Technology Acceleration Project

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Project title: Technology Acceleration

Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center (TMAC )

Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center, the NIST MEP affiliate in Texas, will use innovative and collaborative approaches to develop and demonstrate: 1) Data Standards for a needs analysis and assessment tool, known as Asset Inventory Management focused on MEP's five Strategic Growth Areas; 2) benefits of Technology Acceleration training, including Technology Scouting and Technology Driven Market Intelligence; and, 3) a methodology that places MEP in a position to connect technology sources including private, federal and university based with U.S. manufacturers.


For more information contact:
Drew Casani
(817) 272-5985
[drew.casani@tmac.org|mailto:drew.casani@tmac.org?subject=From Tech Acceleration Wiki]

The Needs Analysis Survey


The Needs Analysis Survey is an online data collection tool that can be used by the engineers int the MEP network to document assessed needs of their customers in a standardized format. Standardization of the Needs Analysis will enable the MEP network to leverage the collected data and tools like the Collaborative Partnership to connect needs with solutions. These data standards will be particularly focused on the the five MEP growth areas.
Aim 1 will be to come up with analytic / reporting mechanism on the need-trend. We also intend to create a bridge between this system and existing resource-discovery tools like collaborative partnership to provide solution(s) in space of academia research. This is a restrictive solution space of what we ultimately desire to achieve but would provide a good starting point to explore the mapping between the needs and the respective solution.This will lead to a better understanding of an appropriate ranking function.

Aim 2 of this phase is to come up with standardization of different attributes that would characterize the company and their needs. The standardization will enable different data sources to connect to each other more easily forming an information grid and creating a better and bigger solution space.

The tool which we are creating for collecting the need information asks the users to enter the company name as well as the need(s) information. We have a consolidated list of attributes both for company as well as the need that we capture as a part of data entry. Some of the attributes are pre-populated and the user has to select one / multiple options. Some of the attributes are free-flowing text fields where user has to manually enter the information. The attributes that we are capturing will create the feature space and help us create better (relevant) mapping between the need and the solution.

The description and insight behind various attributes is listed as follows:

Attributes @ Company

Following attributes describe the "Company"

Attributes describing primary information about the Company

Data Element Type Required? (Y/N) Description Purpose
Company Name String Y The formal name of the company This will help us identify every company which is entered into the system. We can also align the field with the company name field from other data sources and readily import / export information as and when needed. This is the only company related mandatory information that the system maintains.
Company Website
String Y The field holds the URL for the company website.
The field will help the system to keep a track of the company information and if a company(product) is presented as a solution for a need entered by some other company the URL will help the consumer to directly go and view the company in consideration. If the system wants to crawl some introductory data from the home page of the company for harnessing more information, that can be done too.
Parent Company
String N The field holds the name of the parent company (if any)
We aim to capture the name of the parent company. Some companies are child companies of a bigger company. In such cases its better to keep a track of the parent company. It can be helpful in many ways e.g., if there exist a solution to a need by company among one of its siblings (child company of the same parent) then that can be more preferred choice of solution. We can create a hierarchy of companies which can be really useful to analyze the statistics regarding growth / development / separation / mergers etc of existing companies as well as the trend of in which companies interact with each other (this is a stretched goal at-least with respect to phase 1).

Attributes describing location information with respect to the Company

  1. Street Address
    1. Type: String
    2. Compulsory: No
    3. Description: The field holds the street address for the company location in consideration.
  2. City, State
    1. Type: String => [String, String (Comma separated)]
    2. Compulsory: No
    3. Description: The field holds the City and State information for the company location in consideration in a comma separated manner.
  3. Zipcode
    1. Type: String
    2. Compulsory: No
    3. Description: The field holds the zipcode for the company location in consideration. If a user only enters the zipcode, the system currently computes the corresponding city, state information by using  a reverse-Geo code mapping (zipcode to city, state).
  4. Country
    1. Type: Enum
    2. Values: [United States]
    3. Compulsory: No
    4. Description: The field holds the country information for the company location in consideration. Currently we only have "United States" as the value.

Intuition: The primary address of correspondence for the company is captured to align the company information based on its location. It also serves as a direct point of communication with the company in case its required. The system can also generate different location based analytics to detect / predict trends (patterns) based on all other fields of data that are being captured. This may turn out as a great utility for the MEPs to monitor the industrial growth and take any actions if and when required.

Attributes describing characteristics of the Company
  1. Status
    1. Type: Enum (Unique Selection)
    2. Values: [Private, Public]
    3. Compulsory: No
    4. Description: The field holds the value for the IPO status of a company. As of now we have two possible values a user can select with respect to the company (Private / Public)
    5. Intuition: The field captures the status of the company with respect to it being public or private. It can be a preference bit when companies try to find the solutions to their needs.
  2. Number of Employees
    1. Type: Enum (Unique Selection)
    2. Values: [1-10, 11-50, 51-200, 201-500, 501-1000, 1001-5000, 5001-10000, 10001+] 
    3. Compulsory: No
    4. Description: The field holds the value for the number of employees in the company. The list of values was taken from "Linkedin".
    5. Intuition: The field captures size of the company. It can be a good candidate attribute to classify companies. The range of values were taken from Linkedin.
  3. Company Capabilities
    1. Type: String (Multiple Selection)
    2. Compulsory: No
    3. Description: The user could add capabilities (specialties) of a company and arrange according to decreasing priority by dragging and dropping the added capabilities. We aim to use the entered capabilities as features describing a company and possibly giving companies as solutions to needs (from other companies).
    4. Intuition: The field captures the strengths (qualities) of company. It can be helpful for creating tags in the company space and analyze how companies cluster based on similarities and differences. It can also be used to align a possible company as a solution to a need by matching the need requirements to the company capabilities. Note: In phase 1 we are only targeting having academia entities as the solution space. Presenting companies as solution will be one of the goal in next phase.
  4. Average Annual Sales
    1. Type: Enum (Unique Selection)
    2. Values: [Less than $500,000, $500-$1M, $1M-2.5M, $2.5M-$5M, $5M-$10M, $10M-$20M, $20M-$50M, $50M-$100M, $100M-$500M, $500M-$1B, > $1B] 
    3. Compulsory: No
    4. Description: The field describes the values for average annual sales for companies in terms of USD
    5. Intuition: The field captures the annual sales of the company and can be used as an estimation into the growth of the company. The values selected for the field are from the website: www.manta.com The website was referred to in the discussion with TMAC engineers about the average annual sales (values) and was used as the baseline.
Attribute describing the company classification

For describing the company classification, we have used the NAICS codes. The classification is described in terms of the category and sub-category. The category is the high level of the two-level classification tree. In NAICS, its described with a name and a 2 digit code. All the unique descendants of a category are called the sub-categories. The original NAICS codes contains varied levels of depth beneath different categories. We have flattened this hierarchy out to create only 2-level tree. For flattening the hierarchy (below every category) we consider only the unique names appearing under a category irrespective of the levels they appear on. Say if a same name appears at different levels in the hierarchy, we hold the deepest descendant as the sub-category. This helps us achieve highest level of precision.

Note: In NAICS codes the digits in the code describing any sub-category depend on the level where the sub-category appears. Since we take the deepest occurring of any sub-category (in case of multiple occurrences) we save the highest precision value for the digits. According to observation, a sub-category can appear as a descendant of a higher level sub-category of the same name except the highest level sub-category.

We have extracted this information from the files containing NAICS codes information and saved it to the database as company classification listing.

  1. Company Classification
    1. Type: Enum (Multiple Selection)
    2. Value: [NAICS-Category(ies) - NAICS Sub-Category(ies)]
    3. Compulsory: No (but highly recommended)
    4. Description: A user can select a category and sub-category (with respect to the category selected). If the user selects multiple values then he can prioritize them in descending order with dragging and dropping the item in the list of selected values.
    1.  
Attributes @ Need
Attributes describing the primary information of Need
  1. Need Title
    1. Type: String
    2. Compulsory: Yes
    3. Description: It is a caption / tag line / a one line description of the need.
    4. Intuition: The field captures the gist of the need in succinct manner. It can be therefore used as an important feature in need to solution mapping.
  2. Need Description
    1. Type: Text
    2. Compulsory: No
    3. Description: A more elaborate description of the need.
    4. Intuition: The field captures an elaborate version of the need statement. It can be used to extract the keywords (tags) associated with the need and used in search.
Attributes describing the primary contact information of Need
  1. Title
    1. Type: Enum (Unique Selection)
    2. Value: [Mr, Ms]
    3. Compulsory: No
    4. Description: Title of the primary contact for the need.
  2. First Name
    1. Type: String
    2. Compulsory: No
    3. Description: First name of the primary contact for the need.
  3. Last Name
    1. Type: String
    2. Compulsory: No
    3. Description: Last name of the primary contact for the need.
  4. Designation
    1. Type: String
    2. Compulsory: No
    3. Description: Description of the position / post / level of seniority in the company (specifically with respect to the need).
  5. Email
    1. Type: String
    2. Compulsory: No
    3. Description: Email address of the primary contact for the need.
  6. Preferred Telephone
    1. Type: String
    2. Compulsory: No
    3. Description: Preferred contact number of the primary contact for the need.
  7. Street Address
    1. Type: String
    2. Compulsory: No
    3. Description: Street address (office address) of the primary contact for the need.
  8. City, State
    1. Type: String => [String, String (Comma separated)]
    2. Compulsory: No
    3. Description: The field holds the City and State information of the primary contact for the need.
  9. Zipcode
    1. Type: String
    2. Compulsory: No
    3. Description: The zipcode of the primary contact for the need.
  10. Country
    1. Type: Enum
    2. Values: [United States]
    3. Compulsory: No
    4. Description: The field holds the country information of the primary contact for the need Currently we only have "United States" as the value.

Intuition: The fields above capture the contact details of a person associated with the need.

Attributes describing the characteristics of Need
  1. Related Growth Areas
    1. Type: Enum (Multiple  Selection)
    2. Value: [Technology Acceleration, Continuous Improvement, Sustainability, Workforce, Supplier Development]
    3. Compulsory: No
    4. Description: The field indicates the 5 growth areas indicated by NIST. The values selected will help the system to learn the motivation behind the need and align the need better with the selected growth areas.
    5. Intuition: The five growth areas are specified by NIST as a part of the initiative. The field captures the association of a need to a particular growth area. A need can actually associate with more than one growth areas.
  2. Capital Needs
    1. Type: Text
    2. Compulsory: No
    3. Description: The field describes any capital requirement for satisfying the need. The field was highlighted in a meeting with engineers of TMAC where it was indicated that this will be one of the important aspects (feature) of the need to capture. The solution search system can use this feature as a constraint to rank the results appropriately.
    4. Intuition; The field captures the description of any capital needs that (or an estimation). The field can be used to match the need against any funding opportunity information the system may leverage.
  3. Capital Amount
    1. Type: Enum [Unique Selection]
    2. Value: [10-50k, 50-100k, 100-500k, 500k-1M, 1M+]
    3. Compulsory: No
    4. Description: The field will give an estimated price of the solution. The field was highlighted and quantified in a meeting with TMAC engineers.
    5. Intuition: The field will capture the dollar amount (estimated) that is needed by a company. Its a quantity and can reflect on financial standing of a company, ability of a company to grow, etc. The values of the same were d
  4. Funding Source of Interest
    1. Type: Enum [Multiple Selection]
    2. Value: [Internal Funding, State Funding, Federal Funding, Angel Investors, Venture Capitalist, Bank Loan or Financing, Grants]
    3. Compulsory: No
    4. Description: The field will help the system understand the scope to search possible funding opportunities. This information can be aligned with any network of funding sources and a partnership could be created to provide the results of possible funding sources that the companies would like to explore.
    5. Interest: The field captures preference for the funding opportunities with respect to the need.
  5. Development Status
    1. Type: Enum [Unique Selection]
    2. Value: [Pre-Concept, Solution Analysis, Technology Development, Engineering and Manufacturing development, Production and Development, Operations and Support]
    3. Compulsory: No
    4. Description: The field indicates the phase of the product / process development where the need is required. The field values were extracted from the following presentation shared by Jeremy: http://www.dtic.mil/ndia/2008science/Day3/03Morgan.pdf
    5. Intuition: The field captures the stage in a product / process development where the need is required.
  6. Related Products
    1. Type: String (Multiple Selection)
    2. Compulsory: No
    3. Description: A company can list down its own products related to one which has the need. This can help us create a information network of companies and present their product(s) as solutions to some need(s) that matches their product characteristics. This is used as a implicit feedback from the system.
    4. Intuition: The field captures other related products that may have similar need.
  7. Competing Products
    1. Type: String (Multiple Selection)
    2. Compulsory: No
    3. Description: A company can list down its the competing products to one which has the need. This can help the system fetch relevant solutions with help of some more information extracted from the competing products.
    4. Intuition: The field captures products similar to the one that has the need such that they act as a direct competitors.
  8. Time already spent (before solution search began)
    1. Type: Enum [Unique Selection]
    2. Value: [< 1 Month, 1-3 Months, 3-6 Months, 6-12 Months, 1-3 Years, > 3 Years]
    3. Compulsory: No
    4. Description: The field describes the time that the company has already spent looking for solution.
  9. Time required for find solution
    1. Type: Enum [Unique Selection]
    2. Value: [< 1 Month, 1-3 Months, 3-6 Months, 6-12 Months, 1-3 Years, > 3 Years]
    3. Compulsory: No
    4. Description: The field describes the time that the company would like to find the solution in.
  10. Time to implement solution
    1. Type: Enum [Unique Selection]
    2. Value: [< 1 Month, 1-3 Months, 3-6 Months, 6-12 Months, 1-3 Years, > 3 Years]
    3. Compulsory: No
    4. Description: The field describes the time that the company would like to get the solution implemented.

Intuition for fields (8,9,10): For the timing related fields we are trying to separate three different time frames that relate the need with the solution required with respect to time. It aims at capturing time spend that has already been spent searching for solution (w/o our framework), time estimate in which the company wants the solution to be identified, the time estimate the company expects the solution to be implemented. The timing values can act as very good features when assigning need priorities and optimizing the supply of solution to the right need at right time so as to maximize productivity.

Attributes describing the required solution specification (classification)

Solution Classification: The classification of expected (desired) solution will help align the possible solutions with the the respective needs. We are using the classification used by CiteSeer for classifying the research articles. The classification consist of a category and a subcategory. Different categories cover various areas of research and the subcategories cover more granular classification.

While selecting (adding) a expected solution classification entry to the need description, a user will have to select both the category and a corresponding subcategory and do the add. User can select multiple category-subcategory combinations and then arrange them in the priority based on relevance / degree of acceptance / or any other preferences with respect to the need.

With respect to phase 1 we aim to target all the academic entities as possible solution space. So the solutions can consist of entities like People (doing some research), Technology, Laboratory, Research Group, etc. Since the solution space is related to academia we decided to use the CiteSeer classification as it naturally aligns with the entities in focus.

Attributes describing the characteristics of solution desired
  1. Application(s)
    1. Type: Text
    2. Compulsory: No
    3. Description: The field describes the application of the product / process the need forms a part of.
    4. Intuition: The field describes the application of the product / process that has the need.
  2. Benefit(s)
    1. Type: Text
    2. Compulsory: No
    3. Description: The field describes the benefits of the product / process the need forms a part of.
    4. Intuition: The field describes the benefits of the product / process that has the need.
  3. Expected Company Involvement in Solution Development
    1. Type: Enum [Multiple Selection]
    2. Value: [None, Provide Infrastructure, Co-Development]
    3. Compulsory: No
    4. Description: The field describes how much the company wants to be involved when the solution is implemented. As in if they want to outsource it and want the final solution returned or they want to take part in the solution development or just provide infrastructure and let the solution provider do the work by itself.
    5. Intuition: The field describes level of involvement the company wishes to have in developing the resolution for the need.
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