When compared to commercialising a piece of home ware, it’s surprising how daunting the idea of entering a comparatively stringent industry like medical can be. These ‘tricky’ industries are generally associated with medicine, aeronautics, on-road vehicles, veterinary products and even electronics. It’s ironic that highly governed industries, unfortunately, slow the advancement of projects, especially when there is a pressing need for potentially life-saving or environmentally conscious advancements.

In fields that follow stringent regulation protocols, there can be a general apprehension of how exactly to develop a new product. Currently, the approach is to develop a project to a point where it can be recognized and supported by a large company with existing channels and market presence. This article aims to diffuse and offer strategies around sticking points of new product development in these “tricky industries”.

1) Get industry input

Seeking the advice of practising experts in the relevant field is obvious. However, there may be situations when an organisational conflict of interest prevents this from happening. Unfortunately, without the market channels, experience and resources you desire, this may leave a project feeling disconnected from the industry it’s trying to break into.

This is where case studies of similar projects in the same industries can be helpful. Through learning from previous projects you can gain knowledge and experience seeing what works, what doesn’t and what that means for your product strategy. For technical know-how, acquiring competing or similar products to teardown and analyse will inform how (or how not) to build your product.

2) Read regulations

The balance between new thinking and stringent regulations in product development is conflicting and difficult. Not knowing which regulations concern your project can make it even harder. Turning a blind eye to industry regulations while in development is unlikely to pay off. Potential violations can be avoided by consulting with relevant industry governing bodies (such as FDA) early and frequently during the design process. It is advised to allocate time to read up on the rules as part of the design process. Leveraging a regulatory affairs officer and their expertise will help forecast what issues your design may face in the future.

3) Sell the value of the idea

Gaining support or investment is unlikely unless your vendor can be certain your product offering is a near guarantee of success. Unfortunately, an idea alone is not enough.
Your proposition to investors, corporate partners and even your customers will be measured by what value you can build into your idea. Value is validated by patents, clinical studies, formal marketing feedback and your progress in the product development stage so far. Push and sell the value of the idea, rather than the idea alone.

4) Find alternative channels

Sadly, some corporates or investors may not choose to recognize your value proposition at all if acknowledging the problem you are solving could be contradictory to their existing business. I.e. selling a product targeting Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) on aeroplane flights to an airline chain, would be a negative value as it recognises a problem within the airline’s current business.
If this was the case, consider indirect partners in the industry to pair with. In the earlier case of DVT on flights, perhaps distributing the product through duty-free airport and travel stores alongside neck pillows would be a better option. Recent startups have proven it is possible to develop projects in regulatory industries independently without being absorbed by a corporate.

The most important factor in navigating “tricky industries”  and gaining support is not solely about a great idea, but rather injecting a breadth of expertise that emphasises manufacturability, reimbursement and how the implemented technology fits in the environment. Taking these considerations on board early makes an idea real and valuable to potential investors, supporters, and customers.

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Haydn Jack

About Haydn Jack

Industrial Designer at Blender Design. WBHS Old Boy, Head of AUT Art + Design School 2016, Waikato University Premier Rugby. Aspiring achiever in whatever field I see interesting, from sport to playing the harmonica.

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