Linking patent data and scientific research: The innovation accelerator we have all been looking for
by Matthijs van der Pol & Jorda Zuurendonk, on Jul 27, 2020 6:10:38 AM
Based on an interview with George Tsatsaronis, Vice-President Data Science Research Content Operations at Elsevier
At Elsevier, an international publisher of scientific publications, George Tsatsaronis heads up the data science research content operations department. With a background in natural language processing and data mining, he knows exactly how to convert massive amounts of data into transparent, usable information. According to Tsatsaronis, “It all comes down to defining connections and correlations.”
Basis for governance policy and business strategy
There is a clear parallel between Tsatsaronis’ work and the patent solutions from LexisNexis® IP—which all focus on patent data analysis. Tsatsaronis uses artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing to analyze an enormous amount of scientific publications. To this end, he examines the research funders plus the number of subsidies and compares the intended outcomes to the actual research outcomes.
The objective is to index the raw data at a large scale, so it can be searchable for both subsidy applicants and subsidy providers. This is important according to Tsatsaronis, because subsidy providers require full transparency into the funds they make available. Moreover, subsidy applicants like universities want to know which research areas are still underexposed. “With the results, one can justify the need for subsidies, but the data also forms the basis for government to formulate policies and for businesses to make better-informed strategic decisions,” said Tsatsaronis.
The necessity of patent data
This is where patent data comes in, according to Tsatsaronis. In the past several years, there has been a shift in the way companies operate. Their competitive advantage is defined by innovation in more ways than ever before. In order to take the right strategic decisions and minimize the unnecessary use of resources, we need to have a complete and comprehensive picture of the world surrounding us. That translates directly into the necessity to include patent information into the dataset that is used as the basis to define policy. “Where patent data used to be a nice-to-have in the strategy developing process, it has now turned into a need-to-have,” said Tsatsaronis.
In Tsatsaronis’ view, the time is now to link scientific, peer-reviewed research to patent data. This idea first came to the table in the 1980s. Still a theory at the time, the stormy rise of computer technology—and specifically artificial intelligence in the past decades—makes this (with the help of superfast computers) practically feasible today. According to Tsatsaronis, “Currently, we are still in the rebirth of the neural networks. That means we are now in the ideal position to make optimal use of these networks.”
Linked data is the “new gold”
When it comes to transforming these ambitions into reality, Tsatsaronis observes a shift in perspective. Before, when people spoke about the “new gold,” they were referring to data in general. Today, linked data is considered to be the new gold, according to Tsatsaronis. Nowadays, collecting data is fairly easy and inexpensive. While that is a great development, he is convinced that the real value is to be found in identifying valuable connections and correlations.
To make the connections in massive datasets with different origins workable, it is essential to make the right decisions in the strategy development process. Assessing sources and applying hierarchy entails a lot of manual work, according to Tsatsaronis. And that is not the only problem: a big amount of information is of questionable origin. “The crux of this challenge is assessing what is valuable and useful,” said Tsatsaronis. “That is the most important part, but also the hardest part.”
Creating opportunities through shortcuts
According to Tsatsaronis, we live in a time of change. Before, inventions were given away and research was conducted in collaboration with the industry. Nowadays, universities tend to issue a patent for an invention themselves. That has resulted in new inventions often making a first appearance as patents that are then published in peer-reviewed articles in a later stage.
How can businesses use this to their advantage? Where are the opportunities when scientific research is linked to patented ideas? In short, it all comes down to creating shortcuts, according to Tsatsaronis.
The ideal image: accelerating innovation
As an example, Tsatsaronis examines a pharmaceutical company that is looking for treatment for a specific form of cancer. By extracting data from a specific genome or from a treatment that has already proven to be successful, researchers can determine the best chances of finding a successful medicine much faster. “By doing this, the time to market, especially in health and life sciences, is shortened significantly. That offers enormous opportunities to make new inventions available faster; and this is something that benefits society as a whole,” said Tsatsaronis.
Another aspect that makes the connection of scientific data and patent data beneficial to businesses is that a lot of knowledge is gathering dust on the shelves or buried under piles of research. Providing transparency into all those inventions and combining them with patents, opens a gold mine of opportunities, according to Tsatsaronis. However, he stipulates that it is important to make a side note here: this is an ideal image, the future as he envisions it, in which knowledge can be extracted and applied in practice.
Hybrid intelligence—AI collaborating with people
What needs to be done to get to that point as soon as possible? Tsatsaronis doesn’t want to speculate. He does notice the availability of better hardware and software and the rapid decline in the number of obstacles. “Developments happen faster than ever before, and are exceeding everyone’s expectations,” said Tsatsaronis. Artificial intelligence even has a successor just around the corner; everybody is already talking about hybrid intelligence. “Hybrid intelligence is artificial intelligence that collaborates with humans. It will help us achieve our goals easier and faster and to make better informed decisions,” said Tsatsaronis.
Beneficial to society as a whole
According to Tsatsaronis, not only will businesses and governments benefit from this development; society as a whole will also benefit. “It comes down to significantly improving access to new knowledge in a way that benefits everybody involved that uses this knowledge. That is the acceleration. And it will definitely make a difference to all of us.”
George Tsatsaronis is Vice-President Data Science Research Content Operations at Elsevier. In his vision, patent data and scientific research are two sides of the same coin. If these two disciplines are combined in an intelligent way, the industry will be able to convert knowledge into marketable products faster than ever before.