Top ten resources for hardware innovators

Posted on: 03/07/2020
Resources for innovators developing hardware products and services.

We’re frequently approached by hardware innovators. The top two requests are for:

1.     Funding
2.     Introductions to manufacturers

Generally, people believe their ideas are more mature and robust than they really are. More often than not, before we can make appropriate connections, we need to review and challenge thinking around the innovation – is the market well enough understood, has the right manufacturing process been selected, is the design optimised for manufacturing?

We ask challenging questions to strengthen ideas and thinking. Sometimes lots of investment has been made in the idea before it reaches us, thinking and decisions can be ‘locked in’ and difficult to unpick. Better understanding of the overall process can only be a good thing!

More often than not, the scale of the challenge of developing physical products is underestimated. Hardware is hard. 97% of hardware start-ups fail to scale (compared with just 70% of tech start-ups).

A diverse range of skills and experience are required to make hardware work. A good understanding of the hardware innovation process and landscape are important.

By being well prepared you’ll be to primed to reach out for help at the right time.  It will also be easier for collaborators to engage with you – making it more likely that they will support and help with accelerating your innovation.

We’ve put together our top ten resources to help innovators navigate the design to manufacture journey.

# 1 Navigating the design to manufacture journey webinars and blogs

To address this very issue, the manufacturing team at KTN and Product Design Scotland have curated some of the most experienced minds to share their thoughts on a range of areas pertinent to navigating the design to manufacture series. The series covers a range of topics:  from managing costs and creating a business model to building a team and scaling manufacturing. You can watch the whole series, or dip into the topics that suit you.

Details and recordings of the full series can be found here.

We also have a bonus episode – a fireside chat with HAX run the world’s first and largest hardware accelerator programme. Alan Clayton, one of the original HAX team has helped oodles of start-ups on their journey.. You can also watch a fireside chat with Alan, Abi Hird from the Manufacturing team and Ally McInroy from Product Design Scotland here.

# 2 The Hardware Startup: Building Your Product, Business, and Brand

This book provides a road map and best practices to turn your hardware product idea into a business. It takes you from concept to product launch, providing strategies for idea validation, branding, marketing and sales, prototyping, manufacturing, distribution, funding, and legal issues. It is a must-read full of practical advice if you are planning to start a hardware business. The book is available on Amazon here.

# 3 Bringing a Hardware Product to Market: Navigating the Wild Ride

This concise book explores the traditional phases in developing a hardware product that is mass-produced using standard manufacturing techniques, as well as lessons to improve survivability via market research. Although the book does not go into as much detail as #2, it provides a practical roadmap so you know what to expect and what you should be planning for while avoiding common pitfalls that hardware startups face. The book is available on Amazon here.

# 4 Hardware club report

An annual report on all things hardware related can help manage your expectations by giving a view of experiences across the globe. Did you know, for example, that it typically takes around 3 months to find a contract manufacturer? On average, shipping is around 15 weeks late; getting to DfM is one of the biggest challenges and 69% of European Hardware Startups have had grant funding. You can find the 2019 report here. The hardware club website also has a great source of relevant blog content.

# 5 Dragon Innovation Design for Manufacture series

A free, comprehensive online course on Design for Manufacture (DfM) aspects of navigating the design to manufacture journey from manufacturing experts at Dragon Innovation – thanks Derek Liddle at Invent Design Build for sharing this one. Really good info on some specific manufacturing methods combined with some great insights into project management and costing. Dip in and out as you wish!

# 6 The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Many startups begin with a product that they think people want – which often is not the case. The Lean Startup is an international best-seller that provides a systematic approach to figuring out what customers want before you commit too many resources, testing your vision continuously, and adapting before it’s too late. Although many of the lessons from this book are better suited for software startups, it is a valuable read for any entrepreneur as valuable learning can be gained from prototyping techniques. The book is available on Amazon here.

# 7 The Innovation Canvas

The recipe for success requires aligning your capability, the offer, and the opportunity around your innovation. The design team at KTN have created the Innovation Canvas, a tool set to help cover all the relevant factors (beyond just design to manufacture) in a concise and holistic template. We have a beautiful card set or an online version. Having someone to walk through this with you (and to ask you challenge questions) can be really helpful – let us know if you’d like some input!

# 8 MAKING IT: Manufacturing Techniques for Product Design

A beautifully presented and informative book designed to inspire you as you think about how your product might be made. It will help you match appropriate methods to production volumes and materials. We also love that it provides insights into sustainability considerations. From jiggering and jollying to electroforming and blow-moulding, this book covers it all. As well as helping make decisions about manufacturing, the contents of this book can inspire new concepts and will inform better decision making throughout the design process.

# 9 KTN’s Good application guide

The Good Application Guide is a must read for anyone applying for grant funding. We also have ‘The Assessors’ Prayer’ which can help you consider things from an assessor’s point of view.

Did you know we can help review applications before submission? Make sure you give us plenty of notice though.

# 10 IoT hardware from prototype to production

This publication by the Digital Catapult provides guidance for startups to launch hardware-based IoT products and services. It provides guidance to navigate the journey from concept through mass production to the end of product life. The report highlights the important considerations that should be made in each phase of development. Although the guide was designed with hardware-based IoT products and services in mind, many of the important considerations highlighted here are transferable to other product categories. You can download the publication here.

Which resources have helped you most? We’re really keen to hear your thoughts.

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