Realising the value of Intellectual Property through product innovation
In 2013, Kodak sold over 1000 of its digital imaging patents for over half a billion dollars. The sale, to a consortium of bidders including Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, was part of its efforts to emerge from bankruptcy.
Despite inventing the digital camera as far back as 1975, and continuing to invest in emerging technology, Kodak ultimately failed to adapt quickly enough to grasp opportunities in the digital photography revolution. Whilst this realisation of value from its intellectual property assets softened the blow of Kodak’s fall from dominance it remains a famous lesson that having and holding IP does not guarantee business success. What’s needed is to align IP with customer needs and trends, and to deliver product solutions, at speed, to meet and drive market demand.
The Value of IP
Most businesses are sitting on intellectual property and knowledge that has the potential to realise considerable untapped value. This is especially true for companies who, as part of their underlying business model, make ongoing investment in Research & Development activities. What can be a real challenge for businesses, is to determine what potential opportunities exist to monetise this IP and knowledge and, perhaps even more importantly, how to execute a plan that generates business value in the most effective way possible.
So how should organisations approach this challenge? In KD’s experience, transforming IP into a successful product requires a combination of strong governance, careful prioritisation, intelligent selection and rapid execution In practice, it also requires a huge amount of determination from those given the responsibility for such a project. Understanding customer needs, leveraging the right technology and wrapping up a solution into a product offering that generates sustainable business results is much easier said than done.
With knowledge of the complexity of this process, KD offers a series of targeted interventions, designed to provide IP-to-product projects with go-to-market momentum:
In many ways, this is the most important and hardest activity. First, it involves selecting the best areas of IP and/or knowledge to exploit. This may of course be obvious, for example, as a result of a stand-out area of expertise or an especially strong market demand for a relevant capability.
However, more commonly, a more structured process is required, combining a range of different inputs including customer insights, market trends, competitor analysis, and strategic business goals. To be truly effective, this exercise requires close collaboration between a broad range of company stakeholders. KD’s role in activities at this stage may include gathering inputs through customer research as well as facilitating opportunity mapping and ideation workshops with client teams to explore and identify opportunities, generate concepts and create a prioritised list of targeted product ideas.
Concept Building, Evaluation and Selection
Once a prioritised set of opportunity areas and product ideas have been established, work will be required to build and refine these ideas into meaningful concepts. Depending on the nature of the idea, this may require technical feasibility work as well as design and prototyping to answer questions and bring the product concept to life.
It will then be important to evaluate the concepts against an agreed list of success criteria including customer appeal, competitive advantage, estimates of development costs and timescales, as well as an analysis of the potential market return. The ultimate outcome of the exercise will be the selection of one or more products on which to focus its investment.
The most costly, and hence arguably the highest profile, stage of the whole exercise is centred around the development of the product itself. As with the other stages, speed is critical, both in terms of controlling costs, maintaining focus around the end goals and ensuring that the product does not get overtaken by a change in market demand or the emergence of competitive products.
Speed requires agility, flexibility, collaboration and rapid access to a broad portfolio of skills – from design, through to engineering, human factors, prototyping, testing and ultimately to manufacturing. Maintaining a user focus throughout is critical to ensuring that the end product attracts the right response from its target audience.
KD have excellent experience in working collaboratively with client teams, providing the expertise needed to complement in-house knowledge and skills, working at the rapid pace required to deliver a new product to market, and thereby playing a key role in helping to realise real value from our clients’ businesses IP assets.