PEOPLE have brilliant ideas every day. That eureka moment that makes you stop and think, if I could invent a solution to this problem, I would make millions. But where do you go from there? Unsurprisingly, most people grind to a halt once they have had that all important light bulb moment and do not pursue it any further.
As an inventor, I know that having a great idea is the easy part. Progressing from that point is more of a challenge. All the ideas for my inventions arose as solutions to the problems that I faced as a mum. I invented the Anywayup® cup after watching children, using conventional trainer cups, spill juice all over the carpet. A light bulb switched on in my mind when I realised that there was a real gap in the market for a cup that would seal automatically when it came out of the child’s mouth.
Market research should always be your starting point. You need to ask some hard-nosed, objective questions. Is there space in the market for your invention? Is there a real need for it? Can this need be fulfilled, or overcome, in a cheaper way? In today’s harsh financial climate, it is safest to work on the premise that no one will buy your product unless it is essential. So, talk to your potential customers but without giving your idea away. Find out how strong their need is. How urgent is it to have a solution to this particular problem? Remember that people are generally nice and will want to give you the answer that you are looking for. So, be careful not to lead their responses. It can also be helpful to get an objective point of view from a family member or friend who is not scared to mince their words. Don’t waste your time, effort and money unless you truly believe you are on to a winner.
If you still have a viable product after this, you now need to develop a prototype of your product to prove the concept. This initial prototype does not need to be perfect and can be made out of simple materials. Once you are confident with the basic principle, progress to a proper working prototype. A computer-aided design model, made of resin, is often adequate. The Business and IP Centre (BIPC) at the British Library can help you source a suitable product design company, manufacturer, or university, with this facility. If you are going to a manufacturer, pick one that uses the processes and materials that you will eventually need for production, as their advice will be invaluable.
Always make sure that a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement is signed before you reveal anything to a third party, otherwise you could jeopardise any future patent applications. Again, the BIPC will guide you through this process and equip you with all the necessary skills, including searching the databases to check that your idea is original. If it is, then you should protect your idea by registering intellectual property rights, to deter others from copying it.
You next need to decide how much involvement you want. Are you an entrepreneur equipped to set up your own business, or would you rather license your technology to others, sit back and receive a royalty? If you are an entrepreneur, work out a viable business model; what part(s) of the supply chain will your company control (manufacture or sales and distribution)? The success of any business depends largely on its people. You need to build a strong team with complimentary skill sets. It will probably be necessary to raise finance to do the job properly, so you will need a robust business plan that is attractive to potential investors.
Whatever route you take, turning your million pound idea into reality takes time, hard work and patience. You need to be determined to succeed and have the courage to stand your ground. It can be a daunting process, but one that is incredibly satisfying and worthwhile.
Mandy Haberman is a British inventor and entrepreneur (www.mandyhaberman.com).