INTELLIXIR (www.intellixir.com) is an innovative patent and science literature analysis system. Launched commercially in 2002, it debuted in North America 6 years later, in 2008, during The Patent Information Users Group, Inc. (PIUG) annual conference. I stumbled across it there--and I did in fact wonder if INTELLIXIR was an elixir.
To clarify, the system is not an interface to a comprehensive patent or literature database--although users can search against uploaded data sets. INTELLIXIR's purpose is to supply a chest of tools that enable probing imported data and converting findings into visible rather than text formats. The goal is to extract and discover collaborators, competitors, and emerging technologies.
Standing there, glassy-eyed from a day of looking and listening at the conference, my heart raced some as I noticed INTELLIXIR's response rate, sharp imagery, and apparent usability. Five minutes on, succumbing to the eye candy, I found myself pondering: Maybe someone had finally figured out how to ease our data analysis pains in a way that made some sense--with simplicity. INTELLIXIR was quick to map and dissect cited patents, expose technology patenting trends, and reveal inventor working groups. It ranked, graphed, and charted inventors, assignees, and concepts. It allowed me to group assignee subsidiaries and company names with different spellings. It allowed downloading into Excel the data supporting the illustrations.
Having stepped away from the allure of the first encounter, I decided I wanted to learn more, to try to clarify whether my infatuation could be justified. It took some time, but I finally plucked up the courage and asked Jean-Michel Careil, developer and INTELLIXIR founder, for an interview that would set the record straight. An edited transcript of our conversation follows.
Mark: Jean-Michel, how did you become involved in the field of programming, and more specifically, how long you have been making analytics software?
Jean-Michel: It all began in 1991, when I was in the French atomic agency (CEA; Commissariat a l'Energie Atomique), where I was producing a dashboard and reporting system for the Environmental Radiological Control department. I was working a lot with Excel (and its father, Multiplan ... I am so old) and Word. This experience showed me how it is important and interesting to make efficient graphical representations to help management make the right decisions.
The project began in CEA with SIMBAD, initiated by Patrick Baldit. Patrick wanted to create a web application that could allow scientists to navigate easily among text and graphical representations to help them to find relevant information. It was in 1996-1997, the beginning of web-database applications. We met in 1998 in Cadarache, a CEA research plant in southeast France, and we decided to develop this project together with other colleagues: Pierre Mahler, Jean-Louis Emeric, and Sylvie Gibert. Patrick has presented this application several times during conferences, and some in the industry wanted to try it.
In 2001, we decided to create a spinoff with this project. Although in 2002 our work as a group ended, I continued to develop INTELLIXIR on my own--but the others are still friends of mine, I promise you.
Mark: Were those nuclear energy conferences where Patrick was demonstrating the software?
Jean-Michel: It was particularly during SCIP [Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals] meetings. Patrick also presented SIMBAD during the 1998 conference of the Veille Strategique Scientifique & Technologique, where delegates come mainly from universities.
Mark: How did you decide to target patent information, and when did INTELLIXIR become a dream that you wanted to pursue?
Jean-Michel: We decided to communicate more on patent analysis in 2008, discovering the Patent Information [Users] Group and attending the Annual Conference. …