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Working with New Product Design and Development Companies and Organisations

NIC Document

Summary

This guide briefly explains how partner organisations can help you achieve good design and best practice in manufacturing technology to get your idea or concept to the prototype stage and beyond. It looks at the key issues to consider when working with a new product design and development organisation.
  1. Benefits of working with partner companies and organisations
  2. Seeking an innovation partner
  3. Choosing a partner

Introduction

Turning a concept or idea into a marketable reality can be expensive in terms of finance, resource and time. New product development in the medical device/healthcare sector is a multidisciplinary activity that draws on a range of skills from teams of individuals and organisations. Financial and organisational constraints mean that you will rarely find all the required technical and managerial skills within one company. This means you will need to look to outside sources of know-how and technical capability, including finance, prototyping, product design, manufacturing, regulatory compliance and clinical trials.

Benefits of working with partner companies and organisations

Making use of the expertise, experience and in-house technology offered by specialist organisations will not only increase speed to market, but can also reduce product launch costs and risks. Benefits include:

Design for manufacture: To develop a successful commercial product, it is essential to carefully plan your manufacturing route and consider manufacturing engineering as an integral part of the design process. The manufacturing route will be influenced by the numbers of product to be produced. Bear in mind that a completely different design technique may be required to produce the relatively few numbers needed for clinical trials, compared with the design approach needed for volume production.

Rapid development methods: You should make the most of access to resources such as CAD-CAM technology, rapid prototyping equipment, 3D computer modelling and test rig production. Trialling your product electronically before ‘cutting metal’ can help save on design versions.

Rapid prototyping: A New Product Development (NPD) company or organisation uses in-house capability and know-how to provide rapid prototyping, building up your product as a 3D prototype for visualisation, aesthetic, ergonomic and dimensional tolerance purposes, initial design validation, etc. It will usually be built up in a suitable plastic or wax, but metallic structures are also possible. Once the outline design is approved, you can give the go ahead to manufacture it in whatever materials you choose for the final product.

Design for testing / evaluation: You may need to draw on external advice to ensure that your product is easily and cost-effectively testable at the end of the manufacturing process. Considering this as an integral part of the design process not only helps keep overall production costs low, but also ensures that you deliver reliable and functional products.


Seeking an innovation partner

You can choose from a wide range of potential design and development partners, from the academic and clinical sectors to private companies.

Academic sector: Academic institutions add value to individual companies and industries by sharing the knowledge and expertise of their staff and students, while providing access to resources beyond a company’s restricted financial and logistical resources. Further information is available in the guide ‘Working with the Academic Sector’.

Clinical sector: A national network of regional innovation centres (NHS Intellectual Property Hubs) manages and exploits Intellectual Property (IP) within the NHS. The centres work with their regional NHS trusts and have access to clinical experts who may be able to help you with your innovation. Most of these Hubs will provide you with some access to this expertise, but England also has the NHS National Innovation Centre that can help broker partnerships with the right clinical expertise. To find the IP Hub in your region, see: www.innovations.nhs.uk for England; www.shil.co.uk for Scotland, and www.wishnhswales.org.uk for Wales.

Private sector: The private sector has a wide range of businesses that offer a variety of services, including those outlined in this guide. Other services may include:
  • Access to finance
  • Market research and future trend assessment
  • Materials and processing
  • Manufacturing selection and specification
  • Structural packaging design
  • Marketing strategies and product launch services
  • Post-sales customer service organisational advice

Public sector: Organisations such as the national Business Link network and Chambers of Commerce can offer general support for innovation. For more sector-focused support, you can access regional medical device and healthcare networks such as Medilink UK and Health Technologies KTN.

Choosing a partner

There are many good design and development companies in the UK with extensive experience in this sector. When developing your product from early stage research or later stage development, you should answer these questions to make your search easier:
  • What are the timescales and financial restraints on the design and development?
  • What do you want from your idea, concept or technology – a concept prototype, a final prototype, the first manufactured product, etc.?
  • Are you looking to manufacture and sell your own new product?
  • Are you looking to advance your technology significantly to the stage where you can seek investment and/or licensing?
  • How far do you want to go down the development route?
  • Do you need to acquire new design or technology input to add value to your concept?

Once you have a clear idea of your needs in going to an external design and development company, you will need to address some key issues, including:

  • Ensure the company signs a non-disclosure agreement with you
  • Get a feel for the level of professionalism within the company. Does it have an appropriate ISO 9001 or ISO 13485 accreditation for its services? Does it have an Investors in People (IiP) award?
  • Get a breakdown of prices, in phased steps with timescales and a clear indication of decision points
  • Agree costs and timescales for the different stages of design and development
  • Ensure you know what they need from you, as well as when they need it, to proceed effectively. Speak to a number of organisations when making your selection: DO NOT just evaluate on the lowest cost