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The New Innovation Frontier – Solving Covid-19-Related Problems

The New Innovation Frontier – Solving Covid-19-Related Problems

The New Innovation Frontier – Solving COVID-19-Related Problems

Climate change and the Coronavirus pandemic have many things in common.  Both have caused long-term damage to the world’s social and economic structure and will continue to do so unless, in the case of the former, carbon emissions are reduced, or a vaccine becomes available to treat the latter.

But out of tragedy, the opportunity also flowers.  Renewable energy and other climate change innovations will employ many of today’s children when they enter adulthood.  And the British government has announced £20 million of government funding available for businesses that provide innovative solutions to help people and the economy during the Covid-19 epidemic.

If you have an innovative app or start-up idea that could solve certain Covid-19 related problems, here is what you need to know to get it from an idea to a viable business proposition, capable of attracting funding and investment.

One – Draw up a business plan

Most likely, you have spent many evenings reading stories about successful start-ups.  Meeting investors, creatives, tech experts, building a team, attending trade shows – it all sounds exciting and glamourous.  As these are PR pieces, what they leave out is the one to five years of behind the scenes work that led to their success.

One of the first tasks of any entrepreneur is to create a credible business plan.  This should be a ‘live’ document, meaning it is regularly revised and updated as your commercial idea for solving a particular Covid-19 problem develops.

Your business plan should be written over a period of weeks rather than days and contain information relating to:

  • the name of your business
  • the legal structure of the business – i.e. self-employed, partnership, limited liability partnership, limited liability company, or charity
  • your product/ service
  • the identified gap/problem in the market
  • how your product/service solves the problem
  • a competitor analysis
  • your customers – who are they, where do they live, what do they like/dislike, how much disposable income do they have?
  • your financial plan – how much capital/investment will you need over the next two, three, and five years and where will this come from?
  • projected sales and revenue figures
  • your sales and marketing plan
  • how many employees or partners you need?
  • your operations plan – i.e. how the business will function and who is responsible for specific tasks

Creating a business plan will provide insight into the viability of your product/service and whether or not your innovative idea can be achieved.  Furthermore, your business plan will answer the all-important question of “is there a market for my product/service”?

Two – Develop a prototype

Before you can launch a new product into the market, you must see if it works.  Developing a prototype will help you achieve this.  The basic definition of a prototype is “a simulation or sample version of a final product, which is used for testing prior to launch.” 

The four steps required to develop a prototype are:

  1. The Concept Sketch – one of the most difficult parts are all innovative and creative endeavors is to get what is in your head down on paper.  Before using a digital drawing program to develop a more sophisticated sketch of your product, use old-fashioned pencil and paper first.  This will allow you to consolidate all the ideas running through your mind and form a solid concept of your innovation.  It is quicker to commit these to paper than fiddle with digital drawings.
  2. Create a virtual prototype – this can be done using AutoCAD, which can enable 2D and 3D renderings.   Tools such as NVIDIA Iray, CATIA Live Rendering and Quadro can further help you visualize your product from all angles.  You may need to engage a professional graphic or prototype designer at this stage.
  3. Build the prototype – you can do this yourself or hire a designer or engineer.  If you are bootstrapping your business, seek out talent from a design college who could help you for a reduced fee and good reference.  Bear in mind, it may take several attempts to get the prototype right.
  4. Find a manufacturer – once you have created and tested the prototype, you need to find a manufacturer who will build multiple units of the product at a cost that fits in with your financial plan.  Remember, business is not that complicated – you simply need to make something for £1 and sell it for £2 to make a profit.  Spend time investigating the most cost-effective materials and methods to ensure you get the best manufacturing deal.

Three – Access funding

Aside from traditional funding options such as investment and loans, the UK government has recently announced it will provide grants of up to £50,000 to technology and research-focused businesses to develop innovative methods of working and help build resilience in industries such as delivery services, food manufacturing, retail, and transport, as well as support people at home in circumstances like those during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ideas such as new technologies to help retailers such as supermarkets respond to spikes in demand, services to help family members remotely connect and check on elderly or vulnerable relatives, and products that help schools provide home education, are highly desired.

The reason behind these grants is explained below.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway states:

“The response of researchers and businesses to the coronavirus outbreak has been remarkable. This new investment will support the development of technologies that can help industries, communities, and individuals adapt to new ways of working when situations like this, and other incidents, arise.”

Dr. Ian Campbell, Executive Chair Innovate UK, commented:

 

“The COVID-19 situation is not just a health emergency, but also one that affects the economy and society. With that in mind, Innovate UK has launched this rapid response competition today seeking smart ideas from innovators. These could be proposals to help the distribution of goods, educate children remotely, keep families digitally connected, and even new ideas to stream music and entertainment. The UK needs a great national effort and Innovate the UK is helping by unleashing the power of innovation for people and businesses in need.”

In summary

Opportunities abound in times of crisis because so many people and industries need help to deal with completely novel situations.  If you have an idea that can help others deal with the current Covid-19 pandemic or future similar events, now is the time to be brave and take the right steps to bring it to market. 

Related Article: Read ‘How to Write a Good Tier 1 Entrepreneur Business Plan’ here

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