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By Gibson Sheat

Eureka! Now what?

New Zealanders are master inventors. What Kiwi inventors are not quite so good at is moving beyond the eureka moment and into the next stages of the innovation cycle.

This article does not delve into the patent process. That is the domain of patent attorneys. However, to move beyond 'eureka', an inventor needs to know:

  • who to speak to
  • where to put scarce capital, and
  • what the ultimate end points might be.

Who to speak to?

Speed to market is achieved through collaboration with the right advisers and commercial partners. Finding these partners is simple enough after speaking with a lawyer that specialises in technology and/or early stage commercialisation, local innovation hubs or government agencies.  Under the veil of protection from a secrecy agreement, a discussion with a business adviser might lead to investors, manufacturers, designers or potential customers who may partner with you to source capital, knowledge and other valuable resources.

Where to spend the money?

It is common for time and money to be spent on version 2, 3 or 4 of an invention only to discover that a patent already exists in another part of the world and the inventor will be stopped from selling the invention, or that a big customer would have been happy to pay for the development work for versions 2, 3 and 4 including a salary for the inventor.

When money is scarce, it’s better spent on protecting the invention (or at least confirming it is indeed new) and then talking to investors, manufacturers, designers or potential customers about the invention to establish what the market wants from versions 2, 3 and 4 and whether the inventor needs to pay for it him/herself.

Where will it end?

People who invent and develop products for a living generally have a commercial and exit strategy in mind:

  • To operate a business selling the product (requires marketing, financial and business nous) and take a wage from that business;

  • Sell the invention at an early stage and invent something else while the buyer develops the invention and takes it to market (usually adopted by inventors without the skill or desire to develop the invention further); or

  • Develop the invention to the market stage (such that it is ready to sell and a market has been proven to exist) and then sell it or license it to a third party to sell the product to customers (this is a common approach which maximises gains to the inventor without requiring the inventor to have or develop marketing, financial and business nous; though does require an ability to collaborate and convince investors and partners to fund early stage development).

How an inventor should manage their invention, what steps to take and what advice to obtain will vary depending on which of the above three (albeit broadly framed) approaches the inventor intends to take.  Deciding on which approach or learning more about what each approach actually entails is critical. 

Get advice early

The eureka moment is the most exhilarating step in the invention lifecycle, but it is only the first critical step to getting the invention into the market.  Getting advice early will save money, speed up the process to market and maximise the outcomes available to each inventor.

 

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