R&D White Spots & Competitive Advantage
In collaboration with an equity research firm, we conducted research into future technology developments for stents in 2003. Our interest was primarily heart stents, a promising (at that point) method to avoid more invasive methods such as angioplasty. In 2003, Johnson and Johnson was the only company with a heart stent on the market, but it was rumored that J&J’s monopoly would soon be broken. We used Technology Mapping to determine whether Boston Scientific was capable of becoming a powerful competitor and to determine the potential future positions of Guidant, Medtronic and other legacy players.
Fig. 2 shows a temporal patenting activity view of drug delivery by stents in 2003.The map was formed from a word/phrase search for drug delivery and stents. In this figure, each diamond is a patent and it is plotted vs. the filing date. Each line is a parent company. The company at the top has the most patents in the search/category. In this figure, BSX is Boston Scientific, GDT is Guidant. MDT is Medtronic. J&J is Johnson and Johnson. The visualization reveals a number of points relevant to the key question about J&J dominating the stent market space.
Notice that the top four in this category are Boston Scientific, Guidant, Medtronic and J&J and that Boston Scientific had more patents than J&J. This pattern was repeated in nearly all the Visual Indexes we ran.
An annual report from Boston Scientific showed a picture of a stent manufacturing setting that allowed the group to determine which of the several paths that had been explored in Boston Scientific’s extensive patent base was actually being used. From the technology development patterns, the group became sure that Boston Scientific would shortly emerge as a major competitor and that it was set for success.
One surprise was the connection to genetics and the idea of using a stent as a means to deliver genetic material for gene therapy. The group felt that the idea was a patent placeholder and might emerge much later.
The study illustrates how technology mapping can lead to a successful prediction of the near-term competitive situation. The study also successfully anticipated the next step product in stents, the development of the biodegradable, biocompatible stent 4-5 years before the product was introduced.
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