Inventors Clubs have a role

Inventors Clubs offer help to inventors – who are often ‘floundering about on their own.’ Inventors Clubs offer to people who have an idea for a new product opportunities to meet up and present them to each other, and to ‘staff’ with experience of supporting such ideas. They depend mainly on their own tenacity and on the experience, the contacts, the support skills and the support offered by the ‘staff’.

The British Library’s Inventors’ Club series is designed ‘to help people refine, protect and commercialise their idea for a new product’. Meeting on Monday evenings once a month, its aim is to give budding inventors the opportunity to network with others in the same boat, hear from speakers who have successfully commercialised their inventions, stay motivated and share insider hints, tips, expertise and experience.

It is primarily about introductions, networking and expertise sharing, but it is constrained by the fact that it is not confidential or IP protected. (But the Business & IP Centre does provide a range of support services for the protection of Intellectual Property.) Meetings are carried out under an NDA agreed to when you sign in for the meeting.

One participant started his journey by booking a one to one meeting at the British Library with Bob Lindsey which led him to consider manufacturing options, securing IP protection and the introduction to the Kingston Invents inventors’ group.

Bob Lindsey – ‘a technical wizard’, is a chartered Engineer who has spent over twenty years advising entrepreneurs on getting their new products to market; Mark Sheahan has been the British Library’s Inventor in Residence for over 13 years, and Barry Slayford – ‘advises on all parts of the journey from initial idea to market launch’.

Kingston’s Round Table of Inventors, which meets in the evening once a month, offers ‘a chance to air your concept/ invention privately to approximately 20-30 or more friendly fellow innovators’; and they are there because they too have an idea for a new product.

All attendees sign a Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreement allowing you to speak openly about your concept without compromising your ability to apply for intellectual property enabling you to get feedback on your idea before investing in patents/ trademarks/design registrations.

At each meeting there are two presentations each of 20 minutes – 20 minutes presenting your concept and 20 minutes for a mixture of open questioning/suggestions/ brainstorming. If you’re not ready to give a full presentation and just want to air an early stage idea or concept, you can have a very short 10-minute slot; eg for Go/No Go decision-making! Kingston also has a guide to presenting and a survey template that enables you to take away the room’s written ideas and gauge the level of potential market interest.

One member, Dean, who helps run the club is a designer/ problem solver who along with an in-house engineer in the group ‘could see the potential and helped to improve the product’ of the participant (above) from the British library Inventors Club; and now helped him to prepare a 10 point progress plan all the way to market, along which he had got half way, he said. During that time, he had reduced his design from seven models to a single model, had contact with a patent attorney and taken out a patent (pending); and approached several possible manufacturers seeking to reduce tooling costs.  He is now considering crowd funding to finance some or all of the costs of making an initial run – enough to sell to the four categories of ‘fanatics’ of this type of product.

‘You might walk away with different points of view, ideas for improvements, industry contacts, a potential partner or maybe even an investor’ says Kingston’s website.

John Whatmore, December 2019









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