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Technology roadmaps

Archived - Technology Roadmapping: A Guide for Government Employees — Producing a Technology Roadmap

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Roadmapping generally has three stages: preliminary activities, development of the roadmap and follow-up.

If Industry Canada has approached industry about a roadmap, typically the department undertakes much of the preliminary activity. Once roadmapping begins, however, industry conducts most of the remaining work and the department provides support.

Although the steps are described in a sequence, some could be conducted concurrently or the order could change. For certain roadmaps, some steps might be omitted or new ones added. The characteristics of the industry and technologies under consideration will influence the shape of the process. Designing the best roadmapping process for a particular situation requires flexibility and a thorough understanding of the industry.


Step 1: Preliminary Activities

In the preliminary stage, the people launching the roadmap must ensure the essential conditions for start-up are existent, find the leadership and participants, and define the scope and boundaries for the roadmap.

The steps for launching the roadmapping process are described below. To get the process underway, representatives of the lead department will conduct many of these activities.

Some of these activities can occur simultaneously. For example, the sector study can be performed before there is an interest in producing a roadmap, or it might be that interest in roadmapping leads to a sector study. If a steering committee comes together quickly, it might commission the sector study. On the other hand the study might be commissioned before the steering committee is active or while the lead department is soliciting people to serve on the steering committee. Circumstances will shape the sequence of the steps in the process.

Commission a sector study of the targeted industry, if one has not yet been produced

If a number of industry experts within government are talking about an industry seeming to be at a critical juncture, it is probably appropriate to examine the question more closely. Industry Canada or another department can fund a sector study. An expert in the field, possibly a consultant, talks with industry people, government sector specialists and others. He or she examines available information to provide an analysis of markets old and new, technologies and skills in the industry at this time. This study will serve as baseline data for the roadmapping process.

Meet with other government departments and agencies to determine which would like to participate

Most roadmapping processes deal with industries and technologies of concern to more than one federal department. The concerned departments can share the government contribution to a roadmap, as well as the insights derived from the process. Before approaching an industry about roadmapping, Industry Canada should present the idea to all departments that might be interested and propose that all contribute funds or other support.

Contact industry to determine the extent of interest and which companies are most likely to participate

Outside of government, an industry association, if there is one, is the logical first contact. If there is no sectoral industry association, the lead department can contact key companies in the industry. At meetings with the sector association or industry executives, the lead department presents the benefits of technology roadmapping and the process. If a sector study has already been produced, the department can present its analysis of the results, demonstrating that a roadmap is needed and of value.

Before engaging other resources, the lead department must determine whether on industry's part there is sufficient interest and commitment to proceed. To ensure that industry appreciates the commitment required, Industry Canada or the lead department can present information on the cost, time and effort that goes into a roadmapping process. Industry participants must be able to commit to the full process, knowing that it means engaging some of their best executives for this work. Industry Canada needs to clarify what funding and services it can provide to support the process, and ensure there are no misconceptions about subsequent funding for the implementation stages. It may take several meetings over several months to gain the interest and commitment of a sufficient number of high-level industry people.

If government has been the initiator and catalyst, it is time for the government representatives to step back and assess whether industry's interest is sufficiently strong to proceed. Will industry devote the time and other resources? Are companies sufficiently committed that they are willing to collaborate within a wider group to attain shared technology goals? Without strong interest and commitment from industry, a roadmap should not be started.

Participation should be restricted to companies willing to commit the time and effort. These companies also must be willing to work within a group on common technology issues and be able to envisage a future R&D partnership for the common good of the industry.

The industry participants should deliberate on the types of issues and discussions that could lead to adversarial situations. The group can then decide in advance to steer away from such areas of discussion.

Help industry find a roadmap champion

Because a roadmap requires so much time and money, it must have committed leadership from the group that stands to benefit from it. Industry must lead the effort and be committed to using the results. The process requires a champion, preferably a main player in the industry. Industry Canada might help the sector association find a champion, but ultimately the industry participants should select the right person.

Help industry establish a steering committee

The membership of the steering committee can include industry experts, academics, technology researchers, analysts, economists, educators, government policy makers or human resources strategists, the industry's customers and members of the industry's supply chain. Some steering committee members should know how to identify needs, technology drivers, and economic and market trends. Some should be experienced in assessing technology alternatives.

Of course, it would be an asset if some members understand roadmapping and will commit to help drive the process.

This steering committee should be established about six months before other participants join the exercise. Most of its members should understand both the industry and the area of technology to be roadmapped. As the steering committee is responsible for managing the process, it must be strong and united in its leadership if other participants are to fulfill their objectives.

It is difficult to prescribe the size of the steering committee, as that will vary with circumstances. The committee should not be so large that it will encumber the process or represent too many divergent interests.

Help the steering committee establish subcommittees and working groups

The steering committee decides the number of subcommittees and their roles. Depending on the number of participants and the complexity of the process, some or all of the following may be required:

  • Technology Committee — The technology committee is responsible for mapping out the process to be followed by the technology working groups. As well, its members will head those working groups. The committee reports results from the working groups to the steering committee.
  • Coordinating Committee — This committee coordinates the efforts of all the other committees so that the proper information is exchanged and work progresses.
  • Framework Committee — This committee develops the framework for the overall technology roadmap. This includes establishing the objectives for each technology working group. The framework committee should include people from industry, government and academia.
  • Implementation Committee — This committee drives the implementation of the roadmap recommendations, especially shared R&D projects. The implementation committee will help ensure the roadmapping process does not come to a standstill upon completion of the roadmap document. Some members of the steering committee should sit on the implementation committee, so that there is continuity between the vision established in the beginning to guide the process and implementation.
  • Logistics Committee — This committee is responsible for carrying out logistics, for example, the organization of meetings, scheduling, workshop support, secretariat functions, the gathering of all the reports generated by technology working groups, and the writing of the roadmap document. Since government is providing support, this committee would be composed mostly of people from Industry Canada or another supporting department. If a facilitator is to be hired to conduct meetings, this committee would engage that individual.

The facilitator could be the lead government employee, the roadmap manager, or a consultant. This person needs to be an expert in process, not content. The facilitator must understand the technology roadmapping methodology, but need not be immersed in the industry or in technology planning. The facilitator ensures meetings accomplish their agendas and manages the interactions, bringing out the best contribution from each participant. To successfully fulfill his role, the facilitator needs to remain impartial to the issues under discussion, keeping a distance from the content. The facilitator remains involved until the roadmap is written.

Help the steering committee define a vision for the industry

Before the full contingent of participants joins in, the steering committee develops a vision statement describing the purpose and goals of the technology roadmap. This statement focuses on the desired result — to define the technologies and products the industry must develop to attain its vision. In the vision statement, the industry assesses its position today and defines where it wants to be at a particular future time. The vision sets long-term goals. It might serve not only the roadmapping process but, as well, guide the joint R&D program implementing the roadmap recommendations.

Brainstorming is a good way to launch discussion of the vision and bring out as many ideas and viewpoints as possible.

Some steering committees may not have the time or resources to speculate about all potential futures. In this case, the roadmap manager or facilitator can expedite the process by limiting the time spent on brainstorming, soliciting ideas via email, or forming a subcommittee to propose a limited number of alternative visions for the steering committee's consideration.

Help the steering committee define the scope and boundaries of the roadmap

It is important to establish the scope and boundaries for the roadmap at the outset. The steering committee defines the goals of roadmapping shared by all participants. The vision that will guide the process is stated. That vision should include a discussion of the circumstances that have motivated the launch of the roadmapping process, so that participants will understand, and as the process unfolds, can refer back to the context driving the roadmap. Timeframes are set, for example, one year to produce the roadmap and three to six years to develop new technologies.

Help the steering committee project the time and finances required to complete the roadmap

Producing a roadmap is expensive, both in terms of the direct costs and the time of the people involved. Not including participants' time, the cost of developing a technology roadmap over a two-year period typically ranges between $200 000 and $250 000.

Among the direct costs are: gathering sector information and performing analysis; the building and monthly updating of a website, workshops; meetings; travel; administration; facilitators; consultants; writers; document production; translation; and document distribution. The government and private sector participants should share the costs.

The speed and effectiveness of the process depends on adequate funding. For example, if budget restrictions force participants to work by teleconference or through a web-based discussion group, the quality and amount of interaction is greatly reduced and there is a resultant decline in interest, motivation and the quality of the work.

The following table shows the estimated costs up to and including the production of the roadmap document and its posting on a website.

Elements of the Roadmapping Process ($ thousands)
Elements Approximate Costs
Assess the need for a technology roadmap 10
Interdepartmental meetings to discuss the concept and gain participation of relevant departments Not applicable/td>
Establishing a steering committee (composed primarily of industry representatives, with an industry "champion") and a secretariat 20
Sector study and analysis 50
Workshops (during the development stage of the roadmap) 25
Administration (photocopying, telephone, hospitality, etc.) 15
Consultant to write the roadmap 50
Information (other roadmaps, reports, patents, technical data, etc.) 10
Translation 10
Production of document (PDF, graphics, editing) 10
Website (development, translation) 15
Total 215

Prepare a project proposal for the approval and commitment of the steering committee and lead government department(s)

Before roadmapping begins, the steering committee and the funding department representatives would be well advised to prepare and sign a project proposal for the technology roadmap. This document specifies the goals, methodology, constraints, risks, success factors, major inputs, major outputs, milestones, schedules, methodology, projected costs in time and dollars, and the responsibilities and deliverables of participants at each stage. The project proposal makes concrete what the project entails, so that participants understand what is required of them and what it will take to complete the roadmap. By signing the project proposal, participants take on a commitment to complete the process and attain its objectives. The project proposal can also be used to assess progress.

Ensure that industry participants and the government sign non-disclosure or confidentiality agreements

In some roadmapping exercises, non-disclosure agreements will be unnecessary because the technology under discussion is "pre-competitive." However, should the roadmapping process require that industry participants reveal proprietary information, participants may want the security of non-disclosure agreements.

Step 2: Development of the Technology Roadmap

During the development of the roadmap, industry leads the process and government provides support.

The development of the technology roadmap entails working through the thinking about the enabling technology or technologies necessary to realize the vision. Participants consider what attributes a technological system must possess to enable the industry to best address future market opportunities. Participants consider major categories of technology and the factors driving the development of these various categories. They assess the technological alternatives and their development time horizons. Finally, the participants make recommendations as to which alternative(s) merit R&D work. The steps in this process are described below.

Establish statements of the purpose and goals of the technology roadmap

Based on the vision developed by the steering committee, the participants, or the steering committee alone, develop the statements of purpose and goals for the roadmap. The statement of purpose focuses on the desired results, defining the technologies and products the industry must develop to attain its vision. The statement of goals details more specific targets. To take a hypothetical example, a roadmap for the forest products industry might state as a goal the recycling of 50 percent of product material. For the mining industry, a goal might be to reduce emissions by 30 percent.

Define the industry and the needs of its customers at a particular point in the future

To define where the industry should be headed, participants begin by defining the industry today, describing its principal products and services, customers, suppliers, the materials and energy it uses, and so on. Then, based on market projections, the group would define what future customers are likely to demand and how manufacturing processes have to be adapted to meet those demands. (Market projections often can be gleaned from marketing reports.) Participants are encouraged to be visionary.

Identify the product(s) or enabling technology(ies) that will be the focus

This step is one of the most critical. If all participants are to embrace the process and the results, there needs to be agreement on the ultimate target of the exercise — product requirements and enabling technologies. Expect this phase to generate extensive discussion and major differences of opinion. If participants are uncertain about how to define the products or technologies, scenario-based planning could help. Several scenarios are explored. If several scenarios have the same needs in common, these needs probably are too critical to ignore.

The roadmap may ultimately focus on several technologies and components, depending on the complexity of the product the participants identify as the focus. That said, participants might have to make choices to avoid working on too many fronts simultaneously. If the participants feel it is necessary to explore several components or technologies, they can assign each to a different working group.

Identify the critical attributes of the target future system(s)

After the participants have decided what product or technology needs to be roadmapped, they identify the critical qualities that product or technology must possess. These are the critical attributes of the future system. As an example, a roadmap focusing on fuel cells might consider as critical attributes for a future system: cost-effectiveness, energy efficiency, safety, and reliability.

Specify the major areas of technology to be explored

Once the participants have identified the product and the critical attributes of the product's system, they identify the major areas of technology to be explored to achieve these attributes. The areas to be addressed will, of course, vary depending on the industry sector and type of technology under consideration. However, participants might explore issues pertaining to materials, electronics, manufacturing systems, process integration, modeling or simulation systems, and pollution-control systems, to mention but a few.

Specify when the technology will be needed if the industry is to meet future customer demands

The time period to be considered will vary between industries. In the hectic high-tech industry, eight to ten years is probably too long a time horizon for consideration of a new product or technology. Yet, in the oil and gas, or electricity industries, where the fundamentals of the industry change slowly, a timeframe of 30 to 50 years could be appropriate.

Most government-facilitated roadmaps deal with the pre-competitive stages of technology development. At this stage, an industry is doing basic R&D into generic technologies viewed as holding major potential for the longer-term future. When an industry is engaged in pre-competitive research, its companies have not yet planned products and R&D projects for the future time when the technologies under consideration might have matured — that day is still too distant. Because there is no specific product plan as yet, companies are not worried about divulging competitive product and product-development information. Thus, they are more likely to be willing to collaborate.

The time horizons for which companies may be willing to engage in joint pre-competitive research will vary by industry and between companies. For example, if Company X has products and processes under development to ensure its growth in the next five years, it is unlikely to participate in a roadmap covering an eight-year period. Not only would Company X not need that kind of information, it would be concerned about protecting its intellectual property. On the other hand, if several companies do not have extensive plans for products and services, this group is more likely to benefit from the collaboration, pooling of resources, and information sharing of a roadmapping process.

A central consideration in determining the time span available for developing a technology is how quickly the competition is likely to develop it. Being an R&D leader affords competitive advantage in intellectual property rights. Being first to market with a new product is of paramount importance; it is a primary means of winning market share.

Specify the technology drivers and their targets

The participants need to identify the overriding considerations in choosing between technologies for future application. These are the technology drivers — they will drive the decision-making as to which technologies to pursue. For example, drivers might include the availability and cost of materials and energy for a manufacturing process, or the environmental impacts of the product or its manufacturing processes.

The participants set a target for each technology driver. These targets are set in reference to the critical attributes the final product or technology must possess. In other words, the targets must be set to deliver the desired end system. Here is an example. For a particular industry, the use of fossil fuels is an issue and is expected to increase in importance. Thus, one driver is the environmental impacts of fossil fuels. After deliberations, the participants set the target for this driver — to reduce fossil-fuel consumption by half by 2010, while maintaining current performance, through substitution of non-polluting renewable energy sources.

Identify technology alternatives and their development timelines

Having specified the technology drivers and corresponding targets, participants begin identifying the technology alternatives with the potential to meet those targets. A difficult target may require breakthroughs in several technologies, or a technology may impact multiple targets. For each of the identified technology alternatives, the roadmapping process forecasts a time line of the maturing of the technology — its progress towards meeting the driver targets.

If no particular technology emerges as the clear winner for the future, the participants might consider R&D on several technology alternatives in parallel. When multiple technology alternatives are to be pursued, the roadmap's timelines must identify decision points, when the implementation group will consider whether the technology is a front-running prospect or should be dropped from further consideration.

Recommend technology alternatives that should be pursued

At this point, participants must select the best technology alternatives to pursue, based on an evaluation of their cost, time lines, performance, and other factors. One path may get the industry to its destination faster, another might be cheaper, and yet another less risky (because there are fewer R&D issues). One option might lead to a steeper increase in performance but at the cost of a longer development time. The participants must weigh the trade-offs and ensure that the technology alternatives selected are indeed on the critical path that leads to the desired end product or enabling technology.

It is imperative to win the race to market. Thus, a critical trade-off is that between longer development times with greater performance gains, and rapid time-to-market. In one case, a 20 percent improvement over the base performance target may be worth the extra time or cost, while in another, even a doubling of performance does not compensate for the delays in getting the product into the market. In the latter instance, introducing the product as early as possible, as is so often the case, is the overriding constraint.

To further complicate matters, a particular technology may help the industry meet the first one or two targets for a driver but cannot satisfy later targets — or vice versa, the technology fails to satisfy immediate imperatives but addresses objectives down the road. The latter is a "disruptive technology." A disruptive technology cannot satisfy immediate needs, and so often is ignored in favour of the current technology. However, the disruptive technology's potential performance and rate of improvement, if it is developed, is much greater than that of the current technology. Without the broader perspective provided by a technology roadmap, the disruptive technology often is under funded or ignored.

The roadmapping participants must determine the optimal trade-offs. Sometimes, there may be analytical or modeling tools to help judge which technology alternatives to pursue or the correct timing for the shift from one technology to another.

The roadmapping process, at either the corporate or the industry level, consolidates the best information and develops a consensus among many experts. It begins a collaborative effort that, when carried forward into implementation, results in more effective and efficient use of limited technology-investment resources.

Define what skills and knowledge the industry's future work force will require developing and implementing the new technologies

An adjunct to developing new technologies is developing a work force with the right skills to create and use these innovations. Government has a strong role to play, in that it funds education and can help provinces make strategic decisions about academic programs. As the roadmapping participants consider matters of education and training, they should engage the federal and provincial departments responsible for skills and knowledge development.

Write the technology roadmap report

Each time a technology working group meets, the chair writes a report documenting the work accomplished. Each meeting advances the work and the iterative process continues until the group has accomplished its mandate. By the end of the whole roadmapping process, each group has its own roadmap for the technology that has been its focus. The secretariat must now integrate these reports into an overarching roadmap report. This report should include information on the critical factors that, if not addressed, will cause the developments prescribed in the roadmap to falter.

What follows is a suggested template for a roadmapping report. Although every roadmap will differ, according to the circumstances and context of the industry, most reports will contain these sections. There might well be additional segments, for example, discussing such factors as political or economic issues that affect the entire Canadian R&D establishment.

Suggested Template

Introduction and Background

  • Mission/vision
  • Project goals, objectives and end states
  • Scope and boundary conditions of the roadmapping effort
  • The current industry: its products, customers, suppliers and manufacturing processes
  • Market trends and projections
  • Relevant constraint (regulatory, stakeholder, budget, etc.)

Technical needs and capabilities

  • Targeted products
  • Functional and performance requirements
  • Current science and technology capabilities
  • Gaps and barriers
  • Development strategy and targets

Technology development strategy

  • Evaluation and prioritization of technologies
  • Recommended technologies
  • Decision points and schedule
  • Budget summary

Conclusion

  • Recommendations
  • Plan to implement recommendations

Appendices

  • Roadmapping process
  • Participants

There are additional matters participants might wish to consider addressing in the report: technical recommendations, implementation recommendations, potential R&D partnerships, training and development of the future work force, or other matters.

Step 3: Follow-up

The group of experts who develop and draft the technology roadmap will be relatively small, so to ensure the roadmap is accepted and acted upon, it must be critiqued, validated and accepted by a much larger group.

To avoid the process coming to a halt with the production of the roadmap document, participants must develop an implementation plan. This plan advocates appropriate investment decisions, and sets out the means and time lines for implementation.

Finally, since both the needs and the technologies are evolving, the implementation plan must include provisions for the periodic review and updating of the roadmap.

Critique and validate the technology roadmap

The roadmap document is distributed to a large group of industry representatives, who scrutinize it and validate it or suggest modifications. These reviewers should be asked to address specific questions. If the recommended technology alternatives are developed, will the targets be met? Are the technology alternatives reasonable? Were any important technologies missed? Is the roadmap clear and understandable? Are the recommendations feasible? Can the actions recommended be completed in the required time frames?

A successful approach for garnering feedback from a wider industry group is to conduct one or more workshops. Seek participation by the companies, organizations and individuals who will be involved in implementing the plan. Be prepared for the possibility that this group will suggest significant revisions to the roadmap.

Seek feedback from all the participants

There are steps the steering committee can take to maximize the value of the roadmap and, as well, enhance the roadmapping process. The core roadmapping team should seek feedback from all participants to confirm the relevance of the roadmap and the appropriateness of the process, and to gather suggestions for improving the process. This survey also should inquire how participants intend to use the roadmap.

During this step, the lead department promotes the roadmap within government. This is a tool that policy makers should use to guide R&D grant programs, and education and training initiatives. The lead department can work with an industry association to promote use of the roadmap among companies as a tool to guide strategic technology and business planning. Finally, the lead department can direct participating companies and organizations, or R&D consortiums arising from the roadmapping process, to R&D-funding organizations that might support the needed research.

Develop an implementation plan

The roadmap document should provide enough information to make technology selection and investment decisions. Based on the recommended technology alternatives, the implementation committee develops an implementation plan. This plan calls for collaboration of various industry players to do the required R&D, perhaps with coordination by an industry association. Collaboration is preferred, but if a critical mass of companies is not prepared to collaborate on R&D and share the rights to the resulting new technologies, individual companies may undertake their own R&D projects.

Review and update

Technology roadmaps and implementation plans should be reviewed and updated routinely. Decisions and investment plans formulated when the roadmap document first appeared may require modification in light of unfolding conditions. As target dates grow nearer, uncertainty about markets and technological directions at those target dates is greatly reduced. Thus, the roadmap's premises regarding markets and technologies need to be revisited periodically. During these review cycles, roadmapping participants refine or eliminate scenarios, and adapt the roadmap and its implementation to optimally meet changing realities.

The review cycle may be based on a company's normal planning cycle or paced to the rate of advancement of the target technologies.