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How can you discover unmet needs? AI and advanced analytics can help

An unmet need is when people want a solution to a problem, but that solution either doesn’t exist yet, or the people who want it aren’t aware of it.

You can look at unmet needs from two directions: One, there are the people with the unmet need who want to find a solution. And two, if you are a technology provider, discovering unmet needs for your technology might open up new business opportunities for you.

This article is about this second direction: How can you discover unmet needs for a technology that you provide?

Unfortunately there is no “find me unmet needs” button. But there are methods that help you increase your chances of “unmet needs discovery”.

1. Use Mergeflow’s AI Mindmap Generator as a sparring partner for thinking

Mergeflow has an AI-based mindmap generator. For any query you enter, it writes a short description and gives you examples, categories, and related topics.

You can use this mindmap generator to help you discover unmet needs. While it probably won’t simply spew out a list of unmet needs, it helps you look in the right places.

First example: Unmet needs in collaborative robotics

For example, let’s say you are an innovator in collaborative robotics. Below is what you get when you simply enter “collaborative robotics unmet needs” into Mergeflow’s mindmap generator:

Mergeflow AI mindmap "collaborative robotics unmet needs" response
Mergeflow AI mindmap generator response to “collaborative robotics unmet needs”.

This is a useful jumping-off-board. For example, the description says that…

“There is a need for affordable, flexible, and easy-to-use sensing and perception solutions…”

So you could search for sensing and perception in the context of collaborative robots, for example. Or, related to this, for machine vision and collaborative robotics.

In addition, some of the suggested subtopics might be interesting. For example, “collaborative agriculture”–even though in this case it probably makes sense to do a broader search, for collaborative robotics and agriculture, for example.

Second example: Unmet needs in the smart city market

Here is another example, from the (admittedly extremely broad) area of smart city. The query to the mindmap generator in this case was “unmet needs in the smart city market”:

Mergeflow AI mindmap generator response to "Unmet needs in the smart city market".
Mergeflow AI mindmap generator response to “Unmet needs in the smart city market”.

You can infer unmet needs from the description. For example, from the statement…

“The data that is collected by smart city sensors and other devices is often not very accurate or up to date.”

…you could infer a need for real-time data in the context of smart city. Then, to discover companies, markets and R&D in this specific area, you could simply search for “smart city” AND “real-time”, for example. Here is a data snapshot from Mergeflow for this query:

Mergeflow data snapshot on “smart city and real-time data” ->

Mergeflow’s AI mindmap generator is a sparring partner, not an oracle

In any case, whatever your topic is, please bear in mind that the mindmap generator is a sparring partner. The idea is to help you think of things that you might otherwise have missed, not so much to give you ready-made answers.

Related: Mergeflow’s AI Mindmap Generator ->

2. Look for high-growth niche markets

The second method that helps you discover unmet needs uses market data. In a previous article, we already talked about niche markets and why they’re interesting for launching new products.

How can high-growth niche markets help you discover unmet needs?

The idea is that if a market is niche, or small, there probably aren’t too many providers yet that address that market. So there’s probably less competition. At the same time, if it’s high-growth, this suggests that there is (so far mostly) unmet demand.

With its analytics that extract market estimates from news, company websites and other data, Mergeflow helps you discover such high-growth niche markets.

Related reading: How to find niche markets for new technologies ->

First example: Collaborative robotics, revisited

For our first example, let’s use collaborative robotics again. Of course, we’re not interested in estimates for the collaborative robotics market per se. Rather, we want to see high-growth niche markets that are related to collaborative robotics.

The chart below (click on the chart to see it in full size) shows such markets. The x axis is estimated CAGR (market growth), and the y axis is market size (estimated for 2022). Note that we left out market segments with a CAGR below 10%.

Mergeflow helps identify high-growth niche markets for technologies. The example here shows niche markets for "collaborative robotics".
Mergeflow helps identify high-growth niche markets for technologies. The example here shows niche markets for “collaborative robotics”.

Below the orange line is where the most niche but still high-growth markets are. As you can see, this includes “pharmaceutical robots”, “cleanroom robots”, and, with the highest (estimated!) growth rates, exoskeletons and piece picking robots (for these last two links, you need a Mergeflow account; if you don’t have one, you can sign up for a 14-day free trial).

Second example: 3D printing

Below are data for another topic, 3D printing, and applying the same logics. Again, the goal is to discover high-growth niche markets because these may indicate unmet needs.

The “region of interest” is marked orange (click on the image below to see it in full size).

Markets in the "3D printing" technology field, extracted by Mergeflow. Highlighted are small size, high growth market segments. These market segments are more likely to be unmet-needs-related.
Markets in the “3D printing” technology field, extracted by Mergeflow. Highlighted are small size, high growth market segments. These market segments are more likely to be unmet-needs-related.

There are no hard rules for how you should define your region of interest. All this depends on your context and your goals. And, similar to the AI mindmap above, these data are intended as jumping-off-boards, rather than as definitive answers. For example, as a next step, you could scout out partner opportunities in those niche markets that are most relevant to you.

This article was written by:

Florian Wolf

Florian Wolf

Florian is founder and CEO at Mergeflow, where he is responsible for company strategy and analytics development at Mergeflow. Previously, Florian developed analytics software for risk management at institutional investors. He also worked as a Research Associate in Computer Science and Genetics at the University of Cambridge. Florian has a PhD in Cognitive Sciences from MIT.