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Research & Development Course

Research & Development

Synopsis:

Exploring the elements and components involved in arriving at a reliable and reasonably accurate evaluation of a product, concept or idea.  This is inclusive of practicably any item of intellectual property irrespective of the manner of product disposition, ranging from use in a closed research environment to outright sale.

Purpose:

R&D is both narrow and broad at the same time. Narrow in the sense that it is best practice through the R&D phase, to remain within the construct of research and development specific to the concept; broad as a result of all the non-R&D facets that are uncovered through the R&D process and relevant to the bigger picture of product release and life span. This phase is the most effective for identifying factors and elements that either supports the continuation of the project, or reasons why further pursuit is not merited.

 

Introduction

    Research & Development really is the wizards realm; it is where the magic happens (or not). This phase can render a good idea useless, or turn a weak idea into a million dollar product offering. Assuming you have done your homework in the prerequisite phases of preparation, a good R&D strategy and implementation will result in the creation of the strongest product iteration. Obviously, you want to bring your best product to market, which will make your marketing and branding work easier, more effective and identify more specific target markets. It is not uncommon to uncover potential markets and targets you had not previously considered.

    R&D is typically an activity conducted internally by any given company. However, it is not uncommon for segments of R&D to be outsourced. In some cases, all R&D activities are subcontracted externally. Costs for R&D vary widely from company to company, sector to sector and project to project.  The amount of money invested in R&D, known as R&D intensity, also varies, and is measured against product or corporate revenue. Established products that are in the “utility” category, or products common to daily or frequent use, typically have an R&D intensity of less than 5%, while companies in the high tech sector can increase to nearly 50%.

    R&D requirements and activities also widely vary depending on the size, scope and complexity of the product. By example, the amount of revenue invested in R&D for a new guitar pick will obviously have a dramatically lower R&D intensity than the Airbus 380. Nevertheless, as it pertains to product quality, safety, impact and profitability, among many other salient considerations, R&D is equally important in both [and all] cases.

    At the very least, product R&D activities will necessarily require research into the competitive environment, competitors, including exact product competition, as well as similar products and products on the “periphery” of your proposed project. Researching existing patent records that will have significant material impact on your ability to build a hedge of IP protection around your product is also mandatory and vital.

    Market research and developing a marketing strategy is a separate component, but the results of the SWOT analysis (see the marketing module) will likely also have an impact on your R&D efforts.

    Technical papers, drawings and other exhibits are the language through which your product will communicate and interface with the world. A napkin sketch (or at least a photocopy of one) is sufficient for getting the project moving, and even filing a patent, but it won’t get you far for the purposes of design, prototyping and manufacturing. Unless you are capable of rendering accurate drawings to scale, you will need to engage the services of a competent CAD artist/draftsman. Obviously, the more complex the product, the more vital it will be to have usable drawings for development, pricing quotes, material proliferation, shipping and distribution costs and requirements, and numerous other important considerations.

    In other course modules, we discuss the vital importance of the marketing phase, and how image and branding are everything. While there is no doubt a clever and well designed marketing campaign will create, boost and sustain sales, one immutable fact remains; the more appealing and “saleable” the basis of an idea is, the easier it is to sell.  

    Not to diminish the obvious importance of a good marketing strategy, but if you have something that sells itself on its own attributes (convenience, merit, etc.), marketing becomes less critical than if you have a product with lesser purpose, utility and appeal. Being in the first category pays dividends across the board. The most obvious benefit is It doesn’t cost as much to market a “self-selling” product. Conversely, a product does not need to be the next greatest thing to have value and relevance in the market place, which is the category that most products fall in.  

    The following definition of R&D (Research & Development) provides an overview of the process, as well as its revelational importance:

    R&D

    Exploratory actions a business or individual engages in with the intention of revealing the necessary activities and proceedings that may or will result in the development of a new product(s) or process, or improvement/enhancement of existing products or processes. Research and development is a mandatory and vital component for the effective and responsible pursuit of growth and expansion. Research and Development is considered and labeled “applied research” within the greater industrial, corporate, scientific and governmental bodies.

    In this module, we concentrate on all things R&D. However, whether or not R&D is necessary or even occurs, is entirely dependent upon the merits and feasibility of your idea.  By example, an idea for new, self generating and sustainable energy (otherwise known as parity), is a fantastic idea, but is it feasible? Do you possess the expertise and means to make it a reality?

    It is commonly accepted practice to categorize R&D in two separate models.  The first, and most common, is as previously defined and described. The second R&D model is specific to the discovery of new knowledge and technology, for the purpose of creating new products, services, procedures, processes, etc. For this reason, both models are typically staffed with an entirely different group of people. Product R&D is almost always conducted by engineers and others with expertise in manufacturing and manufacturing procedures and processes; while the second R&D model is more likely to be staffed with scientists. By example, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) is primarily staffed by scientists, yet look at all of the wonderful products we all frequently use, as a result of their research and development.  

    Another vital component of R&D is the evaluation and analysis of the affect your idea will have on existing technology and markets.  If your idea can be accurately categorized as disruptive innovation (disruptive technology), which would result in a significant or radical change in the way current innovation operates, you will absolutely not want to proceed with development until you have completed a full and thorough analysis and evaluation of the consequential changes to that industry.  This will affect every component of your development chain, and will require a very different strategy.

    A disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology. The term is used in business and technology literature to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically first by designing for a different set of consumers in a new market and later by lowering prices in the existing market.

    In contrast to disruptive innovation, a sustaining innovation does not create new markets or value networks but rather only evolves existing ones with better value, allowing the firms within to compete against each other's sustaining improvements. Sustaining innovations may be either "discontinuous"[1] (i.e. "transformational" or "revolutionary") or "continuous" (i.e. "evolutionary"). [Wikipedia]

    Disruptive innovation almost always results in the displacement and/or elimination of existing technology. Obviously, that means an unavoidable confrontation of sorts with companies, government entities and even individuals who will understandably move to protect their survival.  Disruptive innovation requires a very different line of pursuit. If you believe your idea fits this description, you will be well advised to consult with experts in the development of disruptive innovation before investing resources that will likely be of no use to you. The IdeaShares Network (ISN) can help you find the right personnel to proceed.  You can also execute a request for a member of the IdeaShares staff to contact you; specifically stating you possess disruptive innovation.

    Irrespective of the nature or classification of your idea, you should have a good working knowledge of manufacturing and manufacturing processes. You may have a killer idea, but if you lack understanding of how to make it, or what material(s) to use, the road to market will be extremely difficult if not impossible. The good news: ISU is specifically created to equip you with the knowledge and contacts through ISN to move ahead with confidence. Other course modules provide a large volume of information also relevant to product development.

     

Prototypes

    As a reminder, before investing resources in building a prototype, make sure you have laid a solid foundation for pursuit. Do not try to skip evaluation or cut corners. That is the number one mistake most people make. Understandably, excitement for the project provides the motivation to get moving, but neither are a substitute for wise and responsible preparation. Hopefully, you have already been keeping your eyes and ears tuned in to possible competition, fatal flaws such as cost prohibitions or unrealistic expectations, or the absence of needed resources, to name a just few things to watch and listen for prior to opening your checkbook. For the responsible innovator, there is a substantial volume of homework due before getting to the prototype and R&D phase.

    There are several technical prototype categories. The following list provides information on how to categorize each type and the progress and value for each. Keep in mind, this list is not chronological order.  Beyond the manufactured prototype, which is the final version prior to actual mass manufacturing, there is no set order of prototype development. Product complexity will be the primary factor in determining how many prototype iterations will be needed for a final model.

    Mock-up

    This is where/how the vast majority of ideas first see the light of day. The mock-up version is typically built and used for design purposes.  It may or may not have functionality, or even some functionality, but serves its purpose for moving forward with design and research and development. Generally speaking, it is a model. We have seen mock ups with great function but no aesthetic value or just the opposite; no function but very attractive. Either will provide sufficient direction for progress, especially if you have supporting documentation inclusive of an abstract that illustrates purpose, function, parts required, parts availability, parts manufacturers, market niche and any information relevant to the project and prototype.

    Functioning Model

    This version is a fully functioning model. It should perform the task, service, purpose or utility for which it is being created. Aesthetic concerns or how it looks are not a necessary component for a functioning model, but should be sufficient to demonstrate its reason for being. It is also very common for an early prototype version to represent merely a portion of the final product, which is a big part of the reason for this phase of development!

    Original Prototype

    The original prototype is often referred to as proof of concept. It may well take the place of a mock up or functioning model. Depending on the complexity of the product, this version may actually be the product’s “entry point” for further development, or the latest design iteration along the path of prototype development. Again, there is no need for worry or concern if this version doesn’t do all you have envisioned it to do, or have the capability to completely fulfill its desired purpose. Remember, you have to start somewhere.  Whether the starting line is a mock-up or a partially functioning unit, the point is to move the project forward.

    Functioning Prototype

    This is the final version prior to mass or pre-production manufacturing. By necessity, this version needs to possess the function and appearance of the final, actual product. Having a pre-production prototype provides additional benefits beyond simply having the version ready for final production. Final changes to design and function can be made, or discovering additional features and functions not previously considered. Additionally, a functioning prototype can also be used (and frequently is) to secure funding or identify licensing opportunities.

    Another crucial purpose for this version, depending on the purpose of the product, is for use in destructive testing. It is very important to make sure your product functions in the manner it is intended, and to fulfill its purpose for use, convenience and value.  You need to know its limits of operation, potential function failure, durability and estimated life span.

Manufacturing Processes

    There are numerous manufacturing processes available for fabrication.  This is inclusive of both prototyping and production line manufacturing for finished products. The following list features the predominant processes used for manufacturing:

    3D Printing:

    3D printing is a new technology that is also an excellent example of disruptive innovation, and has become a very popular method for prototyping and product development. Currently, 3D printing is an expensive technique, but is highly effective for creating a functional, manufacturing prototype, and, depending on the product, can actually be used for creating a finished product. A 3D printer is essentially an industrial robot. 3D printing technology, also known as additive manufacturing or fused deposition modeling, enables the creation of objects using file formats in printing protocols, through inkjet deposition of liquid binder on powder to create layer after layer, in accordance with the design specifications inputted by the user.

    Again, 3D printing is expensive and often cost prohibitive, especially if several iterations are required. However, this prototyping method can be used when time is a critical element and can be completed in a fraction of the time required for typical prototype manufacturing, and to exact specifications.

    Molding:

    There are several primary molding techniques, used for molding liquid or pliable materials, including plastics, rubbers, glass, metal, iron, etc. Molding is the process of filling a hollow cavity created in the shape and size of the part being molded. This technique is usually used for smaller parts, as molds tend to be expensive, and the larger the part, the more costly the mold. Some manufacturers have the capability to make their own molds based on customer specifications. Depending on the manufacturer, it may also be necessary to engage the services of a mold maker. There are a variety of molding techniques and extrusions, the most common of which is injection molding and extrusion or co-extrusion.  

    Molding can be used to fabricate many different types of products, using a wide variety of materials.  There are numerous types of raw materials used for plastics, rubbers, metals, etc. and manufacturers are often material(s) specific, which is why it is important to choose the right manufacturer, based on your product requirements.  

    Vacuum Forming:

    Typical vacuum forming (aka thermo forming) is the process of using a flexible sheet of heated plastic pressed/drawn over/into a two part mold. Plastic dishes, containers are among a wide variety of products manufactured using this method. This is also a preferred manufacturing method when the product or application is a good candidate, as the molds are generally significantly less expensive and require fewer resources from a production/manufacturing perspective.

    If you believe your idea could be re-produced/manufacture using this technique, it is important to select a reputable company with the requisite facilities and experience. Vacuum forming can be problematic and requires serious attention to details to eliminate aberrations such as webbing and moisture saturating the material, thereby weakening the finished product, among several other problems associated with this method.  

    Blow Molding:

    Blow molding (aka BrE molding) is a manufacturing technique wherein hollow plastic parts, such as plastic bottles, are made. There are three different methods within this technique: injection (IBM), injection stretch (ISB) and extrusion (EBM).  The process starts by melting plastic into a form, also known as a parison or perform, which is essentially a tube open at one end that compressed air can be blown into. The compressed air then forces the heated plastic outward from the parison and against the form.  After the plastic has cooled, the mold, or form is released and the formed piece is ejected and sent down the production line for additional post production actions.

    Injection stretch molding has two methods: single and two stage. The tow stage technique allows for high volumes of production, but is very restrictive with regard to design and product type, and is used predominantly for producing bottles and similar types of products. This method also requires a significant amount of production/factory floor space and is not financially practical or feasible for small production runs. Single state ISB is suitable for smaller runs and lower volumes (i.e. prototyping) but is also very design restrictive.

    Blow molding has a relatively limited number of products that can be manufactured using this method. Your product concept will likely not fall within this manufacturing category, but if it does, you will need to locate a manufacturer that offer you the ability to handle both low and large production line capabilities.  By default, products within this category are almost certainly going to be high volume/low (profit) margin.

    Metal Stamping:

    Metal stamping (aka pressing) is exactly what the name implies. The process simply stamps a sheet of metal (or other materials) placed over a tool & die in the shape of the desired product. This process is also known as Tribology, or material science and engineering regarding interacting surfaces and motion. Post production actions, such as trimming, drilling, etc. are often required. There are many products manufactured using this technique.

    Most industries use industry standard stamping processes, lubricants and adaptations. Assuming your product can be manufactured using this method, you will need to pay close attention to the industry classification (NAICS) your product falls in.

    Numerical Control:

    Numerical Control (aka Computerized Numerical Control/CNC) is a manufacturing process that utilizes automated machining and computer aided design (CAD), wherein precise design metrics are used to create a computer program that extracts commands to direct the machinery to make the necessary part(s), through a series of movements and operations. CNC has tremendous potential for making a wide array of products. Over the past few years, the advent of “reality television” has resulted in a variety of shows featuring this style of manufacturing.   A solid block or piece of material, such as aluminum, is placed into the machine, with the resulting product created using the CNC technique.  

    Depending on the material needed for the product, this method is good for making small (or single) piece production runs. However, the cost of the machine is significant, and is likely, but not necessarily going to be cost prohibitive for the purposes of prototyping. There are numerous types of machines developed for the CNC manufacturing technique. Lathes, mills, EDM (electric discharge machines), wire EDM, sinker EDM, water jet cutting, plasma cutters, drills and other similar applications.

    Metal Forging/Casting:

    This method of manufacturing is becoming less common, primarily due to more effective and modern manufacturing methodologies. Metal forging and casting is the process of pouring molten material into a mold often made of soft materials, frequently created for single (disposable) use. The most common materials used with this technique are iron, brass and bronze.

    It is unlikely you will use this type of manufacturing, but it is a possible method for manufacturing, especially if you have a new concept for lamp weigh castings or something of similar utility.

    Die Cutting:

    Die cutting involves thin sheets of material inclusive of paper products (cardboard), plastics, rubber, foam, foil, leather and even thin sheets of metal.  This process, originally derived for shoe manufacturing, typically occurs on a flat or rotary press. Flat die cutting is a more limited process, but is less expensive than rotary die cutting, which is most frequently used for making products with printed surfaces, such as stickers, labels, disposable shopping bags, cartons, gaskets, and many more products.

    Another technique in this process is known as Dinking, which involves hollow or shallow dies with sharp, beveled edges for a clean edge, one step production process.

    Obviously, if your product can be made using a die cutting process, you are likely looking at a low cost, low margin product, which will require a high volume of sales to make it profitable (in some manner) and worthy of pursuit.

    Assembly/Assemblies:

    Some products are manufactured simply by using a combination of existing parts and products, assembled to create a finished product. This method requires facilities featuring sufficient space for the necessary assemblage, tooling and packaging. This method also requires adequate shipping/receiving capabilities, as the required parts must be shipped to the assembly facility for finished production activities.

    There are numerous companies offering a variety of services, including product assembly, that contract with product and intellectual property owners. Some of these companies also provide facilities for printing, packaging, promotion, marketing and distribution. Depending on your physical location, there may be one located near you, which could be a reasonable alternative to the expense of establishing your own facility.

3D Printing

    3D Printing:

    3D printing is a new technology that is also an excellent example of disruptive innovation, and has become a very popular method for prototyping and product development. Currently, 3D printing is an expensive technique, but is highly effective for creating a functional, manufacturing prototype, and, depending on the product, can actually be used for creating a finished product. A 3D printer is essentially an industrial robot. 3D printing technology, also known as additive manufacturing or fused deposition modeling, enables the creation of objects using file formats in printing protocols, through inkjet deposition of liquid binder on powder to create layer after layer, in accordance with the design specifications inputted by the user.

    Again, 3D printing is expensive and often cost prohibitive, especially if several iterations are required. However, this prototyping method can be used when time is a critical element and can be completed in a fraction of the time required for typical prototype manufacturing, and to exact specifications.

Molding

    There are several primary molding techniques, used for molding liquid or pliable materials, including plastics, rubbers, glass, metal, iron, etc. Molding is the process of filling a hollow cavity created in the shape and size of the part being molded. This technique is usually used for smaller parts, as molds tend to be expensive, and the larger the part, the more costly the mold. Some manufacturers have the capability to make their own molds based on customer specifications. Depending on the manufacturer, it may also be necessary to engage the services of a mold maker. There are a variety of molding techniques and extrusions, the most common of which is injection molding and extrusion or co-extrusion.

    Molding can be used to fabricate many different types of products, using a wide variety of materials.  There are numerous types of raw materials used for plastics, rubbers, metals, etc. and manufacturers are often material(s) specific, which is why it is important to choose the right manufacturer, based on your product requirements.  

Vacuum Forming

    Typical vacuum forming (aka thermo forming) is the process of using a flexible sheet of heated plastic pressed/drawn over/into a two part mold. Plastic dishes, containers are among a wide variety of products manufactured using this method. This is also a preferred manufacturing method when the product or application is a good candidate, as the molds are generally significantly less expensive and require fewer resources from a production/manufacturing perspective.

    If you believe your idea could be re-produced/manufacture using this technique, it is important to select a reputable company with the requisite facilities and experience. Vacuum forming can be problematic and requires serious attention to details to eliminate aberrations such as webbing and moisture saturating the material, thereby weakening the finished product, among several other problems associated with this method.  

     

Blow Molding

    Blow molding (aka BrE molding) is a manufacturing technique wherein hollow plastic parts, such as plastic bottles, are made. There are three different methods within this technique: injection (IBM), injection stretch (ISB) and extrusion (EBM).  The process starts by melting plastic into a form, also known as a parison or perform, which is essentially a tube open at one end that compressed air can be blown into. The compressed air then forces the heated plastic outward from the parison and against the form.  After the plastic has cooled, the mold, or form is released and the formed piece is ejected and sent down the production line for additional post production actions.

    Injection stretch molding has two methods: single and two stage. The tow stage technique allows for high volumes of production, but is very restrictive with regard to design and product type, and is used predominantly for producing bottles and similar types of products. This method also requires a significant amount of production/factory floor space and is not financially practical or feasible for small production runs. Single state ISB is suitable for smaller runs and lower volumes (i.e. prototyping) but is also very design restrictive.

    Blow molding has a relatively limited number of products that can be manufactured using this method. Your product concept will likely not fall within this manufacturing category, but if it does, you will need to locate a manufacturer that offer you the ability to handle both low and large production line capabilities.  By default, products within this category are almost certainly going to be high volume/low (profit) margin.

Metal Stamping

    Metal stamping (aka pressing) is exactly what the name implies. The process simply stamps a sheet of metal (or other materials) placed over a tool & die in the shape of the desired product. This process is also known as Tribology, or material science and engineering regarding interacting surfaces and motion. Post production actions, such as trimming, drilling, etc. are often required. There are many products manufactured using this technique.

    Most industries use industry standard stamping processes, lubricants and adaptations. Assuming your product can be manufactured using this method, you will need to pay close attention to the industry classification (NAICS) your product falls in.

Numerical Control

    Numerical Control (aka Computerized Numerical Control/CNC) is a manufacturing process that utilizes automated machining and computer aided design (CAD), wherein precise design metrics are used to create a computer program that extracts commands to direct the machinery to make the necessary part(s), through a series of movements and operations. CNC has tremendous potential for making a wide array of products. Over the past few years, the advent of “reality television” has resulted in a variety of shows featuring this style of manufacturing.   A solid block or piece of material, such as aluminum, is placed into the machine, with the resulting product created using the CNC technique.  

    Depending on the material needed for the product, this method is good for making small (or single) piece production runs. However, the cost of the machine is significant, and is likely, but not necessarily going to be cost prohibitive for the purposes of prototyping. There are numerous types of machines developed for the CNC manufacturing technique. Lathes, mills, EDM (electric discharge machines), wire EDM, sinker EDM, water jet cutting, plasma cutters, drills and other similar applications.

Metal Forging/Casting

    This method of manufacturing is becoming less common, primarily due to more effective and modern manufacturing methodologies. Metal forging and casting is the process of pouring molten material into a mold often made of soft materials, frequently created for single (disposable) use. The most common materials used with this technique are iron, brass and bronze.

    It is unlikely you will use this type of manufacturing, but it is a possible method for manufacturing, especially if you have a new concept for lamp weigh castings or something of similar utility.

Die Cutting

    Die cutting involves thin sheets of material inclusive of paper products (cardboard), plastics, rubber, foam, foil, leather and even thin sheets of metal.  This process, originally derived for shoe manufacturing, typically occurs on a flat or rotary press. Flat die cutting is a more limited process, but is less expensive than rotary die cutting, which is most frequently used for making products with printed surfaces, such as stickers, labels, disposable shopping bags, cartons, gaskets, and many more products.

    Another technique in this process is known as Dinking, which involves hollow or shallow dies with sharp, beveled edges for a clean edge, one step production process.

    Obviously, if your product can be made using a die cutting process, you are likely looking at a low cost, low margin product, which will require a high volume of sales to make it profitable (in some manner) and worthy of pursuit.

Assembly / Assemblies

    Some products are manufactured simply by using a combination of existing parts and products, assembled to create a finished product. This method requires facilities featuring sufficient space for the necessary assemblage, tooling and packaging. This method also requires adequate shipping/receiving capabilities, as the required parts must be shipped to the assembly facility for finished production activities.

    There are numerous companies offering a variety of services, including product assembly, that contract with product and intellectual property owners. Some of these companies also provide facilities for printing, packaging, promotion, marketing and distribution. Depending on your physical location, there may be one located near you, which could be a reasonable alternative to the expense of establishing your own facility.

Locating Manufacturers

    Obviously, we strongly encourage you to begin your search without ever leaving the site. That is, after all, the primary reason we built the IdeaShares Network (ISN). There certainly are other excellent resources available for services and providers all along the product development chain; some of which we encourage you to take advantage of. However, ISN grants access to preferred providers, specifically interested in entrepreneurs, inventors and intellectual property (IP) holders. We are not implying our network of preferred providers offer their products/services for free, but we are representing them to be among the best in their industry, dedicated to excellent products and customer service.

    Remember, as an intellectual property holder you already possess a form of potential capital. Assuming your idea has merit and value, partnerships and licensing agreements that are fair and reasonable to the IP holder, are very common. Depending on the product, strength of concept and salability, your IP ownership may well be the only form of capital you need.

    There are other excellent resources available to you that can expedite the process & pay other dividends simply by investing some exploratory time and research:

    Thomas Registry:

    http://www.thomasnet.com/

    Thomas Register began over 100 years ago as a supplier discovery resource, and remains the leader in that industry. Their web based version, Thomasnet is an excellent and exhaustive “concordance” and provides an enormous database of resources and contact information. Their About Us page states “The only platform you need for supplier discovery and product sourcing” and they make an excellent argument toward that end.

    Beyond incidental cross over reference in ISN, IdeaShares has not vetted the suppliers and services provided through Thomasnet; but the site, in its totality, is an excellent resource!

    Internet/Social Media:

    The internet not only changed the way the world conducts personal & professional business, it also provides the perfect example of disruptive innovation. Some of us are old enough to remember pre-web life on earth, and it was a very different place. Some say the internet is still in its infancy. Whether or not that is true remains topic for debate, but no one could argue that it continues to grow and improve, and increase in efficiency & functionality, and subsequently change everything around it. While it is a great resource for research and connectivity, the sheer volume of information available online, makes having an advance search strategy mandatory, assuming you prefer to use your time efficiently.  

    Social Media, Facebook, Twitter, etc. also continues to grow, and has become a (if not the) major avenue for online exposure. Advertising rates on Facebook are extremely reasonable for the number of people you can reach, that are at least somewhat “filtered” in having expressed some interest in whatever you are advertising. As importantly, the percentage of companies not having & advertising social media accounts are now in the minority and decreasing daily. Facebook and Twitter are both excellent resources for locating suppliers and learning more about them.

    Trade Associations/Trade Journals:

    There are very few genres of industry that do not have at least one Trade Association and/or trade journal associated with it. These are very useful resources for acquiring membership lists and member information, including specialties, services, products and logistics. A trade journal is also a good resource for a large volume of information and connectivity relevant to your industry, including schedules for upcoming Tradeshows.

    Tradeshows:

    Tradeshows remain a fantastic resource for both development and marketing your product, all conveniently assembled in a single location. Most Trade Associations sponsor at least one show per year, often two or more. Typically, a good tradeshow will have participants offering goods and services along the entire active spectrum of that industry. You can potentially harvest a lot of valuable relationships among both the show participants and fellow attendees.  Either way, a learning experience, wherein you will likely possess more knowledge about your chosen industry.

Current Progress

    What is the current progress of your project?  Is it still in “napkin sketch” status, or even just in mental development? There is nothing wrong with having all or part of your idea well thought out. However, if you have no notes, sketches, plans or any exhibits pursuant to your idea in the physical realm, it is vitally important to start a journal or log, and begin a phased plan of development. We have lost track of the stories of how someone had been holding on to an idea, never having taken it beyond the thought process, only to one day see their idea on television being exploited by someone else.  That, by the way, is true of our entire staff.  It happens. If you fit into this category, let it be a lesson. Don’t ever allow another great idea slip through your grasp, and manifest its benefits in another’s bank account.  

    We see new product concepts in every phase of development (or non-development). Progress ranges   from a raw idea, to full manufactured prototype, with patent protection in place, and already being marketed. Progress can be a double edged sword. If your product is well down the path of development, but you have missed or skipped some important steps, all of your progress and resources invested could be to no avail, and absolutely wasted. Conversely, if you have zero progress to date, there is much to do, and you risk falling into the “that was MY idea” category, while sadly watching that aforementioned television commercial. It is a sinking feeling. Not a fun place to be.

Estimated Materials Cost

    Materials costs will have a big impact on product viability. If the manufacture of your product requires materials that are expensive or difficult to get, it may render your idea nonviable. For example, if the product requires a substantial volume of industrial silver, you will be stepping into a long line of heavy duty competitors, competing not with your market genre or niche, but with availability to core material requirements.   If your product will require a type of plastic, rubber or polymer blend, then material costs will be relatively low and availability high. Of course the cost of some of these raw materials will be affected by any factor relevant to the production of these raw materials including petroleum costs, regulatory environment, labor availability, etc. Again, the full course of product development is a complex endeavor. Our eRIM analytics tool has embedded weights, factors and information specifically designed to dramatically reduce the need for the user to have advanced and in depth knowledge of every salient component along the development chain, but you still need to have a good and broad working knowledge to achieve reliable concept assessment, which is one of the cornerstones of foundation development for IdeaShares University.

Project Complexity

    It is imperative to accurately address the overall complexity of your specific product concept. One way to break down this subject matter is to determine how many parts or pieces it will require to function.  If you do not know with certainty how many parts it may require, it isn’t a deal killer with regard to arriving at a reasonably reliable eRIM score, but it will affect the score for this category, and may require some additional research to boost your knowledge and the subsequent category score. If your idea is a single piece item, then complexity is likely to be very low. If, for example, you have a new radical design for an automobile, complexity will be very high. Evaluate your idea in whatever stage of ideation it is currently in, to arrive at a reasonable estimate for complexity. Highly complex product concepts will inherently result in very high costs.

     

Prototype Iterations

    We have discussed the types, reasons and purposes for the various prototype versions in a previous segment of this module. Understanding where you currently are with regard to design is important to accomplish the highest and best use and functionality of your idea. Is the current design status of your idea still just the equivalent of a napkin sketch, or do you have drawings or even a prototype of some kind?  Even with either or both of these in place, it still may be necessary to re-design the concept to enhance utility and functionality.

     

Intellectual Property (IP) Costs

    We will go into greater depth and explanation in the Intellectual Property module of this course.  For the purposes of R&D, barriers to entry are associated with not only development and production costs, but the cost of the actual intellectual property. When one considers IP costs, they usually think about patent preparation and prosecution. However, there are recurring maintenance and annuity fees associated with a patent after allowance.  Securing protection in other nations will result in costs that become very high, very quickly! If you wish to have protection in every nation participating in the Patent Cooperative treaty (PCT), you can expect to spend many thousands of dollars annually.  This is also very important to remember when considering a licensing or royalty sharing agreement or some other form of partnership. Often, the terms of these agreements will require you to maintain the patent protection and bear the costs for same.  If your manufacturing (or other) partner plans on operating in foreign jurisdictions, and you do not possess the funds to maintain patent protection, especially in the beginning phases of development and manufacturing when there is no revenue being generated, you will find yourself in a very tight and uncomfortable spot. Failure to comply with these terms could result in a breach of agreement, and leave you without recourse or a market to exploit. It is important to negotiate a partnership wisely, and be up front about your available finances and resources. It may be necessary to have your manufacturing partner bear IP costs, which will likely result in your partner recouping those expenses before you ever receive your share of the profit.

    There are other potential costs associated with IP ownership, so you need to be acutely aware of where you stand at all times pertaining to the ownership and maintenance of intellectual property.  

    Back To ISU

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