Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Liverpool Inventors Club Relaunched

The Liverpool Inventors Club has been looking for somewhere to meet ever since 23 July 2010 when the Central Library closed for refurbishment. On Monday 27 Feb 2012 it met at the offices of QualitySolicitors Jackson & Canter.   We had an excellent speaker in Haydn Insley.  He spoke about the Manchester  FabLab of which he is the manager.

We have discussed FabLab a lot in this and our sister blogs ever since Eddie Kirkby's presentation at Daresbury:

We had a good audience which included Steve Bennett of Starchaser, wealth manager Richard Barnes of St James's Place, forensic accountant Michael Swift, Patent Librarian Ruth Grodner, patent attorney Tom Hutchinson, IP solicitor Michael Sandys and several young inventors.  

Much of the success of the world's FabLabs derives from the links of the individual FabLab with each other and the fact that each of those local FabLabs has a network of local links with its own community. Many member of the audience had their own networks: the QualitySolicitors legal network in Michael' case, the PatLib network in Ruth's, potential investors in innovation in Richard's and so on.   Much of the discussion after Haydn's talk focussed on how those networks could interact with Manchester FabLab's for ther mutual benefit.

Haydn gave us some news on the Keighley FabLab. He and Eddie Kirkby have been installing kit so it is likely to open very soon.  Consultancy for other FabLabs together with training courses are services from which the Manchester FabLab derives an income.  It does some prototyping and other product design and development work for which it charges commercial or near commercial fees in order not to undercut established businesses.  The old chestnut that FabLab takes bread out of design consultants' mouths is nonsense.  On the contrary, it helps to develop their market and provides useful basic training in additive manufacturing technologies.

The meeting continued at the Hanover Street Social which provides a phenomenal Mondays only offer of a starter and main course and a full bottle of house wine per person for £17.50. Now that is just the sort of innovation inventors need to get their creative juices running.  So long as that offer continues that establishment is likely to be patronized by the club.  The next meeting will take place on 30 April 2012. We shall announce the speaker and venue shortly.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Partnering with Boots Innovation - new product research, development and marketing

Although it is not usually a good idea for inventors to make unsolicited approaches to established businesses in the hope that such businesses might take up and develop their inventions, there are some companies that actually encourage those initiatives. One well known example is Procter & Gamble. Another is Henkel.  At the Daresbury Science & Innovation Campus breakfast meeting on 27 Jan 2012 I learned of a third, Boots Innovation.

David Thurgood, Technical Innovation Manager, and Gail Eastaugh, Technology Insights Manager, of Boots Innovation gave an after breakfast talk entitled Boots Pharmaceuticals – Consumer Healthcare Innovation Needs for 2012.

They began by reminding us that Alliance Boots is a leading international pharmacy led health and beauty group delivering a range of products and services to customers through stores in the UK, Republic of Ireland, Netherlands,  Norway, Sweden and Thailand.  The company also has a massive wholesale distribution business for health care and beauty products throughout Europe.  It is also developing both retail and wholesale distribution businesses in China, the Gulf, Russia, the United States and Canada.

Boots encourages universities and SME to partner with them in developing and marketing new products in the following fields:
  • First aid to address needs for scarring, burning, advanced treatments, wound treatment / management, dressings and coverings;
  • Women's health to address common complaints such as period pain, heavy bleeding, menopause and women's sexual health;
  • Serious skincare to address conditions such as acne, spots, dry skin, eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, flaky skin and red skin;
  • Weight management to help aid weight loss including specially designed supplements, vitamins and medical devices;
  • Men's sexual wellbeing to help maintain erectile function and address premature ejaculation and infection;
  • Age well to address common ageing complaints such as joint pain, mobility, hair loss, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, loss of mental acuity, back pain, hearing loss and bladder problems;
  • Children’s medicines to address common childhood complaints such as colds, colic, ear infections and head lice. Plus products that help children to take medicine; 
  • Sleep to address early waking, interrupted sleep and failure to get to sleep in the first place;
  • Stress to address anxiety, frustration and situational anxiety;
  • Energy to address tiredness and lack of energy;
Boots is prepared to work with its partners in a variety of ways such as straightforward distribution, co-development with or without investment, licensing, collaboration on research and development and raw materials sourcing.   Products can be sold under the supplier's proprietary brands or Boots' own brand.   If the latter, Boots applies particularly stringent regulatory compliance and quality control tests.

Partnering with Boots provides a number of advantages - detailed market research data through Advantage card statistics, access to consumers through Boots' magazines parenting and health clubs and the enormous reputation of the Boots brand.

Projects can be submitted to Boots through the Boots Innovation website and further information can be obtained from Mr Thurgood in respect of over the counter products on + 44 (0)115 9494640 or from Ms. Eastaugh in respect of positive health products on +44 (0)7525 763259. It is important to stress that not all ideas submitted to Boots are successful.  In a question and answer session after the talk I asked Ms. Eastaugh what percentage of the ideas submitted make their way on to the shelves,   She replied by asking me to make a guess and I replied about 5%.  She told me that I was not far wrong though Boots are working on increasing the success rate.

If you do get an offer from Boots you will need a lot of help with patent, trade mark and perhaps design registration, licensing, distribution agreements, joint ventures and the like.  If you need to discuss any of those matters feel free to call me on  0161 850 0080 or use my contact form. You can also contact me through Facebook, Linkedin, twitter or Xing..