Before you spend a lot of time creating a product or service, it is important to know whether anyone will want to buy it and if there is a need for it. The first step therefore to getting your product to market is conducting market research. Do products that are similar to your idea exist? If so, where are they sold? Who is buying them? Answering these questions will give an idea of the target market, as well as, what needs to be done differently to stand out from competitors. Even well known companies engage in conducting market research. Take for example Lego which has been a toy geared toward boys for many years. In a study done by the company, it was reported that only 9% of the primary users of the toy were female. Upon seeing this, the company decided to come out with a new product to entice more girls to play with Legos. Market research was undertaken and upon conclusion, Lego came out with a new line of toys on January 1st, 2012 called ‘Friends’. The colours used were more vibrant and figurines were made slightly bigger to accommodate accessories such as hairbrushes and purses.
Another important step in taking the idea forward is assessing the novelty of the idea. It is crucial to ensure that your idea is not infringing upon someone else’s intellectual property. Intellectual property refers to the expressed creation of the human mind and includes patents, trademarks, copyright and industrial designs. A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention which is a product or a process that either provides a new way of doing something or offers a new technical solution to a problem. The television for example was invented by John Baird in 1925. (US Patent No. 1699270). Another example is the computer mouse invented by Douglas Engelbert in 1970 (US Patent No. 3,541,541). An industrial design is the ornamental aspect of a useful article. The shapes of many ergonomically designed pieces of furniture, tools, tool handles, boat hulls and sunglasses for example are some of the shapes protected by an industrial design. Another form of intellectual property protection is trademark which is a sign capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one trader from those of other traders. Copyright is a property right, which subsists in literary and artistic works that are original intellectual creations. Works covered by copyright include novels, poems, plays, computer programmes, paintings, drawings, photographs and musical compositions.
The third step in taking your idea to market is the development of a demonstration model or pretotype. Many times persons spend significant time and money in developing a fully fledged prototype, only to realize that there is little or no demand for their product. What can be done instead is a simple cost effective mockup which shows the idea in operation and can be made with easily accessible items, for example, paper clips, scotch tape, cardboard. 3D printing can also be done.
Once the market demand has been confirmed and the legal path is clear, there are two pathways to commercialization. The first pathway is business start-up, this means the individual creates and sell the product himself/herself. This may include paying a third party to manufacture the product. The second pathway is via licensing. Many persons do not have the resources to get a business off the ground and may therefore decide to exploit the expertise of an existing company, in terms of market experience, distribution channels and manufacturing to commercialize the idea. The risk of starting a company is traded for a royalty payment or a percentage that the company generates from the sale of the product.
CARIRI has recognized that there are many persons with innovative ideas but do not know how to move their ideas forward. The Idea Advisory Service (IAS) is a platform through which persons can submit their ideas confidentially for screening. The IAS:-
- Assesses novelty of the idea and advises on which intellectual property tool would be the most relevant in securing the idea;
- Evaluates market demand and identifies and strengthens the benefits of the idea to the target market;
- Assists in the development of a pretotype where necessary;
- Identify and networks with potential licensees;
- Negotiates licensing agreements.
CARIRI provides an extensive range of services and facilities to serve a wide range of industries and has existing networks within our reach, including the World Association of Industrial and Technological Research Organizations (WAITRO) of which CARIRI is a founding member.