Innovation is a valuable thing. Whether you’re innovating to solve old problems with new solutions or to solve new problems creatively, people who innovate can change the world. The recent COVID-19 crisis has seen many governments turning to their innovators to produce better equipment, faster and more suited to the particular problem at hand. Whether it’s PPE or ventilators, the manufacturing industry has stepped up to help.
And in a post-COVID world, innovation will be just as important, if not more so. We’re in a unique position with the potential economic damage from the pandemic combined with lingering uncertainty over what Brexit will mean in the long term. Innovation is a valuable commodity that the UK government wants to promote in order to boost our economy.
But innovation isn’t easy, and innovators face many challenges before they can bring their ideas to life. Moving through the various stages of innovating, most people will encounter challenges at each stage.
Developing an idea
Ideas themselves aren’t too difficult to come by. But genuinely innovative ideas that can stand up to scrutiny? They’re much rarer. Half the battle here is a little self-belief combined with a healthy dose of research.
Developing a prototype
There’s a big difference between having an idea and having a working prototype. A prototype shows that your idea is workable, and gives you something to test. It turns your idea into a tangible product that you can show others and possibly use to gain investment.
Sometimes, a prototype – or the process of producing one – demonstrates that the idea isn’t quite right. It might mean more work, or it might be a project that needs shelving. Learning this early on is essential.
Developing a product usually means spending money, and getting financing can be a significant barrier for innovators. There are schemes that can help, however. The UK government has a funding search tool available for innovators. There’s also funding available for innovators whose start-up business has specifically been impacted due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The government is keen to support innovation in the UK, which puts innovators in an excellent position to find appropriate funding.
Market research and testing
Ideally, you’ll have undertaken some research before you come up with your idea and develop your prototype. And a strong understanding of your market can be a critical factor in gaining funding. Your product will need to solve a problem for your end-users, and market research means that you can understand the issue precisely as your end customer sees it – and therefore come up with the best possible solution.
It’s easy to assume that you just know your product will solve a problem because it’s a problem you’ve experienced, and you believe that your idea is truly the best solution. That may be so, but without market research, you won’t know if you’re correct or about to make a potentially expensive mistake that could have been easily avoided.
Have the ability to create the final product at scale.
So, you’re confident that your product fits a valid need and solves a problem. Now you have to be able to produce at scale to sell them. Where do you start? In-house manufacturing is one option, but this can be expensive and reduce your ability to scale fast if you need to ramp production up for any reason.
Outsourcing your manufacturing is often overlooked as a viable choice, but it’s often cheaper than, or comparable to, manufacturing in house. The real value of outsourcing, however, is in accessing the skills and experience that the outsourcer has. You can avoid or reduce many of the problems that face in-house manufacturers like machinery purchase and repair, employing skilled staff, and the overheads that come with managing a factory.
Take the product to market.
Having a great product is no good if people don’t know about it. You need to be able to convince people to buy the product you’ve created. Your market research can help here because from there, you should have a firm idea of who your ideal customer is and how to reach them.
Another vital part of getting the product to market is making sure that your supply chain is completely in order. You’ll need to be able to take orders, fulfil those orders, and actually get them to your customers. To do this, an efficient distribution chain needs to be put into place.
The process of designing, developing, and producing your product can be daunting. At Nexus Intelligent Engineering, we help innovators with every step of the product lifecycle journey. From designing the product, to putting a robust supply chain into place, we can help.