

“That’s what this tool is trying to achieve – connection,” says Klaeffling. “People can find each other faster to share their knowledge and bring new ideas to life.”

Democratic implementation

The success of our new tool comes from a combination of good user experience, change management, community building, and mapping adjacencies with a so-called knowledge graph. 

“We carefully designed the application around the user experience, involving researchers throughout the development process,” explains Klaeffling. As a result, people find it easy to use and to extract useful information. As well as a search function, there is also a social platform, so people can become members of expert groups – forming new networks and communities.

But the adoption of any new technology solution is more than just its functionality. To realize its full benefits, employees need to use it.

“Companies often try to implement things from the top down, but we flipped it around – there is support from the top but there is no obligation for individuals to take part,” says Klaeffling. “This is a system that’s owned by our colleagues. They decide what information they put in and how they work with it, which is more reflective of a social media approach.”

One of the most unique aspects is that while the tool needs to start with some manual input of information from users, it is then kept up-to-date with the support of machine learning. "Our IT has done a fantastic job and collaborated closely with the Innovation Center from the very beginning of this project," says Klaeffling.

Accelerating research

Within months of implementation, we already have clear examples of how the tool is empowering our researchers to forge new collaborations.

One researcher in our healthcare sector who is developing new drug candidates made a discovery that suggested these may also have an effect on the skin. She used the digital platform to identify a group working within a different business sector who was using the relevant skin cell models she needed for testing.

“She was then quickly able to evaluate these compounds – and within a few days she got the data she needed. What was particularly striking was that these two teams were only working 500 meters apart in Darmstadt – demonstrating how silos can exist even between people at the same site.”

The tool also helped to bring together two groups who are based on different continents. A team of researchers within our healthcare sector in Europe were looking to access 3D cell models as a new way to carry out toxicity profiling of their preclinical drug compounds. 

“They looked up the technique in the system, identifying a team within our life sciences sector in the US who are developing organ-on-a-chip applications.” 

The healthcare team is now using these models for toxicology testing. An external collaboration would have cost an estimated 100,000 Euros per year.

Do you know what your company knows?

Our knowledge exchange platform can help foster collaboration, unleashing the full potential of a company’s R&D capabilities.

“If you think about the R&D of an organization as an expensive asset, improving the efficiency and increasing the output using a tool like this can have immense value,” says Klaeffling. 

For Jörg Kleinz, Managing Director of Empolis Intelligent Views GmbH, the collaboration with us is a strategically important step. "Empolis has been very successfully developing similar solutions for ther industries for years. The Innovation Center's knowledge platform, on the other hand, is perfectly tailored to the needs of international science and technology companies. This allows us to tap into new customer groups."

Our digital knowledge sharing platform is now available for use by other companies through our partner Empolis. Find out more here!

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[1] (Kumar, S. & Gupta, S. (2012). Roles of knowledge management systems (KMS) in a multinational organization: an overview.)