We see concept searching as supporting innovation in two ways: prior art searching, which is searching for what already exists, and solution searching, searching for a novel solution to an existing problem.
Prior art searching is not as efficient a process, as broad in scope, or as accurate in result, as it could and probably should be. The prior art includes library collections, journals, conference proceedings and everything else that has been written, drawn, spoken or made public in any way. Much technical information is only published in patents. There are good reasons to improve prior art searching.
Research, industry, and indeed humanity, faces the spectre of patent thickets: an impenetrable patent space that effectively hinders development rather than promoting it. Improved prior-art searching would help with the gardening and result in fewer and higher-quality patents. Poor-quality patents can reward patenting activity per se, which is not what the system was designed for.
Improved prior-art searching could also result in less duplication in research, and/or in improved collaboration.
As regards solution search, we believe that much better use could be made of the existing literature, enabling solutions to be found from non-obvious areas of science and technology. Biomimetics, the adoption of solutions from nature, and cross industry innovation would be supported by a DZ initiative.
A Citizen Science initiative that developed a working search engine could generate revenue in support of sustainability. Monies accrued could be targeted to problems that humanity faces, such as developing climate change mitigation technologies or discovering new antibiotics. Such a development would thus be ‘by the people, for the people’ to quote Abraham Lincoln out of context.
© Eric Gaba – Wikimedia Commons user: Sting