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Protecting Your Organization's Innovations

Two members of NASA's Technology Protection Program explain security's critical role in helping protect an organization's ability to innovate.

Global economic competition, to a large extent, has replaced the Cold War political and military competition. As a result, countries now pursue national economic interests through a myriad of activities, including espionage. Their goal is to maintain and sustain a competitive advantage in the global market place as quickly and affordably as possible, preferably at YOUR expense. This has placed US businesses in an even greater position of risk as countries and companies increase the targeting of innovative US based research, technologies, and products.

The targeting and theft of US innovation, be it in the form of intellectual property, trade secrets, research, prototypes, etc., has significant dire effects on the nation. In an attempt to quantify the impacts of this information theft, the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive estimated that the "combined costs of foreign and domestic economic espionage, including the theft of intellectual property, is as high as US$300 billion per year and rising." These findings were consistent with the Trends in Proprietary Information Loss report prepared by the American Society for Industrial Security, which surveyed Fortune 500 companies and concluded "over the past few years this annual report has highlighted the fact that documented losses of trade secrets and other proprietary information cost US companies tens of billions of dollars annually." Similarly, the Department of Justice estimates that the loss of research and technology information annually cost US companies as much as US$250 billion and the Chamber of Commerce estimates 750,000 jobs are annually lost as a result of this information theft. The theft of US innovation erodes our industrial base, our economy, and weakens not only the competitive advantages of our companies, but our Nation as a whole. To maintain a competitive edge US companies and governmental organizations must continue to foster innovation and must also protect the innovation from competitors.

What can US companies and government organizations do to protect their innovation from competitors?

US commercial and governmental organizations should establish an integrated Innovation Preservation Process (IPP) into their overall business strategy. The IPP is not solely a security function, but a multi-disciplined collaborative effort with the mission to maximize the lifetime of innovation and the associated return on investment. This multi-discipline team includes executive management and representatives from each organizational unit concerned with the innovation.

Identifying your innovation is the first step in the IPP. Innovation presents itself in ideas, concepts, applications, etc., that when applied to your services and products, ensure market sustainment, promote market growth and enable market development.

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