The role of Information Specialists in R&D

We welcome our latest colleague Jonas Hasler by interviewing him about his experience working in a company with highly R&D driven culture and his role as an information specialist in the R&D department pushing the innovation process forward.

 

Good morning Jonas Hasler, can you shortly tell us about you and your role at ABB research?

Before joining Uppdragshuset, I worked as a Patent Information Specialist and patent attorney at the internal Swedish patent department. In later years I worked as Patent Information Specialist and Intellectual Property Coordinator at ABB Corporate Research in Västerås/Sweden.

 

What is the target for this role?

The ambition of the role is to push the innovation process forward. I achieve this by being accessible for everyone to discuss IP related issues. I also add value to the process by providing the project teams or researchers with a higher awareness of technology and thus letting them start the work at higher level. I search for more data and provide it in a good format for researchers. Nobody wants to reinvent the wheel, especially if you are an R&D driven corporation. Naturally, the innovation must be monitored so it can be evaluated and pushed in the right direction. This is achieved by reporting of statistics and several KPIs that I gather and present for managers on a monthly basis.

 

Which needs does your client ABB Corporate Research have?

The need is aligned with my role so once again, to push the innovation process forward. A supportive part with training in IP and using tools to search and monitor technologies. And naturally, a pushing part, coordinating gate meetings & decision meetings, where the information needed for decisions is prepared and the right stake holders and decision makers are in place. The stakeholders are normally the R&D department and the business divisions, sometimes the patent department but normally during the Invention process, the patent department has just a supporting and supervising function.

 

How do you solve these needs?

This might sound a bit boring, but it has to be mentioned, well defined KPIs for first filings are supporting the coordination role in pushing the process forward. I must do some work besides relying on KPIs to do all the work (smile emoji). Provide the right documentation for business decisions to keep a good flow in all meetings. This is done by performing searches, getting assessment from IP coordinator and inventors, and providing the result in the right format for the decision makers. Also, simply being accessible for everyone to discuss IP related issues is a key factor for success.

 

Is there anything else that you think could be done?

My personal thoughts based on more than 30 years of experience from patent work in ABB is that it is challenging to get the attention of the researchers to patent activities. It is easier and normally more inspiring and incentive for researchers to work with know how rather patents (maybe even for the company (smile emoji)) since the patents are for protective reasons. It is difficult for researchers to see the purpose of a pile of patents that are never used or mentioned. I think that a transition should be done from protective to partly defensive use of patents. For those not familiar with the “language”, defensive means earn money and protective means achieve freedom-to-operate By taking the patents from being cost centered and taking resources to being a profit center. Then this would alter the view on patents at R&D and the company in general. In the final it would simplify both mine and the work of the reviewers.

 

What differences have you experienced between working from home and at the office?

My general experience is that working on site is more rewarding since then you have the chance to meet your colleagues and discuss things face to face. Working remotely creates a distance between people and we have noticed that it has had an impact on the inventiveness. This has been highlighted on several levels and is even up for discussion in the board room. The CEO of ABB has talked about the need to meet each other for creating and maintaining relations and in the end for being able to innovate.

One unexpected reflection is that is has been easier to work from home and a positive aspect is that several of my colleagues have been able save travel time. A strange thing I have noticed is that now when we use Teams instead of calling then some people send a message asking if they can make a call, when we only used phones then no one sent a message asking if they could call (emoji smile)

 

What gives you a sense of satisfaction at the end of your working day?

Positive meetings where I get the feeling that the clients have received the results of my work and valued it.  Positive feedback and returning clients are of course always satisfactory. I also appreciate when I notice that clients know where to find the information they need based on trainings that I have arranged or through patent monitorings that we have created together.

I am so old that I was around when it was difficult to find information and now we are in a situation where we have access to most of everything. The challenge of my work is to inform people that the information is out there, how to find it, who to contact and who the stakeholders are. It sounds easy but it must be repeated often. I have found that training of newly hired colleagues is easier since they from day one become aware that submitting inventions from R&D projects is a part of their role, and another reason is that they have not yet become caught up in projects where their time is filled up and I am competing for that time (smile emoji). I would like to summarize with that my work is fun and rewarding because I am meeting and helping very knowledgeable and nice people at ABB Corporate Research and at ABB Worldwide.