Learning from students and vice versa

In November, I was invited to be on a panel organised by Cambridge University’s Engineering Department to mark the end of a module called Management of Technology. The aim of the session was to give students a chance to hear different perspectives on a variety of topics from those who have diverse experiences of managing technology in practice.

I was joined on the panel by Nic Lawrence of Kaptivo, consultant Charles Boulton, Claire Ruskin of Cambridge Network and Ward Hills of Albion Innovations.

I was not alone in needing clarification of some of the technical terms that students used in their questions. Though I have a lot of experience at managing technology, my experience is more home grown. Their knowledge of the management of technology is far more formal.

Some of the topics discussed posed some interesting questions to our country’s technology sector. Here are a few of my key takeaways.

Open innovation and the protection of ideas

Open innovation usually involves a collaboration between a company and another company or organisation. The students were very concerned about the value of an idea, but the panel was unanimous in reminding them that ideas are worthless – execution is everything and IP can be protected.

How to spot the million-dollar idea

Understandably, a lot of students were keen to receive advice on how to keep ahead of the curve and how to filter out the gems from the sea of new technology. Again, the panel were unanimous: read a lot, speak to people and keep your ears open. The only way to make sure that you’re in the right place at the right time for that great idea to find you is to be out there.

As mentioned above, ideas are worthless and the million-dollar idea is actually a million-dollar strategy to capitalise on some new IP or a new route to market.

Auxiliary technology

We talked about auxiliary technologies, the things you need to make your core technology useful. For example, at Ellexus we use a range of third-party dashboards to present the I/O profiling data to our users.

In a wider context you could consider a technology ecosystem to be a similar concept on a larger scale and is hard to get right. Technology road-mapping helps to steer an ecosystem and to foster collaboration, without which an ecosystem can be a set of vulnerabilities for a company instead of assets.