The Need to Knowledge (NtK) Model is an evidence-based framework to guide the conception, design and generation of technology-based innovations. The NtK Model connects the academic research process with accepted industrial practices regarding new product development. This connection is necessary to ensure that the outputs from academic research products that intend to generate beneficial socio-economic impacts, contain the rigor and relevance necessary for industry and related external stakeholders to recognize their utility and value. The model contains everything that well-intended sponsors and project directors ’need to know’ to optimize the probability of eventual transfer, and to avoid creating barriers arising from naïve efforts.
The NtK Model contains three Phases, each grounded in a distinct yet related methodology: 1) Scientific research; 2) Engineering development; 3) Industrial production. Each Phase contains a series of Activity Stages and Decision Gates which all must be thoroughly addressed but not necessarily in the order presented. The three methodologies generate equally distinct outputs which embody new knowledge in different states: 1) Conceptual discoveries; 2) Prototype inventions; 3) Commercial innovations, respectively.
Government-sponsored innovation programs typically fund the academic sector to conduct the front-end activity with the expectation that outputs will be transferred through external stakeholders for eventual adoption by the industrial sector. Consequently, the NtK Model contains opportunities to communicate the value of these ‘knowledge state’ outputs between these academic, professional, industrial and governmental sectors.
Our project team previously created the NtK Model for Commercial Devices and Services because many government-sponsored programs expect project outcomes to result in commercial market impacts. However, programs may also generate three other types of technology-based outputs: 1) Freeware; 2) Instruments/Tools; 3) Standards/Protocols. So the current NtK Variant Model Project is building parallel versions to represent the stages and gates appropriate for those different types of project outputs.