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Technology roadmaps

Archived - Technology Roadmapping: A Guide for Government Employees — Understanding Technology Roadmapping

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What is technology roadmapping?

Technology roadmapping is a planning process that gives decision-makers a means to identify, evaluate and select among strategic alternatives for achieving technological objectives.

Technology roadmapping differs significantly from other planning and analysis tools. First, it is driven by "market pull," that is, the technological innovations needed if companies are to serve anticipated future markets. Roadmapping is NOT driven by "technology push," what can be done with the existing stock of technologies. Second, it builds on a vision of where a company or industry wishes to go and what technologies are needed to get there. Third, it provides a route for achieving the vision, going from today to tomorrow, by helping companies or organizations identify, select and develop the right technology alternatives needed to create the right products for future markets.

The roadmap document resulting from the technology roadmapping process is the first step toward technological innovation. After that, the plan has to be implemented.

What does a technology roadmap cover?

A technology roadmap document presents the industry's consensus on a number of topics: a vision of the industry at a set time in the future; what new types of products (or services) markets will require; the enabling technologies to create those products; the feasibility of creating the needed technologies; the technological alternatives for achieving the needed technologies; and how to address these technology needs through R&D. The roadmap document addresses the role of an industry's suppliers in creating the desired future, human resources needs, governmental and non-governmental barriers, and other topics.

Why is technology roadmapping important?

Companies face many challenges in today's global markets. Products are becoming more complex and, at the same time, more customized. Time-to-market for products is shrinking and product life is shortening. R&D is expensive, and reduced budgets are making it impossible for individual companies to independently develop all the technologies they might need to meet future market imperatives. Competition is global and fierce, especially from countries that are both technologically advanced and have lower labour costs than Canada.

In this context, companies must use effective tools to plan their future. Technology roadmapping is a way to identify product or service needs, map them onto technology alternatives, and develop plans to ensure the required technologies will be available when needed.

When should an industry produce a technology roadmap?

Here are some of the indications that an industry needs to produce a roadmap:

  • Demands made by the markets the industry serves are changing dramatically.
  • The industry has reached a strategic juncture with regard to entering new markets, seeking out new technologies or acquiring new skills.
  • Companies within the industry are losing market share, failing to increase market share as new markets open, or facing a competitive threat.
  • Companies within the industry have a vision of their place in future markets but no strategy for making that vision tomorrow's reality.
  • Companies, or the industry, are facing uncertainty about what technologies and applications future markets will demand, and when new technologies will be needed.
  • There is no consensus among companies, or within the industry, as to the best technology option from among the choices for future development.
  • Each company within the industry is conducting separate R&D efforts devoted to technology problems, that all have in common.
  • Individual companies within an industry sector lack the resources and skills needed to boost innovation, and would benefit from joint efforts in R&D, sourcing, or supply-chain arrangements.

As a government employee who knows the challenges the industry is facing, you are well positioned to determine whether industry players should consider producing a roadmap.

Advantages of technology roadmapping

Technology roadmapping helps companies, industries and R&D organizations plan what they must do to succeed in future markets. Technology roadmaps:

  • predict, based on well-informed assumptions, the market's future technology and product needs;
  • identify the science and technology areas with the highest potential for an industry;
  • identify critical enabling technologies that will be needed and the gap (in terms of technology development) between what exists and what is needed;
  • support informed, strategic technology investment decisions;
  • avoid risky, unproductive technology investments;
  • increase collaboration and partnerships among companies through the sharing of knowledge;
  • establish the consensus needed to move forward on a program of technology-development R&D;
  • establish a framework to coordinate R&D and leverage R&D investments among companies;
  • define the steps required to transfer technology to marketable applications.

Technology roadmapping is a first step toward ensuring an industry's future competitiveness.

Types of technology roadmaps

There are several types of technology roadmaps. They share certain elements but differ in significant ways. Following general guidelines, a company, industry, organization, or government department will create its own roadmap by adapting one of the models to meet particular needs or challenges. The types of roadmaps in use today are:

  • industry technology roadmaps, used to assess and extrapolate the direction of market-driven requirements within an area of technology, and then identify R&D strategies to meet those requirements;
  • science and technology roadmaps, used to select from among emerging technologies;
  • product roadmaps, used by companies to identify the technical processes, and accompanying opportunities and risks, associated with the development of a specific product or service;
  • program roadmaps, used by government or private-sector organizations to evaluate how emerging issues might affect the strategic direction of a long-term program.

Which types of technology roadmap will Industry Canada and other government departments assist?

Industry Canada and our federal partners focus on roadmaps identifying critical or emerging technologies with the potential to give an industry a competitive edge over competitors worldwide. The government tends to assist industry in technology roadmapping when the resulting roadmap will address issues in which government has a role, for example, employment and skills development, R&D funding programs, and policy and regulations influencing technology development. Government is most interested in helping an industry sector, rather than an individual company, prepare a technology roadmap.

What type of assistance will Industry Canada and/or other federal departments provide?

If an industry demonstrates a strong desire and the capacity to produce a technology roadmap, the federal government can provide:

  • funding to cover a significant portion of appropriate costs, such as a sector study, meeting expenses, secretariat services, translation, and printing of the roadmap document;
  • the expertise of government's industry-sector specialists and others with knowledge to share of R&D, technology trends and other relevant matters;
  • secretariat services, including the coordination of meetings (for example, the reservation of meeting rooms or other required facilities) and the production and distribution of meeting reports;
  • development and maintenance of a website, to post relevant reports and host an electronic discussion forum;
  • information about research-funding programs for future R&D the roadmap might recommend.

Industry representatives cover the costs associated with their participation in the roadmapping process, such as time, travel, accommodation, and meals.