Skip to main content

Demonstrating the industrial validity and market feasibility of IT Tool to support SMEs in systematic innovation processes

Final Report Summary - MARKET IT (Demonstrating the industrial validity and market feasibility of IT Tool to support SMEs in systematic innovation processes)

Executive Summary:
The MARKET IT project demonstrated the viability of using an information system based on advanced semantic technologies to support the SMEs technology innovation processes, helping users in modelling the process or product to be innovated in a formal manner and in searching and extracting available knowledge present in the form of structured and unstructured data within the World Wide Web or in the organisation itself.
The project achieved a set of technological and market results applied to SMEs innovation processes, through the evaluation and the validation of a set of technical improvements of the initial software prototype (result of a previous research project called “TECH IT EASY”), aiming at implementing a tool enabling the SMEs to structure their innovation processes and to find and use information relevant for these processes such as patents, technical papers, competitors and other interesting organisations, web page contents and other documents available on the web and within the SMEs.
The implemented MARKET-IT tool is a complete information system that can be used by SMEs both as a service accessible via internet and as a system to be installed in their premises and integrated with legacy Document Management Systems (DMS).
MARKET IT is composed by several integrated modules, providing specific functionalities supporting the innovation processes, namely:
• The possibility for the users to create innovation projects and structuring them through the usage of TRIZ (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) tools; the user is driven by workflows dealing with innovation, engineering and marketing projects, suggesting the usage of the tools according to the kind of project;
• The possibility to store and share documents with other users of the same organization through a powerful and complete Document Management System (DMS), providing advanced search features and completely accessible via Internet;
• The possibility of applying advanced information extraction and retrieval techniques searching, filtering and analysing information present on the Web and within the SMEs, through the possibility of importing folders structures and documents from legacy DMS into the DMS module of MARKET-IT.
Project Context and Objectives:
The MARKET-IT project demonstrated the viability of using an information system based on advanced semantic technologies able to support European SMEs in their innovation process, in particular in facing one of their main challenges: how to structure products and processes to be innovated in a formal manner and find and use available knowledge (internal and external) for supporting innovation.
In order to satisfy both SMEs’ and enterprises’ needs and provide them with a complete and customizable system, MARKET-IT solution is provided as a service through the Web, and as a system installable directly in the SME premises.
MARKET-IT reached the following specific objectives:
1) The validation and evaluation of a semantic driven information system, capable to support SMEs and enterprises in structuring technological innovation processes dealing with weakly structured information present within and outside the organisation. The measurable final result is a full available system providing a set of functionalities accessible by SMEs both as Saas (software as a service), as well as enterprise solution (a system installable in local SME premises and customised on users’ needs).
2) The possibility to structure the overall SMEs innovation process and search, filter and analyse information present on the Web and within the SMEs to support their technological innovation processes. The measurable and verifiable final result is represented by the available system providing the following functionalities:
- An advanced information retrieval and extraction feature, enabling SMEs to search information on internal documents and on external contents related to technological innovation (patents, papers, the web).
- A guided usage of TRIZ (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) and QFD (Quality function deployment), supporting the users, also through guided workflows, to identify components and sub-components of the technology systems to be innovated and suggesting potential technological innovations.
- A web based Document Management System, for storing and sharing documents within the organisation, enabling users in managing documents and folders and performing advanced searches into such documents through keywords and tags, and NLP (Natural Language Processing) analysis, and retrieving ranked documents with previews and snapshots of the text searched

Project Results:
The main results achieved during the development of the MARKET-IT project are related to the improvement integration into a unique powerful tool, and validation of advanced features for search and extraction of knowledge, tools based on advanced innovation management methodologies such as TRIZ (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) and QFD (Quality function deployment), and a Web based Document Management System.
Advanced features for search and extraction of knowledge
MARKET-IT provides an advanced search solution on internal documents and on external contents related to technological innovation (patents, papers, the web). The contents are offered with snippets and categorised (facets) that allows further filtering of the results (example: data of publication of papers, classification number of patents, etc.). The searches can be launched from specific innovation projects and the results of searches stored within such projects, or can directly be launched using the search like a normal search engine without linking the search to any specific project. Searches can also be performed with Part Of Speech tagging, letting the user decide if the sought keyword shall be a noun, verb, adjective, etc.
Tools based on TRIZ and QFD methodology
MARKET-IT offers tools based on advanced methodologies such as TRIZ (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) and QFD (Quality function deployment). In order to provide the users with easy to use tools and allow their usage also by personnel not necessarily having expertise in TRIZ, guided workflows driving the users have been realised in order to support the user in:
• Identifying the components and sub-components of the technology systems to be innovated that can have the highest impact in the market (this is achieved through the combined usage of TRIZ and the House of Quality of QFD);
• Defining possible technological evolutions of a technology system based on generic patterns of evolution defined through the study of millions of patents;
• Finding innovation concepts getting inspired by solutions used for other tools that perform the same function in an innovative way;
• Identifying solutions to engineering problems.
Web based Document Management System
A Web based Document Management System for storing and sharing documents, accessible from anywhere, completely safe and based on Apache Solr has been developed; the advanced search functionalities, built on the Apache Solr native search functionalities and equipped also with a Natural Language Processing analysis, is able to provide searches on lemmas specifying the role of keywords (noun, verbs, adjectives). Moreover, the DMS allows companies to store documents and share them within the company, according to permission levels and user groups customizable, import documents and folders stored in legacy DMS, perform advanced document searches through keywords and tags, and NLP analysis, and retrieving ranked documents with previews and snapshots of the text searched.

Potential Impact:
Impact for the SME participants and competitiveness
The MARKET IT project was specifically targeted to address the needs of the beneficiaries. In order to obtain a useful and ready-to-use tool, the SMEs partners performed validation of case studies for evaluating the available functionalities, defining the requirements to be implemented, tailoring the system on their specific needs and validate and evaluate the final tool realised. This approach allowed SMEs to be able to use the system to innovate their products, improve their services and / or to sell advanced services/solutions, thus reaching their expected main benefits.
Two of the SMEs, TAC and TEHN, are interested mainly into the internal usage of the project results and they will utilise the developed tool to support the innovation of their own processes; the following main return on investment could be foreseen:
a) Reduction of costs related to innovation process due to the support that MARKET-IT can provide in the overall innovation process, and to the possible elimination of costs related to outsourcing some of the activities related to product innovation to external consultants; reduction of the time to market related to the design and the realisation of new products;
b) Specific return from new product concepts identified during the validation case studies;
c) Return from new products concepts that the MARKET IT system will generate in the future;
INNEN is an organisation providing technologies and IT solutions to SMEs and having as core business the offering of IT products and services, thus the project results will be used to improve its portfolio of solutions offered in the market, in particular by:
a) Selling the MARKET-IT tool to other organisations, both as a Service online and as an Enterprise solution tailored on customers’ needs;
b) Providing services such as maintenance and support of the solution.
CTECH and UTCN are interested in the usage of the MARKET-IT tool in the realisation of their consultancy / research activities, rather than in the commercial exploitation of the final software solution, not having both of them the core business of software selling; the following main return on investment could be foreseen:
c) Improving consultancy service by using Market IT tool with a consequent cost reduction of such activities;
d) Using Market IT software application in further research activities;
e) Co-selling referral fees with INNEN and inclusion of MARKET IT features in the INNOVATION PLACE portal and selling of such services on line (CTECH)

Areas of application
The consortium developed the MARKET-IT tool addressing the requirements identified by the SMEs involved in the project; in order to realise an application usable in diverse sectors, the requirements of the tool have been identified through the usage of case studies related to innovation of process and products belonging to different sectors (manufacturing and construction).
At the same time, as far as the modules developed in MARKET-IT can be adapted to innovation processes in several sectors (for market and technological purposes), the results of the project can impact on diverse sectors and areas of applications where users are supported in modelling the processes and the products to be innovated in a formal manner (application of structured innovation methodologies), and in the search and extraction of available knowledge present in the form of structured and unstructured data within the World Wide Web or in the organisation. The market analysis performed, in fact, through surveys and direct interviews realised with 60 organisations, outlined that the MARKET-IT tool can provide interesting features to organisations of different dimensions and of several sectors..
The potential impact of the project can be defined by the following elements:
1. The need for organisations, both SMEs and Large Enterprise, to have in hand (as a system usable as service and easy to be used, available via web, or as a system installable directly in the their premises and personalised) a powerful tool able to support innovation processes. It is a recognised need of SMEs to implement innovation, as EC and local governmental policies clearly states; in the overall innovation processes, the usage of a tool capable of supporting users in modelling processes products to be innovated and in searching available internal and external knowledge is a key factor as promoted by the Open Innovation paradigm. In such sense, the main challenge for SMEs is to model processes in a formal manner and searching useful knowledge, to generate, design and implement technological innovation.
2. The MARKET-IT impact involves different kinds of sectors and organisations; thus the opportunity of being supported in innovation processes, and retrieve internal and external knowledge both in structured and non-structured form can address the diverse needs of different typologies of users. The Document and Management Systems (DMS) provides the customers with a complete repository, with users categorization and permission levels, for storing and sharing documents, where the advanced search features are applied. Due to the usage of own repositories in large organisations, the possibility to import own folders structure and the contained files in the DMS tool make such module of interest also when the system is sold as an Enterprise solution, allowing to apply the advanced search features also to documents existing in legacy DMS. The Advanced information retrieval and extraction feature provides an advanced search solution on internal documents and on external contents related to technological innovation (patents, papers, the web). The tools based on advanced methodologies such as TRIZ (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) and QFD (Quality function deployment) allow the users to identify components and sub-components of the technology systems to be innovated, define possible technological evolutions, find innovation concepts getting inspired by solutions used for other tools that perform the same function in an innovative way, identify solutions to engineering problems.

Contribution to policy development
The MARKET-IT project fits with the European polices related to the promotion of innovation as key driver for sustainable development and competitiveness:
• MARKET-IT supports SMEs in increasing their capabilities to face market needs through innovation, by providing a Web application tool capable to support and drive them in their innovation processes;
• MARKET-IT also improves the transnational cooperation and knowledge transfer by supporting European SMEs in managing their approach towards innovation in collaborative environment;
• The benefits achievable through the usage of MARKET-IT will impact SMEs operating in diverse sectors, and specifically will increase innovation capabilities of SMEs operating in low-tech sectors such as manufacturing;

Dissemination activities
The dissemination activities performed during the project were focussed on participating to events, realising a project event and presenting the project expected results to industrial bodies. The following communication material was realised to increase the impact of the project:
1. A project logo was created at the beginning of the project to be used the MARKET-IT web site and in all communication material.
2. The project Web Site was published at the address www.market-it-project.eu.
The following conference was attended, and a paper presented:
• “2nd International Conference on Quality and Innovation in Engineering and Management 2012”, 22th-24th November 2012, Cluj-Napoca, Romania; presentation of the paper “Supporting technology innovation processes in manufacturing Small and medium enterprises ”.
Several presentations to industrial bodies were performed:
• Presentation of the project results to several industrial associations and organization.
• “Creativity, change and innovation within a company” workshop, 9th October, 2013 Bistrita, Romania;
• “BizTech 2013”, 11th of October 2013, Oradea, Romania; presentation of the Market-IT tool;
• “ EXPOPESCA-ACUIPERU 2013”, 7th-9th November 2013, Lima, Peru; presentation of MARKET-IT tool as product in TACORE’s catalogue“;
• “TEDxCluj Innovation Fare”, 2nd of November 2013, Cluj-Napoca, Romania; interactive presentation of the MARKET-IT tool in challenging problems by using the TRIZ Contradiction Matrix tool;
• “Supporting enterprises technology innovation processes”, 4th December 2013, Rome, Italy; presentation of the MARKET-IT tool.

List of Websites:
The project website is available at the address www.market-it-project.eu.

The Relevant contact details for each organization that took part to the project are:
Partner: INNOVATION ENGINEERING SRL; Mr. Andrea Ciapetti; a.ciapetti@innovationengineering.eu
Partner: TACORE S.L.; Mr Javier González Lago; admon@tacore.es
Partner: Tehnoprod Plast.; Mr Ovidiu Vasile Suciu; ovidiu.suciu@tehnoprodplast.ro
Partner: UNIVERSITATEA TEHNICA CLUJ-NAPOCA; Prof Stelian Brad; stelian.brad@staff.utcluj.ro
Partner: CIAOTECH SRL; Mr. Paolo Salvatore; p.salvatore@ciaotech.com