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PwC Report on Powering the Innovation Lifecycle


In the article, ‘Powering the Innovation Lifecycle, PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) explores proven engineering methods and design principles that systematize problem solving to support and accelerate innovation.

PwC breaks out the technologies that support innovation (the conversion of ideas into commercial products and services, as defined by PwC) into two categories:

  • Technologies supporting process – including idea management, PLM and PPM systems
  • Technologies that support solution identification – solutions that bring uniformity and repeatability to the “invention activity of the innovation process”. These solutions include a combination of structured problem-solving, semantic search and knowledge management techniques that support problem solving.

Powering Innovation LifecycleUnlike idea management, PLM and PPM systems, PwC sees the latter category of technologies as spanning the entire “idea-to-cash” innovation lifecycle. Problem solving is a core activity throughout the entire innovation process, says PwC.

Key to solving problems is an engineer’s or scientist’s ability to overcome problems with novel solutions. To more rapidly and effectively identify solutions, PwC cites two critical capabilities:

  1. Theories, tools and methods for systematic problem solving as a discipline.
  2. Empowering the enterprise with knowledge via the application of semantic knowledge management techniques to make the techniques and problem-solving capabilities accessible to all involved in the end-to-end innovation process.

PwC cites Invention Machine Goldfire as a solution that addresses both of the aforementioned capabilities:

[Goldfire] supports research activities aimed at innovation. It uses semantic research technology to provide direct access to concepts as problems and solutions from inside and outside the company. The module creates a semantic knowledge base from all available knowledge, personal file systems, lab notes, Web sites, technical literature, and others. Insight captures an organization’s technical knowledge, past experience, and expertise, and makes it available to others in the organization when they need it. When it indexes the sources, Goldfire tries to understand the cause-and-effect relationships between the concepts. It can be accessed using a natural language interface. Users can find solutions to their problems from past patents and thousands of technical documents, identify relationships between concepts, and find precise answers to their innovation challenges.

Goldfire includes support for many innovation methods used across the innovation life cycle. Methods such as Value Engineering and TRIZ focus on problem definition and encourage creative thinking. Tools that perform root-cause analysis and device or process analysis aid in problem identification and resolution, while rich patent analytics help organizations see beyond current markets and technologies and identify solutions from other domains.

Execution of innovation initiatives, concludes PwC, is directly tied to the role of problem solving. By providing innovation workers with tools to help them better define and understand problems integrated with capabilities that allow innovators to better access the wealth of knowledge both internal to and outside of their organization, problem solving can be optimized and innovation accelerated.

Click here to see the PwC report and Take a Tour of Goldfire.