1. Innovation Process - Identifying an Original Idea
Generally for an idea to become an innovation there needs to be an element of originality which would result ideally in a product or process which is cheaper, more reliable or which is less complex.
Note: It is important to understand that an innovation is not just and initial idea or spark of ingenuity, it is actually a product that is conceived and taken to full commercial release i.e. it becomes a product that is sold commercially. So the innovation process describes the stages required to achieve that objective.
At this stage a good deal of effort needs to go into establishing that the idea is original. This is achieved by conducting a series of searches for evidence that no one else has had the same or a similar idea particularly if they have progressed the idea before you. The main types of searches that would need to be conducted are as follows: -
1. Product search – look at what else is on the market.
2. Patent search – looking at patents that have been registered which may encompass the idea both in the UK and internationally.
Both of the above are geared towards establishing if prior art exists and that the idea is not original.
The main problem is that this is a huge task, prior art is all encompassing with respect to mediums, geographical location and time but can determine whether a patent is accepted or rejected.
Discovery of prior art cannot be ignored, either a completely new idea must be developed or at least a change of course back to originality must be undertaken.
It can also be costly with no guarantee of complete success.
2. Innovation Process - Is There a Demand for the Idea
Originality on its own is no guarantee of successful innovation, there must be an existing or potential demand for the end product or process
It must be established if anyone actually needs the idea, what the potential market price of the product will be versus manufacturing costs and whether the idea has significant advantages over existing methods or products.
Investigations need to be carried out looking at competitive products and prices. Market research involving potential customers will need to be done and a search of relevant published information should be conducted.
Be wary of disclosure when discussing the idea with potential customers or sponsors.
Make sure information sources are reliable.
3. Innovation Process - Will the Idea Work
Modelling the idea where possible will help determine if it actually works.
If possible make a prototype; ideally using detailed drawings to support manufacture.
Establish manufacturing costs and be prepared to have the information available for presentation to potential sponsors.
Producing prototypes & drawings can be expensive.
4. Innovation Process - Is It Worth Selling
The potential return must be greater than the risk involved getting it to market. It’s a good idea at this stage to seek financial assistance.
Seek help from a professional or professional body: -
- Innovation centres
- Business Links
- Local Council
- Various sources of sponsorship, private or commercial should be considered
Be prepared to accept reasonable investment /advise costs. Being greedy may discourage potential support groups.
Ensure offered assistance is worth associated costs.
5. Innovation Process - Intellectual Property
Without establishing the unique aspect of the idea and when it occurred there will be nothing to sell.
Ensure there is enough information in place, drawn, photographed or written, so that someone familiar with the technology or skill will be able to manufacture it.
Ensure all relevant forms of legal protection are taken out: -
- Design registration
- Design Right
- Trade Marks
If the information is vague or ambiguous, legal protection is much more difficult.
Establishing & defending legal protection can be very expensive.
Be sure the idea has a market before committing to expensive legal protection.
6. Innovation Process - Financial Expectations
Financial expectations need to be realistic.
Ensure any assessment periods negotiated with interested companies are well-defined and documented in terms of time scales and payments.
Be prepared to work out an outline deal covering royalties and pre-production payments.
Be ready to complete negotiations but ensure a legal representative deals with final details.
Don’t try and renegotiate once the outline is agreed this may result in a withdrawal.
The cost of manufacture should be no more than 25% - 30% of established market price in order for all parties to realise a reasonable profit margin.
7. Innovation Process - Commercial Strategy
Depends on a product which is good enough to sell, this is the last chance to assess whether it is.
Be prepared for rejection and if necessary to go into manufacture yourself if you can’t identify a suitable company to approach or those that you do are not interested.
Be sure the product is priced correctly in line with market expectations established earlier.
If taking on the role of manufacturer ensure professional advice is sought and considered.
Large companies with well-established development strategies are unlikely to be responsive.
Be aware of potential disclosure situations at this late stage.
Going into production yourself is a whole new ball game, be sure all aspects of this approach are understood.