Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Cost Effective Product Development. Alex Smith, Trig Creative. Leeds inventors group 16 – 11 – 11

After graduating with a degree in industrial design, Alex worked for a product design consultancy before taking a masters degree in design practice and starting his own company Trig Creative. He also lectures at Huddersfield and Leeds Met universities.
He has worked with limited companies, plcs and individuals (he estimates that around 25% of Trig’s work is for individuals and inventors). Trig can get involved in many aspects of product development – in some cases being involved from a very early stage right up to manufacture. In one instance Alex described how they had developed a product for tagging sheep. In order to understand the problem which the product was intended to overcome they went and had a go at tagging sheep. Innovation doesn’t have to be ground-breaking – just good ideas solving problems.

The first step in any project is a feasibility study, which involves research, competitor analysis and a patent search. This will give a clearer picture of how things are looking and around 50% of ideas can be rejected at this stage. The concept stage involves innovating in order to create a saleable product. Alex emphasised that an invention is not a product. It needs to be developed and issues such as attractiveness and sustainability need to be looked at. Product visualisations are produced from CAD data – obviously it’s helpful to see what the product may look like before it actually exists. Sometimes they have produced animations to show how a product will work.

Alex then went through some case studies of products which Trig have worked on. The award-winning table chocolate fountain which they designed for Giles & Posner included some innovated features which enabled a smoother flow of chocolate and a much easier means of cleaning the product. These features were patented.

The market which a product is aimed at can have a big influence on how it is developed. Alex described how their work on an amplifier which was a low volume / high end product gave them more flexibility in what they could do with it. It was designed so that no tooling was needed (a mass-market product is more likely to need tooling) and therefore costs in that area could be reduced. Generally the more complex the product, the more expensive the tooling and tooling costs can run into tens of thousands of pounds.

Alex then discussed patenting and timing in relation to product design. Sometimes people come to Trig after having already obtained a patent and the problem with this is that Trig can only do what is in the patent – there is little flexibility for improving the design. He feels that it is better to go to the designer with the broad idea and discuss it under a non-disclosure agreement before filing the patent. The designers may then come up with better ways of carrying out the invention which can be covered by a subsequent patent filing. He also stated his view that a patent is only as good as the money you’re going to spend on it. If you don’t have the money to spend on enforcing a patent it’s probably not worth spending thousands on obtaining a patent – even though an attorney can draft a very good patent.

A newly designed product needs testing – and retesting. It’s important to know that it will work – and not just once. Once you have a working prototype it’s easier to show to prospective manufacturers or buyers. Alex suggested setting up Facebook or Twitter pages to advertise the new product before it is available and ask for opinions. Feedback like this can be important in improving or tweaking the product before it goes to market.

Alex gave a breakdown of costs involved in Trig’s work on two different products – from the initial free consultation to the final tooling. One was a magnifier for an Iphone® case; the other a knitting device. It was a good illustration of likely costings at different stages.

Alex summed up his requirements for success:-
Have belief
Never stop researching. You can never do enough – whether it’s market research or patent searching etc.
Actively look for funding
Think carefully before filing a patent early.
(If you can’t patent the product, all is not lost).
Test, evolve and develop the product.
Decide whether to sell, licence or manufacture the product
Make sure you devote enough time and resources to marketing & sales. The product will not sell itself.

Friday, 4 November 2011

“Looking for Funding” Tom Bathgate & Charles Lucas of “Going for Grants” Leeds Inventors Group 19th October 2011

Tom and Charles, through their business “Going for Grants” help businesses and individuals locate and secure funding for their projects. In the current economic climate finding funding for a new product has become more difficult but one of the main messages of this talk was that money is available – you just need to know where to look.

Tom and Charles compared the process to going fishing. To begin with you need to decide what fish you’re trying to catch. Eight out of ten people who come to them for assistance in getting grants don’t know how much they need, what they need it for, or when. You need to know which rod to use: you have to have a plan and know your figures – grant funding may be free but it isn’t easy to get. Which ponds are you going to look in?: Most funders want to know what you are willing to do. What effort will you put in? Why should the person who has the money fund you? Where else can you gain funding? – family and friends? Would some of your customers be interested in providing funding?
As far as grants are concerned, there are approximately 10,000 grants available – anything from £1,000 to over £1 million. Many grants have to be match-funded. Often the first qualification you need in order to get a grant is that you’ve been unable to get a loan from a bank (very often this is because you’re a start-up business and you haven’t got to the point of bringing in revenue).They will also want you to explain the economic benefit of giving you the money.

Many grants which were available are no longer there and the new Local Enterprise Partnerships are in their infancy so it’s likely to be some time before it becomes clear how they’re going to operate things. However things are starting to happen and it’s a good idea to keep checking regularly as the situation can change quickly.

GRAND – a Grant for Research & Development will be available through the Technology Strategy Board (which is likely to be responsible for most R&D grants). In each case when you apply for these grants you get feedback, so if you fail you can see why and you can re-apply. It’s also likely that Innovation Vouchers will start up again.

No matter how much or how little money you’re hoping to get, you need evidence. What do you need the money for and how did you work out the amount that you need? It’s important to understand that you need the funding to fit in with what you need, not the other way around. In other words, it’s not a case of asking how much is available and then trying to find reasons for needing that amount. It needs to be well planned, and it’s useful to ask the question – would you invest in you?    

A potential investor – whether it be grant money or other funding – will want to know the details of what you’re doing and how committed you are. They will want to know whether you have the necessary skills and experience to do what you’re doing and also to deal with the amount of money you’re asking for.

A clear business plan is vital – and it should inspire the reader rather than putting them to sleep! It has to be viable and include financial forecasts, realistic funding options and a clear strategy as to how you’re going to get to where you’re going. Very often an investor will not be worried about initial losses as long as they can get their investment back over a reasonable period of time.

Funding can often be related to postcodes – so where your business is located can be important. It may be that you’ll need to be flexible and think about where you could operate from.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

LIG 21st Sept 11 Fablabs – Factories of the Future? Jane Keats

Jane described how she first came across Fablabs – offering digital fabrication - when she was in the Netherlands. The first one appeared at MIT in the US around 2003 where computers, laser cutters and other equipment were set up to enable people to produce their own prototypes. They have now developed into a global network and there are 90 Fablabs worldwide, including places such as Kenya and Afghanistan. The most recent one to open was in Manchester last year and it is possible that one may be opening in Keighley.

Typically, the range of equipment can include laser cutters, wood routers, 3d printers, milling machines, basic hand tools, moulding equipment, embroidery machines, welding equipment and some electronic equipment. The normal procedure is to book in for a free introduction to the equipment and there are some periods, particularly at the weekend, when it can be used for free – this, of course, can be a good way to start and learn how to use the equipment effectively. Total lack of familiarity with some equipment and software can mean a steep learning curve though tutorials are available. One aspect of this which should be borne in mind, however, is that when using it for free you are expected to share what you learn. If you need to protect your intellectual property then you would need to rent space. In this way you could avoid the need to share.

Jane then looked in more detail at some of the equipment found in Fablabs and handed round some examples of smaller products which have recently been produced. This included necklaces, clocks, lights and a salt shaker.

All the Fablabs are linked internationally which means that if you have a problem which can’t be overcome in the Fablab where you’re working, there may be someone in one of the others who might be able to assist. Material can also be distributed more effectively between labs which can make it more effective than posting.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Discovering Yorkshire Website - Inventors & Inventions

Discovering Yorkshire Website - Inventors & Inventions

The website contains a searchable database of historical Yorkshire patents available electronically for the first time. The patents have been indexed and are searchable by keywords, inventor, date and patent number. The front page of each patent has been scanned and can be read from the site. Where available a diagram to go with the patent has also been scanned. Over 2,000 patent are searchable through the site with more being added all the time.
Three learning trails are also provided aimed at students in keystage 3. Discover more about the inventions which came from this area and the people behind them. From the mousetrap to the Hansom cab to the inventions which influenced transport development. Learn about the man who made tram travel between Leeds and Bradford possible, the entrepreneur who enabled the first manned flight 50 years before the Wright Brothers, and the pioneering cinematographer who disappeared and was never found. In addition to our own resources Bradford Industrial Museum and Wakefield Libraries have also given us access to resources in their collections. Teachers materials are also available with the site.

The site is available at

Friday, 26 August 2011

Sheffield Inventors Group 3rd Oct 2011 and patent Clinics

Sheffield Inventors Group
Monday 3rd Oct 6.00 - 7.45pm
Speaker Jane Keats - Fab Labs, factory of the future?
Patent Clinics
Thursday October 20th
Tuesday November 22nd
Tuesday December 13th
Reference and Information Library
Central Library
Surrey Street
S1 1XZ
Tel: 0114 2734736

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Manchester Inventors 4th OCTOBER 2011

6pm - 7:45pm Tuesday 4th OCTOBER 2011
City Library, Elliot House, 151 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3WD (see map)
Guest speaker - Claire MitchellClaire Mitchell is the Inventor of the multi-award winning Chillipeeps teats, a teat that attaches directly to cartons and water bottles, a fabulous convenience for when you are out and about with a hungry baby. Claire will share the highs and lows, the tears and laughter of the incredible journey from her 'Eureka' moment to selling to consumers & retailers in the UK and abroad.

Free Patent/IP Clinic - 15 September 2011 - Hull

University of Hull Enterprise Centre, Cottingham Road, Hull

Patent/Intellectual Property Advice
Free confidential, no obligation advice provided by Chartered Patent Attorney Dr Daniel Bates, Ogive IP, on all aspects of Intellectual Property.

Free Patent and Trade Mark Search
Discover the value of IP information provided by free online IP database searches and advice from Leeds Business and Patent Information Service.

There are only a limited number of free one-to-one sessions.  To book an appointment contact:
The Enterprise Centre
Tel: 01482 464900

Please note that due to the popularity of the Patent Clinics:
• Preference will be given to companies in the Humber and North Yorkshire Region
• Any company or organisation is only permitted to attend once
• Individuals may attend, however priority is given to businesses and potential start-ups
• Bookings by telephone only please


Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Can you help an inventor licensing an invention?

We have been approached by an inventor who is looking to find someone with experience of licensing their invention to a multinational company - if any of you would like to offer advice please contact us on in the first instance and we will pass on your contact details to the inventor:
"  I want to contact inventors who have licensed their own product to foreign multinationals, this type of person will know the questions to ask and those not to ask.  Also whether they sold their patents to their licensee or renewed the patents themselves, did their licensee pay on time, were they allowed to inspect the accounts etc? "

Friday, 22 July 2011

“Patent Ownership” Dr Roger Lowe Leeds Inventors Group 21-7-11

Roger’s company – IP4All – is an intellectual property consultancy aimed at individuals and SMEs. One of his aims is to raise awareness of IP particularly within small companies and help them realise what IP they may have. IP, of course, can add significant value to a company – it is property and it’s important to understand how it can generate income. It can be licensed or assigned to others or the original owner can keep it as an exclusive right.

Knowing who owns that property is just as important, and this can be affected by such things as contracts of employment and who was involved in the inventive process. Ownership of a patent is a negative right in that it doesn’t give you the right to produce the patented product – it may be that someone else may have a prior claim to that. What it does give you the right to do is to take legal action against someone infringing your patent.

When a patent is granted to two or more people each is regarded as having an equal share unless there is a contract stating otherwise. For example, any licence or assignment must be done with the agreement of all partners. Obviously such a situation can be complex and it is wise to agree in writing at an early stage the terms of the agreement and who has responsibility for what.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both individual and shared ownership and a number options in relation to this. For example, an individual might set up a trading company and use this to ring-fence the IP from trading risks. If an inventor is attempting to licence their invention to a larger company the larger company is likely to feel happier if they’re dealing with another company rather than an individual.

Roger suggested that it’s far better to try to consider all the issues before filing a patent. First of all – is it worth applying for a patent? Will the market be there long enough to justify doing so? Having established that it is worthwhile to do so, think about a policy for exploiting the invention and its IP, a policy for enforcing your rights and also consider the best business structure to protect and exploit your intellectual property.

ip4all 3-5 Wormalds Yard off King Street, Huddersfield West Yorkshire HD1 2QR | Tel: 07800-545089 |

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Visit to Zenith Plastic Developments Ltd Leeds Inventors Group 15th June 2011

In a variation to our usual routine the group visited local company Zenith, who are involved in product design, prototyping, toolmaking and injection moulding. Owner Kevin McLeod gave a very informative tour and practical explanation of the equipment and processes involved. Kevin himself is a toolmaker by trade but has been involved in plastic moulding now for over 20 years.
He described how different materials and their differing properties affect how they are dealt with. The temperature used to heat the materials has to be exactly right otherwise the product will not form properly. For example the moisture in plastics can cause problems when heated. Many of the machines used are now mechanised which gives much more flexibility and once the settings for a particular job are input they can often be left to run on their own.

When Kevin first started working in this area the machinery took some time to warm up and perform effectively whereas now the correct heat can be achieved quite quickly and a constant steady temperature can be maintained.

Unlike steel, a variety of different textures can be achieved on plastics and of course a variety of different colours. We looked at the pellets of coloured dyes which can be added during the moulding process – a certain number of grams of colour to a specific amount of plastic has to be measured out exactly to get the right hue. And adding colour can add cost: black is the cheapest colour, while red is the most expensive. One container held pellets of recycled coat hangers which are used to produce drums for welding wire and frequently shipped abroad. Bits of plastic which Zenith don’t use in the finished products are usually recycled.

As well as the high temperatures involved in the processes a lot of force is also needed in order to shape plastic. For these reasons safety is paramount and various guards and checks are built into the equipment itself and also how they are used. Misuse of the machinery could cause very serious injury. Such safeguards are not always to be found in other countries which is one reason why costs for foreign manufacturing can be lower. Even so, in spite of such costs often drawing business abroad, Kevin pointed out that manufacturing abroad does not suit all customers or all products – it is not always the case that sending a job abroad will make it cheaper. A job requiring a lot of assembly work, for example, would probably be cheaper if manufactured in China. If assembly work is not a big part of it then the cost may not be any lower than if done here. Many customers also find it easier to deal with a more local company and particularly if problems arise it can be inconvenient and expensive for the customer to have to travel abroad in order to deal with that problem. An interesting point was that some products which are manufactured abroad can actually be stamped “Made in England” if assembled here.
We looked at different cutting tools capable of creating very precise holes and shapes down to very specific measurements. Getting the settings right on such equipment is obviously critical. Zenith can be involved in the full process from designing to finished product and Kevin showed the group some of the CAD design programs used and the various products they have taken through the process.

Kevin emphasised how important it is for a customer to be aware of what they are getting when they get work or quotes from a prototyping or moulding company. What type of mould is it? Is it made to European standards? If you are paying for a whole mould, is that what you have got or is it just half a mould? Have you insured the mould? Obviously a mould which is damaged or destroyed can cause significant problems and that is why Zenith have an insurance policy which can be applied to work carried out by them. It’s always a good idea to shop around. He handed round a checklist of points to clarify with any prospective moulding / tooling / prototyping company.

 Many thanks to Kevin from the Leeds inventors group

Zenith Plastic Developments Ltd,3 lister hill,Horsforth,LS18 5AZ tel:0113 2590380

Patent/IP Clinic at the University of Hull Enterprise Centre, Tuesday 5th July

Monday, 20 June 2011

“Accelerating Innovation through Open Innovation” – Dr Sam Hoste “This Little Piggy” Leeds Inventors Group 18th May 2011

“This Little Piggy” is a new company set up by Dr Sam Hoste and Dr Eileen McMorrow and launched at Venturefest in February. The company is based at York University and Sam gave this talk to the group to explain the idea of “open innovation”.

Open innovation is a situation where organisations take ideas from both outside and within the company. They buy or licence processes and inventions from other companies while sharing or licencing any of their own unused patents etc with others. This obviously requires a good deal of cooperation.

Sam looked at different innovation types – from products to services, processes to aesthetic innovation. In SMEs he concluded that innovation is a broad area and is as much about people and how they develop during interaction with others. It is a habit which needs to be developed and focussed. It is important for any organisation to see beyond the potential barriers of individual departments and specific functions and even beyond the organisation itself to see what knowledge and experience can be brought together and used. Exchanges of ideas and people between different sectors – such as academia and the commercial sector – is equally important. As this way of working develops the potential may be there for SMEs to work with larger companies and individuals to work with SMEs.

Innovation challenges

Part of this, of course, is information gained from customers. Companies can gain this information through interaction with customers, focus groups, surveys and interviews.

In many cases open innovation is a new way of working which in itself brings challenges. “This Little Piggy” offers training, workshops and consultancy to help companies deal with the challenges and develop new strategies and partnerships. 

Dr Sam Hoste       
Dr Eileen McMorrow

Suite 124,  The Ron Cooke Hub,
University of York, Heslington, York
YO10 5GE

Phone : 0845 305 5595

Our Twitter name is @piggy2market :

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Sheffield and Manchester Inventors Groups 6th & 7th June 2011

Sheffield Inventors Group will be on Monday June 6th 2011 6:00pm when Dr Kin Kam of Inclusive Innovations in York will be speaking about "The Road to Market - lessons about IP and product development". Kin has lots of experience of inventing and will also be happy to talk about his Dragon's Den experience.Tel: 0114 2734736

Manchester Inventors Group
6pm - 7:45pm Tuesday 7th JUNE 2011
City Library, Elliot House, 151 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3WD (see map)
Guest speaker - Terry Singleton
"Terry Singleton, one of our Manchester Inventors Group committee members, talks about his invention to alleviate back pain. A “pain free” route to market? Terry describes his experiences in health care invention over the past 25 years."

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

David Wilks Leeds Inventors Group 20th April 2011

David began his talk with an interesting quote:- “It was Inventors who dragged humanity from the caves and only inventors can prevent our return.” David is managing director of Varyflush Ltd which makes water saving devices. He demonstrated two of them – Interflush and Saver-Siphon, both of which are patented and the names protected by trade marks.

The background to this, of course, is global warming and water shortages which are set to become critical in the coming years. However, as David pointed out, these crises are still in the future and many people spend little time thinking about them. Saving money, on the other hand, is something that everyone is focussed on. Interflush and Saver-Siphon do that.

Households account for 52% of all water use and toilet flushing accounts for most of this. Much of this use for flushing is unnecessary. The Varyflush systems reduce this waste, saving water and significant amounts of money. You only flush the water you need rather than the full cistern. He listed several organisations and councils which have saved large amounts by installing the system.

David feels that the main obstacle to people changing to a more efficient system is simply that they have “always done it this way”. The fact that companies jump on the “green” bandwagon for commercial purposes and customers then become jaded with the subject also doesn’t help. He also feels that replacing leaking valves is an industry in itself which means less incentive for a more efficient system. He questioned whether selling water is more important than saving it.

Another difficulty which he has found in promoting his inventions are the usual toilet jokes. This he came across particularly during his appearances on ‘Dragons Den’ (though after his second visit he was offered a deal which he turned down). He sees it as part of the experience which many inventors go through: ridicule – attack – acceptance.

David manufactures his products himself. It was because he couldn’t afford the tooling to begin with that he developed the retrofit kit first. Many inventions fail at the tooling stage because of the cost. It’s now 16 years since he first had the idea and it’s just starting to make money.

He decided against licensing the products. He explained that one difficulty with licensing is that the licensees may not have the same drive to make the product a success as the inventor. In a difficult market would they promote the product with the same enthusiasm?

Interestingly David described how patent searches carried out by Business & Patent Information Services in the early stages of his product development were critical in enabling him to overcome a number of difficulties when determining the patentability of his products.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Inventors online survey

Researchers at the Caparo Innovation Centre, University of Wolverhampton, are interested in developing guidelines that help independent inventors, like you, achieve commercial success with their inventions.
We are particularly interested in your views on licensing. Licensing involves an inventor providing a business with permission to use the intellectual property connected with their invention in return for a royalty on sales.
We have developed an online survey, which is open to all UK based independent inventors. You do not need to have successfully licensed the rights to your invention in order to take part.
Details of the survey:
1. The survey will take between 10 - 15 minutes to complete.
2. The survey will ask questions about you, your current, or most recent, invention and your perception of licensing.
3. No risks or discomforts are anticipated from taking part in this study. If you feel uncomfortable with a question, you can withdraw from the study altogether. If you decide to quit at any time before you have finished the questionnaire, your answers will NOT be recorded
4.     Your responses will be kept completely confidential. We will NOT know your IP address when you respond to the Internet survey. You do have the option of adding your name and contact details at the end of the survey, but only if you wish to take part in further research
5.     Your participation is voluntary; you are free to withdraw your participation from this study at any time. If you do not want to continue, you can simply leave the website.
6.     The results of the study will be used for scholarly purposes only. The results from the study will be presented in educational settings and at professional conferences, and the results might be published in a professional journal in the field of new product introduction.
7.     A summary of the results will be available to respondents that request a copy.
8.     By beginning the survey, you acknowledge that you have read this information and agree to participate in this research, with the knowledge that you are free to withdraw your participation at any time without penalty.
To access the online survey, please click here or paste the following address into your Internet search engine:

Gavin Smeilus
Caparo Innovation Centre
Department of Engineering
University of Wolverhampton
Wolverhampton Science Park
WV10 9RU
Tel: 01902 321765

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Sharon Wright Leeds Inventors Group 16th March 2011

Sharon Wright is one of the most successful competitors to ever appear on the BBC programme “Dragons Den” and her talk at the inventors group meeting created a lot of interest.

She described how she came up with the product “Magnamole” – a device for threading cables through cavity walls – which she eventually took to the dragons. What many people don’t realise is that Sharon had already achieved significant success with the product before approaching the dragons. In spite of working 9 – 5 as a sales rep and being a single mum she had set up her own company Talpa Products and by working through her nights had achieved large sales and won the award of “British Inventor of the Year” (followed up by a number of international awards). However she was hoping that with assistance from the dragons this could be taken to another level.
As with everything Sharon has done she was thoroughly prepared for the “Dragons Den” pitch and this was one of the things which impressed them so much. As she pointed out this is very important in so many areas, particularly in business – try to foresee what will come up, and try to know the people who you will be dealing with. She described her pitch in front of the cameras, which lasted for around 90 minutes. Much of this, of course, is not seen in the final cut.

The response to the programme from the viewing public was enormous with offers of congratulations and sometimes offers of business. However things didn’t work out as Sharon had hoped. The money, infrastructure and support which she had expected didn’t materialise and while she was waiting for this assistance cash-flow problems developed. She also discovered that assistance from one of the Dragons would actually be chargeable and any investment – which she was still waiting for – would be a loan.

Things began to unravel and Sharon described how her business difficulties exacerbated her life-long battle with bulimia and she hit rock bottom. Feeling unable to cope she decided that writing a book of her experiences might be therapeutic. Unable to find a publisher willing to take the book on because of the controversy with the dragons she published it herself. “Mother of Invention: How I Won Dragons Den, Lost My Mind, Nearly Lost My Business and Ended up Reinventing Myself” is a powerful insight into what it takes to run a business and develop new products and how one person coped with all the difficulties thrown at her by sheer determination.

Sharon is now back on her feet and has new investment in her business. “Magnamole” is selling extremely well and her legal action against dragon James Caan is ongoing. As Sharon said dedication and self-belief is vital to anyone wanting to develop a new business or a new product and, as her example shows, a tremendous amount of hard work is a basic requirement.

From Dragons Den to Leeds Library | Leeds Daily Photo - Leeds in Yorkshire Photography

Patent Clinic - University of Hull 12th April

Monday, 4 April 2011

FREE FactSheets available for inventors

Available now FREE factsheets from the Complete Business Reference Adviser:

COBRA is a comprehensive, practical and continually updated information resource for anyone looking to start a business, write a business or marketing plan or conduct research into a new market.
We now have an online subscription to COBRA - the Complete Business Reference Adviser.
Access is available in all our libraries and from your home/work using your Leeds Library membership number.

It can be accessed:
Directly on any Leeds Learning Network computer (available at any Leeds public library) there is a link in the online resources section, no membership card number needed
From home:
By using the COBRA link on Leeds Library membership number is required.

Free library membership - join online at , join by phone on 0113 3952313 or join in person at any Leeds library (proof of id and address required).

Ipeology – Leeds Inventors Group – 16th February 2011

Ipeology are a Manchester – based design company working in a creative environment in an old mill alongside other designers and artists. Director Damien Vesey explained how the company came together after he and some of the other designers worked at Salford University helping students particularly in the area of production, prototyping and packaging before consolidating the team when working for a company developing equipment and products for large sports companies.

As well as developing products for others they also work on their own products and have built up a significant number of contacts both here and abroad in manufacturing and retail. Damien explained the process which Ipeology uses to determine whether they can work with a customer who approaches them. This process involves questionnaires, confidentiality agreements, project assessment meetings and finally a contract. They can take a product from the idea stage through development, prototyping, testing and packaging. Very often they take what the customer has done already and may develop it further. As an example Damien described how they had worked with Kin Kam on his” iicap” and developed it into a clip which can work on any cap.

Damien and his team went on to describe some of the other products they have been involved with (and several of which they had brought along for the audience to study) including “Bugzy” a folding trolley with which to transport canoes. This was developed from the inventor’s original cardboard model which he had brought to Ipeology. Numerous other examples were passed around the group.

Different strategies often have to be used depending very much upon the product and the market. Prototyping can be expensive and anyone developing a product also needs to look at the intellectual property aspect – what can be protected, what costs are involved? This all needs to be built in to the project and a time-line constructed so that deadlines and costs can be monitored.

A discussion followed on how technology has changed in design. Damien described how they used to work from drawn designs, then 3-D modelling came along, rapid prototyping and how CAD software can now go straight to 3D printers. A process of actually “printing” structures such as concrete is now being talked about. Some of the software and equipment available can actually save the cost of tooling up, particularly for short production runs.

Altogether it was a very useful insight into the practical side of product development.

Ipeology Limited
M1 Studios
8 Lower Ormond Street
M1 5QF

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Dr Kin Kam at the Leeds Inventors Group 19–1–11

Kin, who runs his own company, Inclusive Innovations Ltd., began by talking about the general aims of most inventors and how they might protect their intellectual property rights – possibly by using a confidentiality agreement (NDA, CDA) or a patent, or both. Using a UK patent he filed on one of his own inventions – the iiCap – as a case study, he described in detail the process of putting together a patent application.

A patent consists of four sections: the abstract – a brief overview of the invention; the description – a full disclosure of the invention with examples; drawings – showing different variations where required; and the claims – the most important part of the patent which lists the inventive features of the product.

He showed his application and how he had written it. He had applied himself without using the services of a patent attorney. Once the official search had been carried out by the examiners at the UK Intellectual Property Office they sent their search report to Kin indicating the likelihood of his patent being granted. It did not look good. They had found several patents already in existence which implied that his invention was not new. The report also indicated that Kin’s description did not make clear the essential features of the invention, while there was a lack of consistency in the language used and some phrases like “a number” and “such as” were regarded as too vague. A patent is a legal documents and correct usage of language and structure is vital.

Kin felt that his chances of having the patent granted were rather small, but he took it to a patent attorney who felt that all was not lost. The attorney then responded to the examiner’s report on Kin’s behalf. He took each point which the examiner had made and argued in Kin’s favour. The patent was subsequently granted. Kin had also filed an international patent which had run into similar problems with the Chinese Patent Office. Their examiner initially indicated that the invention was not new – until the patent attorney responded in full and the patent was granted in China. He also had a UK trade mark registered to protect his logo.

So in Kin’s view, it is important not to be immediately put off if the initial search is negative, but to be realistic when viewing the prior art. It may be that your invention is not new. If things are looking good and you intend to patent internationally make sure that you select your territorial protection strategically. It may not be financially feasible to cover all the countries you would like. Where are your main markets?

As Kin’s experience showed, it is also vital to ensure that you get the right advice and guidance as he did when using his patent attorney.

Having gained his patents Kin then looked to ways of trying to raise funding for the product and publicise it. He appeared briefly on Dragons Den twice – the first time to promote the development of a reminder smart card to reduce the missed appointment rate, and the second time with the iiCap for Sports Relief. So far the only person to have appeared on Dragons' Den for two different products!

He realised that he needed a professional prototype and product and packaging design to get it to market. Very often it is through this that you learn of problems – perhaps difficulties with different materials, sizes etc. The iiClip, one of Kin’s subsequent inventions, is quite small and may look easy to produce, but in fact a lot of engineering was needed to bring it to fruition. In order to gain the necessary skills / facilities it is often a good idea to bring in business partners but he felt it was best to avoid joint intellectual property where possible.

He then described some of the other products which Inclusive Innovations is developing and concluded with two famous products which exemplify how long the process of developing a new product can take: It took Thomas Eddison two years and two thousand prototypes to develop his light bulb filament. Charles Goodyear stumbled on a method of vulcanising rubber nine years after starting work on the problem.

*update* july 2011 Production stock of iiclip has finally been completed, with a  launch date in mid July 2011.available at

Kin introduced some new friends

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Venturefest Yorkshire 16/2/11 York

Staff from Business and Patents will be exhibiting at Venturefest Yorkshire.Venturefest Yorkshire is a 1 day expo which brings together the region's finest science, technology and knowledge entrepreneurs, the professional services who support them and world-class business speakers.

Date: 16th February

Time: 8.00am - 5.30pm

Location: York Racecourse - York

To find out more at:

Venturefest Yorkshire 2011 Expo of inspiring science, technology and knowledge entrepreneurs

Friday, 21 January 2011

Apply for Dragons' Den

Entrepreneurs wanting to apply can do so by completing the application form and emailing it to - or by visiting our website: