To succeed and perform well, businesses must be able to produce new, innovative products and services. New product development methods often lie at the heart of the development of innovation expertise. Expertise is also need in managing the intellectual property rights, commercialization, innovation projects and project portfolios.
Aalto PRO provides the latest knowledge on the commercialization, marketing and sales of innovations, as well as managing successful innovation projects. We help product and service developers to develop and maintain know-how that ensures the success of innovation management at enterprise level and in individual products and services.
Product development as part of innovation management
A survey by the Confederation of Finnish Industries indicates that industrial investment in research and development has fallen from EUR 2.9 billion to just over EUR 2.3 billion in the last few years. While such investments are currently close to the EU average, their share of overall investment has decreased and Finland has fallen behind the top Western European countries in this respect.
Responsible and sustainable product development"
It is worth investing in product development, which lies at the core of innovation management. The world is crying out for products and services; now, if ever, is the time for responsible and sustainable product development based on customer needs. This means innovative, ground-breaking ideas, well-considered selection of the best concepts, goal-oriented development and the successful market entry of products and services.
From the product development perspective, during the early stages of innovation management (i.e. the fuzzy front end) the key issue lies in our being able to make the right choices, based on a strong understanding of the customer, with respect to ideas and requirements for the further development of future products and services. Decisions made at this stage will have a major impact on whether a development project fulfills its set goals or becomes a money pit.
The actual product development phase is characterized by systematic work, which can take advantage of the opportunities afforded by lean principles to increase customer value and reduce waste, for example. Agile methods provide the ability to perform rapid pilots of new product or service concepts with the target group. This saves time and money, while providing the customers with a product or service that better matches their needs.
IPR at different stages of the product development process
Finnish companies are active patent filers. Finland was ranked fifth in the European Patent Office's (EPO) statistics for 2016 on the number of patent applications filed per capita. Southern Finland (84.4% of all Finnish applications), Western Finland at 9.8%, Northern Finland at 3%, Eastern Finland at 2.6% and Åland at 0.1% come top of Finland's regional rankings.
Patenting is an integral part of product development, particularly during the ideation phase and when the new invention is almost in its final form. During the ideation phase, for example, the Finnish Patent and Registration Office’s free patent databases can be used to obtain detailed information on existing, and lapsed patents and public patent applications under consideration. With this knowledge, product developers can avoid repeating the prior art and, in the best-case-scenario, obtain new ideas and perspectives on the ongoing ideation phase.
Patent protection should be sought at the stage when a possibly patentable invention is being conceived."
Patent protection should be sought at the stage when a possibly patentable invention is being conceived. Timing is of the essence, since the aim is to provide the invention with the best possible protection. On the other hand, protection should not be sought too early, to ensure that subsequent improvements and modifications can be patented.
In addition, patent databases can be used to monitor the activities of competing companies. Such databases show what competitors have patented and what kinds of new applications they have filed. As well as revealing a competitor's future goals, monitoring can address patent infringements at the earliest possible stage.
Intellectual property rights provide an opportunity for developing active new business models, as well as seeking patent protection. A business-driven IPR strategy and active patent portfolio management and leadership provide a solid basis for expanding the use of intellectual property rights to the creation of new business models.
The commercialization perspective
The customer and target market walk hand in hand with the generation of ideas and R&D. Who is the customer and what are the customer's real needs? What would generate value of a kind which the customer is willing to pay for? How can information on customers be obtained during product development, so as to understand the customer in a way which ensures that the right decisions and choices are made during the product development process?
How can the most suitable tools and models be found in each case?"
There are many tools and operating models for increasing customer understanding. How can the most suitable ones be found in each case? To solve this challenge, a focused and systematic approach to product development is needed which involves experts from areas such as sales, marketing and production, in addition to product developers. Digitalization also enables simple and easy participation by customers in the design of products and services intended for them.
In addition to customer understanding, creation of a product or service concept with an interesting customer promise requires a well-functioning overall package including well-targeted distribution and sales channels, a viable pricing policy and target audience communications.
Leadership of product development projects and project portfolio management
Project management and leadership lie at the core of product development. Product developers tend to have several product development projects of varying size underway at the same time, often in a multicultural working environment. A clear understanding of project management dynamics and a good overview of tools and methods enable a product developer to select tools suitable for managing his or her own project.
A product development project often links directly to a company’s business strategy, which affects decisions made before, during and after the project."
A product development project often links directly to a company’s business strategy, which affects decisions made before, during and after the project. When evaluating the profitability of a project, account is taken of the direct benefits (product requirements, achievement of objectives and internal efficiency) as well as immediate impacts (the customer and the project group). The project is also evaluated at various stages of the product development process, from the ideation, research, technology and concept development phases to product development and market entry.
Several simultaneous, competing product development projects can be compared and evaluated in accordance with factors such as strategic consistency, commercial benefits, and the technical feasibility of the change. This is often the case when building and maintaining a company’s product development project portfolio.
Project portfolio management enables holistic management of product development: monitoring finances and the sufficiency of resources, and guiding the implementation of agreed common policies in portfolio projects.