I have designed and developed a prototype for a product I feel is extremely marketable and consumer friendly. However, I’m a bit stumped as to where to go from here. Who should I be approaching with regards to getting the product licensed and finding a route to market?
Professor Alison McConnell writes:
I am a University Professor, so not your typical start-up entrepreneur, but I have had experience of going it alone and looking for licensees.
My first experience of commercialisation was with a product I originally created as a research tool called POWERbreathe®. It turned out to be so effective that I realised that people would want to buy it. But it was unique (a breathing muscle trainer) and there were no existing products to point me to a potential licensee, so I decided to ‘do it myself’ and become a manufacturer. Later, I sold the business and the product is now available on NHS prescription and from retailers like John Lewis.
When I first started my business journey, I didn’t have the experience or knowledge I have today, so I didn’t benefit from the process I’m about to talk through. However, I have used this method in my current spinout – for a product called PUREbreathe® - and it’s served me well. We are currently seeking a licensee and looking for a global brand that can help us exploit it in overseas markets, particularly Asia, where air pollution is a major health risk.
Before you get out of the starting blocks, you need to ask yourself some serious questions:
Who are your customers?
What problem does your product solve? Is it urgent?
Is this problem being solved by an existing product?
Is your product better than the existing product?
Where do customers buy this existing product from?
This should help you identify whether your idea has a market, whether this market is already served by another product, and how customers currently buy this product, ie manufacturers of similar products and the route(s) to market. These are your targets for licensing. Then you need to ask yourself why the manufacturers of an existing/similar product would be interested in your new idea:
What advantages does your product have over existing products?
How will the licensee make money from your idea?
Is it cheaper to manufacture; does it command a premium price; will it sell in larger volumes; will it open a new market?
Finally, if you manage to whet the appetite of a potential licensee, you need to persuade them your idea is credible by:
Having a sample that works (no Dragons’ Den disasters!)
Demonstrating your idea is novel and can be protected by a patent
Providing evidence (through an IP search) that the licensee is free to use the IP, ie your idea does not infringe anyone else’s patent.
Professor Alison McConnell is a leading respiratory scientist at Brunel University, the co-founder of LifeLab Innovations and inventor of the
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