Information flows: Helping Innovate UK understand the evolution of emerging technologies

Madano’s Insights practice has helped Innovate UK to track, classify and compare the dissemination of a range of emerging technologies across industry, academia and the wider public. Using big data, the pilot project has allowed the innovation agency to understand how dissemination events – references to a technology in a public setting – happen, and what they can tell us about emerging technologies.

As a result, Innovate UK has increased its understanding of the relationship between funded technologies and dissemination events, and how that relationship compares with that of unfunded technologies, helping the organisation to identify strategic funding opportunities in the future.

 

Categorising dissemination events

One of the key elements of the project’s analysis was the development of a typology of different dissemination events. Using cutting-edge machine learning modelling, Insights created a categorisation of events based on the source of the mention of a specific technology. Exploratory analysis made it clear that the dissemination of a technology can happen in various ways, and that each of these dissemination events indicates very different forms of dissemination. For example, the mention of a technology in an academic publication represents something very different from the mention of the same technology in a market report or a mainstream newspaper, all of which need a different interpretation.

Dissemination events were broken down into five categories:

Innovate UK - Dissemination event typology

Knowledge dissemination: Where the focus is to expand the knowledge of a technology, as in academic publications, edits to a Wikipedia page or other educational material.

Industry awareness: Where there are signs of the industry picking up an interest in the technology. Examples would be mentions in trade media, industry events or specific adoptions of the technology.

General awareness: Where the likely key audience is the general public. This can include mentions in mainstream news media, larger social media accounts or visits to a relevant Wikipedia page.

Commercial dissemination: Mentions in market reports, market research and announcements of funding and investment decisions.

Marketing: Any owned channel marketing material about companies’ products or services related to technology.

 

Dissemination events help to track technological maturity

Technologies are often characterised by a typical pattern of evolution, from conceptualisation, through commercialisation and ultimately to widespread awareness. Take, for example, solar panels, which began with periods of solely academic attention, then graduated to industry awareness before finally becoming an established part of the general media.

So, considering the source of a technology’s dissemination event can help to understand its level of maturity, where a technology is being discussed is as important as how often it is being mentioned.

 

Dissemination events enable the comparison and evaluation of changes in different technologies

By understanding the trajectory of a specific technology, Madano was able to not only track its evolution but also compare and contrast it with other technologies. Analysing dissemination events allowed Madano to evaluate changes in emerging technologies as they were prioritised by academia, industry and the mainstream media.

To facilitate the comparison of various technologies, Madano created a dissemination score, combining the number of different events recorded for each technology into a single score, which estimated the overall extent of dissemination. This score was developed to be flexible and allow the weighting given to dissemination event categories to vary depending on specific objectives; in the case of Innovate UK, some programmes needed to prioritise knowledge creation, while others focused on industry awareness.

Innovate UK - Dissemination score schema

 

This score facilitated the comparison of the dissemination of technologies over time.

 

Innovate UK - Technology dissemination score over time

 

The pilot – gathering and processing dissemination data

From the general list of successful Innovate UK grant applicants, Madano selected a subset of technology competitions through which business can apply for grants for their innovative projects, defined the technology areas and took publicly available big data associated with the technologies of Innovate UK applicants.

This enabled us to categorise data points into discrete dissemination events detailing the nature of each dissemination. The data was subsequently incorporated into a dashboard which allowed for the interrogation and comparison of dissemination events based on user queries.

The pilot included 10 different energy technologies associated with applications for funding received by Innovate within the past couple of years. At the end of the pilot, Madano successfully demonstrated how to use big data to understand knowledge dissemination events for policy analysis.

“This project has been invaluable in demonstrating how we can conceptualise and measure the trajectory of technologies over time using big data,” said Jose Argudo, Evaluation Lead at Innovate UK. “I’m really excited about the potential applications of this approach in innovation policy analysis.”

“Although the framework we’ve developed was used to track technological dissemination in this instance,” said Mathias Haugestad, Data Analytics Developer at Madano, “it can be applied to a range of other areas, including tracking mentions of brands, institutions and people, or even fields of knowledge more broadly.”

 

The Madano Insights team specialises in capturing insights that make a difference to your business. Through a strategic and communications-focused approach, we make the most of big data and innovative insights to complement and contextualise quantitative analytics.

 

If you’re interested in understanding how to use big data to improve the measurement and tracking of KPIs related to your communications strategies, get in touch!

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