Three Steps to Becoming a Better Technology Scout

Three Steps to Becoming a Better Technology Scout

By Erik Willet

Technology scouting is an art and a science. Here are some tips to help you become a technology scout (we also put together this infographic to sum things up).

This article was originally published in May 2013, last updated May 2023.

Clarify any ambiguity with the customer right from the start:

Whether you are a technology scout as only part of your job responsibilities or your job solely revolves around scouting, it is important to remember that you are serving a customer. Depending on your circumstances, this customer could be:

  • The individual who uses your company’s products, known as the end customer.
  • A marketing team approaches you with the needs of the end customer, seeking solutions.
  • The strategy team has determined that it would be beneficial for your company to acquire specific technologies or competencies.
  • A product development or R&D team preferring to seek a solution externally, as it may not align with their company’s core competencies.

To ensure that the technologies you find are best suited to your customer’s needs, it’s important to clear up any and all ambiguity at the outset. Here are some tips to achieve this:

  1. Map out your customer’s understanding of the technology domain. If the customer does not know what they want, use your expertise in the area to ask them as many questions as possible to determine their knowledge level.
  2. Take note of small references that are peripheral to the main problem description when working on a project. Thoroughly examine any briefing material provided and scrutinize anything that appears even slightly out of place. We’ve had instances where a client’s passing comment ended up being the primary focus of the project.
  3. To make seemingly impossible technology needs more achievable, it’s important to break down the problem and focus on a specific area. Consider researching other industries and disciplines that may have faced similar challenges in the past and explore potential solutions that have already been developed. By taking this approach, even the most difficult technology needs can become more manageable.

Zero in on the technologies identified:

To deliver the best solutions to your client, as a technology scout, it’s important to narrow down the options to a manageable dozen or two dozen. Your client likely doesn’t have the time to sift through hundreds of potential solutions. Therefore, the process of honing down the technologies you find is crucial. I accomplish this through a simple set of steps, which includes:

  • Bucketing technologies into categories. Arrange the technologies and the articles that support them, logically into categories based on similarity (i.e. technologies that have the same application or material under different applications)
  • Weeding out the best categories. Identify your strongest three to five categories. Yes, sometimes all solutions in a particular category may be too poor to present.
  • Ordering the technologies in each category. Identify the best technologies by strength/feasibility.

As you go through papers and articles relating to each technology, here are some additional things I’ve learned from experience:

  • Pay attention to the results. Papers that set out to achieve a quantifiable result in the introduction and don’t quantify that result in the conclusion are weak choices.
  • Build a vocabulary list. Look up any industry/field-specific terms that keep reappearing. Build a vocabulary list, which may become useful when talking to potential partners later, as well as for working with your client.
  • Build a knowledge base. Papers you choose to exclude from presenting to the client can still contribute to your knowledge of the subject area. Keep a separate list of these.

Evaluate the technologies using a well-defined measurement scale.

Ultimately, the technology scout needs to evaluate each technology you have found to determine its suitability for your client’s needs. We recommend that you supplement your analysis with a measurement scale. Using a measurement scale will allow you to:

  • Have clear expectations with the client, on what is important to them
  • Objectively compare technologies, against the criteria and conditions of that scale
  • Rank order the technologies that you have found, so the client can give their most attention to the highest ranking technologies

In our experience, we have found that the top criteria for most clients are, “How quickly can we get this to the shop shelves?” Thus, PreScouter’s technology scouts use Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) to rank order findings. This scale was developed by NASA, and they have used it for decades for the purpose of evaluating new technologies.

The TRL Scale
© Innovation Seeds


Q: What is technology scouting?

A: Technology scouting is the process of identifying and evaluating new or emerging technologies that can be useful for a particular organization or industry.

Q: Why is technology scouting important?

A: Technology scouting is important because it allows organizations to stay competitive and innovative in their respective fields. By identifying and adopting new technologies, organizations can improve their products, services, and processes, and ultimately gain a competitive advantage.

Q: What are the key skills required for a technology scout?

A: A technology scout should have a deep understanding of their organization’s goals. They should also have a deep understanding of the industry they operate in. Moreover, they should have strong research and analytical skills. The ability to identify and evaluate new technologies that align with their organization’s needs is also important. Communication skills are also crucial for a technology scout. They must be able to effectively communicate their findings and recommendations to stakeholders within their organization.

Q: How can I get started with technology scouting?

A: To get started with technology scouting, you can begin by researching the latest developments in your industry or related fields. Attend conferences, read industry publications, and connect with experts in your field. You can also consider working with a technology scouting firm or consultant, who can help you identify and evaluate new technologies and provide recommendations tailored to your organization’s needs.

Q: How do I measure the success of my technology scouting efforts?

A: There are several ways to measure the success of your technology scouting efforts. Your organization’s goals and objectives determine the metrics to consider. One metric is the number of new technologies identified. You should also assess the impact of these technologies on your organization’s products, services, or processes. Another crucial factor to consider is the return on investment (ROI) of your technology scouting efforts. Establish clear goals and metrics upfront, and regularly track and report on your progress towards achieving them.

If you have any questions or would like to know if we can help your business with its innovation challenges, please contact us here or email us at

Never miss an insight

Get insights delivered right to your inbox

More of Our Insights & Work

Never miss an insight

Get insights delivered right to your inbox

You have successfully subscribed to our newsletter.

Too many subscribe attempts for this email address.