Investing Time

Written by: Paul Fanning | Published:

In the February issue of Eureka, there is a feature detailing the work of the Productiv Group in Coventry in helping technology developers take their ideas from the drawing board to production. This is essentially achieved by combining the roles of venture capitalist, design consultancy and manufacturing premises.

As the article makes clear, this is an exciting development and has already seen some notable successes. The question that it prompts, however, is why should such a venture be necessary?

The short answer, of course, is ‘The Valley of Death’. This is the all-too-familiar period of product development when good ideas run out of money, support and impetus and consequently fail to make it to market. This is usually a consequence of a vicious cycle whereby a lack of funding and facilities hampers the potential development until it becomes effectively impossible to progress and the entire project breaks down irreparably because the oxygen of product development – money – has been denied it.

In other industries, this gap can be bridged by venture capitalists or ‘angels’ able to provide the necessary funding to get from the drawing board to production and retail. The problem is that, while not unheard of in the sector, this model does not tend to work as well in the realm of engineering.

This is often because venture capitalists are looking for returns in a relatively short period and this is not something that engineering innovation tends to deliver. This is because the development, prototyping, testing and validation processes necessary to turning an engineering concept into a commercial reality take more time and money than VCs will tolerate.

The flipside, of course, is that the potential returns on a successful engineering concept potentially have greater longevity. This is the opportunity that more far-sighted entrepreneurs may be able to grasp.

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