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  • Writer's pictureStephen Mills

Creating an innovation on a budget - Part 1

Like most people when it comes to an idea for an invention I thought it would be simple to get it out there, I mean why isn’t everyone doing it and making a success of themselves?

If I have learnt one thing over the last three years is it’s never as simple as you think! You will have to learn a lot of new skills and spend a lot of personal time working on it, especially if you can’t afford to pay others to do it for you.

If I am completely honest I am not sure if I would have started this journey if I knew what I was getting into, but once you are in deep enough there is only one thing to do and that’s to see it through.

However if you like a challenge and you aren’t scared of getting your hands dirty then I will attempt to give you a history of what I did over a series of blogs.

My first blog on this matter will walk through how I started from a thought in my head to finding help on moving it forward.

Having the idea:

When I first had the idea it wasn’t even really an idea, it was more I knew I wanted a particular something and could not find it anywhere online. So I started thinking could I make what I wanted from products that were already available, maybe by using them in a way that was not their traditional use, still I could not get the result that I wanted. Then I really started thinking what do I want? How would it work? And how could I make it?

It was at that point I really started to have the bases of a first version idea (the first of over 20 main versions and many, many sub-versions). However even with the first version in my mind I was not sure how I took it from thought to paper; the last thing I wanted was to produce a rough sketch that would require a lot of conversation to explain. It was my belief that if I was going to present this idea to anyone it should be explained in the simplest way possible, so simple that without a single spoken word from me they could quickly understand it by looking over my presentation.

Now there are a lot of companies out there which will take your money (£3000-£5000 with ongoing costs) to convert the idea in your head to workable prototype. This does not include the research needed to see if you idea is original or even if it would be a sustainable business. My work around for this was simple, do my own research into the following:

  1. How best to present my idea, in writing and drawings?

  2. Whom do I present my idea too?

  3. How do I protect myself from them misusing my idea or telling others?

How best to present my idea, in writing and drawings?

There are many different ways to present your idea to people but I have come to the conclusion that it should include the following as a minimum:

  • What the problem is that you are trying to solve or need that you are trying filling.

  • A simple explanation of how you plan to solve this problem or fill the need.

  • There should be overall images of the product shown from all angles including Top, Bottom, Side and isometric, with annotation explaining what it does.

  • All parts to the product should have drawings from all angles, including Top, Bottom, Side and isometric (and if there are internal elements to the parts) cross sections, with annotation explaining their purpose.

  • Also creating images of the product in use will very quickly help people understand, this does not mean actual photographs as you do not have a prototype yet but rather simple drawings.

For most people drawing images by hand would be difficult and time consuming, this why I opted to use a 3D CAD (Computer Aided Design) software package. This did mean that I had to learn how to use the CAD software, which was long and difficult at times however it was of great benefit later as I would keep tweaking my idea and this speeded the process up. Not to mention that I would also need CAD files for when I got to the manufacturing stage of my idea which I will cover later. It is worth noting that there are many open source CAD software packages out there you can use thus saving you a lot of money again.

The more effort you put into presenting your idea correctly now the easier it will be to get people on-board, so take your time, this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

Whom do I present my idea too?

There are numerous companies that will provide a service to inventors which include helping form your idea, building prototypes and putting a selling package together. You do not want this at this stage, I cannot stress that enough! What you want is someone that will investigate your idea for you. There is no point creating prototypes or selling packages if it has already been done. What you need is a global patent search to ensure that someone has not already had the idea (if they have it is not game over just yet, this I will explain at a later point). You also need someone to look the idea over and tell you if they believe it has selling potential, is it something people will want?

With this in mind I was lucky enough to find a company that was built on the premise of helping inventors, not exploiting them. This company was the Trevor Baylis Brands (TBB), I can honestly say they made all the difference in getting me to where I am today. They do charge for their services but this is about covering people’s wages not making a huge profit. On average I would say they were a good 80% cheaper than their rivals. I paid less than £300 at the time (three years ago 2015), and for this they did a complete intellectual property search (has anyone got a patent for this idea), provided a business case for how successful they believed it to be and if they believed it to be a workable idea. There was also ongoing support when I decided to push ahead after getting my results; they really were there to help.

How do I protect myself from them misusing my idea or telling others?

This is simple, before you engage anyone with your idea, in writing or by conversation you must always have a signed NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement). This agreement will bind them from saying anything to anyone without your permission or using your idea in anyway, for the amount of time stated in the agreement. The agreement will normally be a binding time of 3 years but you do have the right to state higher in your agreement, personally I always stated 5 years.

This agreement is legal and if they breach it you will have the right to legal action, goods ideas are worth protecting. You can find NDA examples on line free of charge.


In my next Blog on this subject I will discuss how I created by first prototype. Warning, if you are tight on money like me then it’s not easy.

Having the Stack Drains idea
Having an idea

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