IP and R&D Spotlight Interview: Ankur Saxena

Hello Ankur, thank you for speaking with us today! Before we jump into the questions, could you please tell us a little about yourself? (background, current position, interests)

I work as a Vice President in the IP and R&D Solutions team at Evalueserve. Moreover, I lead the research and solution development for R&D and innovation functions for our clients. As a part of my current role, my team and I work with clients across domains to understand their challenges and business needs to deliver business-critical analysis and insights, thereby supporting and improving their innovation and R&D efficiency. What’s great about my role is that I get to interact with a lot of senior R&D leaders, innovation managers, licensing managers, and IP teams about their most pressing needs and build solutions for them.

I have 16 years of experience across innovation, technology research and development, and IP functions. Over the last several years, I led teams specializing in technology research and business/technology intelligence for a wide range of clients from automotive, specialty chemicals, material science to FMCG. My focus has always been on helping clients make informed, strategic decisions about their intellectual/technology assets. I have a degree in materials and metallurgical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology and lately I completed an Executive Program in Management from Cornell University.

How has the R&D space changed over the past year?

Despite the year 2020 being synonymous with Covid-19, the worldwide R&D community played a stellar role in responding to the threat posed by the pandemic. Covid-19 stimulated R&D response at an unprecedented pace and scale. We saw companies repurpose their manufacturing to develop ventilators, PPE kits, oxygen, sanitizers, etc., while public and private partnerships have enabled the progress on the vaccines at a never before seen speed. However, we still have a long way to go before we enter the new normal.

The last two years also showed us the tremendous potential that lies in the collaborative approach. We are already reading about the contactless economy that emphasizes hygiene, health, and wellness.  We also saw that adapting to the new normal quickly and rapidly responding to the shifts in consumer preferences/habits will be key for business survival. These changing needs will profoundly influence how companies approach their products and services, including research and development.

What are some R&D challenges that companies are currently facing?

Two of the most pressing factors influencing global R&D are the pandemic, and adoption of exponential technologies.

Challenges due to the pandemic

  • In the short term – disrupted supply chains
  • Mid to long term – changes in consumer habits, contactless economy, and the need to pivot quickly depending on external factors
  • Operational challenges – Meeting shorter timelines, multitasking, and finding cost savings are day-to-day challenges in R&D, but this has gone into overdrive due to the shift to working from home (WFH). For example, engineering teams responsible for developing new products will have to work from home in unfamiliar digital environments and use different toolsets

The emergence of exponential technologies

  • Technologies such as AI/ML, quantum computing, 3D printing at scale, advanced robotics, autonomous vehicles, IoT, etc., will proliferate nearly all walks of human life. We are at the cusp of a paradigm shift in how we experience everything around us. These technologies will disrupt the traditional ways of how corporates conduct research and innovation.
  • Digitalization has already played a significant role in pushing the boundaries of R&D and will continue to push these boundaries by creating new levels of efficiencies that improve information gathering, analysis, and support decision-making.

How are R&D teams adjusting to these challenges?

Companies have become much more structured in how they innovate, which is visible in their business strategy and is also mirrored in their R&D and innovation functions. Additionally, access to data/ information and the ability to analyze it is changing approaches to product development. Digital tools have enabled remote working and far greater visibility across the organization on the progress of various R&D projects. The entire process has highly become data-driven and digital in terms of engineering, prototyping, testing products, and collecting feedback from customers, and eventual launch.

During the pandemic, innovation became increasingly external and collaborative. Corporates invested in building strategic partnerships with technology firms and research institutions to gain access and exposure to a richer and diverse pool of expertise. Collaboration is meant for both engaging in core research and tapping into a gamut of expertise available outside the organization across business functions. Similarly, the external ecosystem has also pivoted and adopted its products and engagement models to enable such collaborations.

What are some nuggets of wisdom you would give R&D teams for the coming year?

Organizations want to shorten the R&D and innovation cycles to address continuous changes in consumer demands and habits. Digital technologies offer opportunities for accelerating innovation processes, which can ultimately reduce R&D costs and time-to-market

To achieve the above targets, corporates need precise and continued intelligence on new technology, emerging ecosystems, consumer preferences, start-ups, partnerships, and competitor roadmaps throughout the R&D journey.

  • Shift the traditional research and development process towards an informed and data-driven approach. Empowering early research with data such as unmet consumer needs and competitor roadmaps will help predict which products would be successful and remain competitive in the long term.
  • To fully embrace digital innovation, corporates should invest in new skills, tools and adjust their organizational structures to become more agile and spur in-house creativity. Evalueserve can be a great partner in this endeavor as we specialize in providing clarity and accuracy necessary to make high-stakes strategic decisions with confidence through data and insights.
  • Hedge risk by diversifying innovation projects and sourcing technology through partnerships and licensing. This will reduce the burden on corporate R&D and maintain the speed of deployment.

And for the final question, what are you looking forward to this Summer?

I am really looking forward to working and developing some of the exciting opportunities we have in the R&D space. I am passionate about techno-commercial intelligence and believe Evalueserve has all the capabilities needed to push the boundaries of providing information services and intelligence to R&D and innovation teams.

Our mind+machine™ approach is unique in supporting all facets of R&D and innovation from generation to evaluation, protection, and realization. I am looking forward to unlocking efficiencies for our customers through our technology-enabled solutions in the R&D and innovation space.

Did you know?

Only 6% of executives are satisfied with their innovation performance according to McKinsey survey.

Download the latest eBook “5 Steps to Improve Your Innovation Efficiency” created by Aarti Yadav and me.

Ankur Saxena
Ankur Saxena
Vice President, IP and R&D Solutions Posts

Ankur Saxena is an Head of Operations, IP and R&D Solutions at Evalueserve, specialized in technology research and business/technology intelligence solutions to specialty chemicals, material science and FMCG companies. Ankur leads a team of analysts scouting industrial, academic and entrepreneurial technologies. Together, they assess potential fit with the company's portfolio through due diligence and analytics and help R&D managers, IP Counsels, and Product Managers to make informed, strategic decisions about their intellectual/technology assets. After working in this industry for 13 years, he wants to share his experience and invite readers to share their point of view on topic of innovation intelligence. Ankur is also a die-hard Liverpool FC fan and a foodie who loves to explore new places and cuisines.

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