Working with inventors - case study
I work with many inventors and individuals who have a product idea at different stages of its development, from an idea in their head to a prototype they want to take to production. This case study is about Robin, an inventor who only had an idea for the product and had not even drawn it on a piece of paper. Many inventors have some background, either personal or professional, that relates to their idea. In Robin's case he did have the background as his idea was for a safety product to prevent accidents to cyclists, especially when they cycle on dangerous roads such as those where there are tall and heavy vehicles.
Robin happens to have substantial experience in the road haulage business, both as a lorry driver and running a haulage business. He did have first hand experience of the problem. Accidents, including deaths of cyclists when hit by cars and heavy vehicles are common in places like London and they are often reported in the media.
1- First meetings and briefing
We met through the Internet, we communicated by email and phone when I informed Robin about my background and capabilities and he informed me about his product idea.
We had an initial meeting where we told me about his product idea and we discussed its possibilities.
2- The Proposal
I then returned to my office, I thought about the project and I prepared a written proposal including stages of design and development, activities, fees, timescales and milestones.
3- Concept Design
After Robin sent me his order to proceed with the job, I proceeded to generate several ideas for the product and what it could do. I presented drawings of the ideas to Robin. The constant communications and discussions with Robin began. We met and I offered a first presentation of the several ideas for discussion.
We returned to our bases and further thought about the concept possibilities. We explored a couple of them by my carrying out more concept work on them. We then decided on the one idea to pursue. Another presentation and meeting came where we firmed up on the idea to pursue.
4- Design Development
I proceeded to look at the idea in detail, I investigated what there was in the market that was competition for Robin's product and did an initial search of patents to find out if there was anything already patented that could be regarded as a similar product.
I started work on Computer Aided Design and began to design the configuration and mechanics of the product. More meetings and discussions came. I carried out computer aided light studies for the product functionality.
I produced a first non-working model for Robin and I to evaluate in a meeting. This helped in the further development of the product.
I worked with an electronics engineer to develop the lighting functions of the product in parallel, where I worked on the mechanics and he worked on the electronics design.
I made initial test pieces to test the lights, mechanical parts and the electrics.
After sufficient work had been carried out on CAD, I proceeded to make a first prototype with the intended functions of the product. This first prototype was made with materials similar to the intended ones in production.
We carried out initial tests on the first prototype and brought in external assessors to evaluate the prototype.
I literally went back to the drawing board and got working on the second prototype, based on the learnings from the first one. This is a product that has very sophisticated mechanical features and it required intense work to resolve its performance.
A second working prototype was produced. It was useful for further tests and for first market evaluation by showing it to people interested in this kind of product. This prototype has led to preparation for manufacture and for seeking investment to produce it and market it.
6- Patent protection
During the design process, I created substantial Intellectual Property, which needed to be protected. In order to be able to publicise the product, make presentations to investors and obtain feed-back and interest, it was necessary to file a patent application. I introduced Robin to a patent agent and, together, we prepared the patent application for first filing. I assisted in stating the innovative aspects of the product and doing drawings for the patent application. The patent application was filed and Robin was free to expose his idea more widely.
7- Funds for development
Due to the fact that Robin invested his own money and effort, that we carried out enough work to prove that the product could become a reality and that he demonstrated that the product worked, he was able to convince bodies that provide grants to give some support for the project.
8- Leading to manufacture
The next stage is to prepare the product for manufacture and raise funds to invest in the same and in marketing. This will involve the design of the product for manufacture and making more prototypes for demonstrations and final testing. It will also mean establishing the contact with manufacturers and starting the liaison with them.
I have assisted in promoting the product and investigating sources of funding. I collaborated with a group of video makers to produce a presentation video to show to investors.
These videos are from the trials of the first prototype