Innovation: Acting on Your Ideas

I think that there’s a little engineer in every scientist.  In the scientific pursuit for knowledge, we often find ourselves optimizing, refining, and generally improving the ways we perform our research.  Some ideas we can act upon ourselves by, for example, altering our methods or protocols.  Others innovations are not so simple – concepts for improvements to products or for entirely new tools with which to perform our work.

Chances are you’ve used a research tool and thought “it would really be great if ______”.  Whether your ideas involve a change to a single step in a single protocol or a concept for an entirely new product, there is value in anything that would allow researchers to perform work faster, and it’s in the best interest of science as a whole that you give your ideas a venue to realize that value.

Not every idea has commercial value, and most improvements made in the lab don’t even pertain to a commercial product or a commercializable idea.  If your idea isn’t quite profound enough for a methods paper, I would still encourage you to share it.  You could, for example, share it on an appropriate science forum or better yet videotape it and upload it to BenchFly!  Sharing allows everyone to benefit from your ideas to the greater good of science as a whole.

Other ideas will have commercial value but not that you can personally capture.  An idea to improve an existing product or a method developed around a particular product, for example, may not have independent value, but may be valuable to the company that makes the product and users of the product.  Again, I encourage you to share this.  If you have contact with a sales rep from the company, talk to them, or call / e-mail the technical support department.  While you may ask yourself “why should I help a for-profit company?” remember that you’ll also be potentially helping every scientist that uses the product as well.  Companies that produce research products are, after all, in the business of helping scientists perform their work better, faster and easier.  Plus, in exchange for a good, well-defined idea, a lot of companies are willing to give you a small kickback in the form of consumables, accessories, or a credit for you or your lab on future purchases.

Then there are the ideas that have the potential to be goldmines.  Pursuing such an idea yourself can be time-consuming and derail a career, but while you could halt your career as a researcher to start a company, you certainly do not have to and other options do exist.  You also do not have to spend a lot of time or money to profit from your ideas, so don’t give up on them or put them aside.

In the next post in this series on science innovation, I’ll discuss how to determine if your idea has commercial value that you can potentially realize and profit from, and also guide you through a way to very roughly gauge how much your idea could be worth.

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Carlton Hoyt, Ph.D. is a scientist-turned-businessperson and is principal consultant and co-founder of BioBM Consulting, which provides commercialization services to life science inventors and companies.  He welcomes you to contact him directly at carlton.hoyt@biobm.com.

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2 comments so far. Join The Discussion

  1. Innovation: The Value of Your Ideas | BenchFly Blog

    wrote on February 25, 2011 at 5:06 am

    […] Still wondering if you want to pursue your ideas? Check out the first article in the series, Innovation: Acting on Your Ideas. […]

  2. Innovation: Concept to Commercialization

    wrote on April 1, 2011 at 5:06 am

    […] you’ve had your eureka moment and you’ve done the rough math to figure out that your innovation is probably worth pursuing.  […]

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