Written by Josh Page, NEPDC Project Lead in Technology Development
The greatest challenge faced by startups is conveying the value of their product or technology to their stakeholders and end users. Most developers talk their way through the design of their technology when a well-developed image or rendering is the most efficient method of communication. This translation is particularly important when the startup is seeking funding, investment, or licensing deals. Breaking into the medical device field can be challenging enough; add a complicated device that is poorly communicated and you can send the wrong message. Even worse, your bad design or representation of the product can become the focus of discussion.
New England Pediatric Device Consortium (NEPDC) understands these challenges. NEPDC systematizes the commercialization process for innovators or startups by using a methodology. The consortium then targets specific areas of expertise across business development, product evaluation, and technology development that may have been overlooked or considered inaccessible due to budget constraints.
One of the sub-specialties NEPDC offers within technology development is industrial design. Best described by the World Design Organization (WDO), “industrial design bridges the gap between what is and what’s possible. It is a trans-disciplinary profession that harnesses creativity to resolve problems and co-create solutions with the intent of making a product, system, service, experience or a business, better”. Simply put: when design support is integrated into early development efforts, it will be an invaluable asset at each subsequent stage of product development and commercialization....when design support is integrated into early development efforts, it will be an invaluable asset... Click To Tweet
Concept Exploration & Evaluation
At early stages of development, the clinical or technical solution is crystal clear to the innovator or development team. But, when the innovator pitches the idea, there may often be a disconnect between that vision and how it is received by the audience. Knowing and understanding your audience and tailoring the message is key and, of course, minimizing technical jargon or industry slang can help. However, the biggest impact is often in providing visual context and cues that your audience can relate to.
By helping others to visualize how the product works, how it is used, and what it could look like invites input and creates a conversation. Using visual language to tell a story to users, including those without a clinical or technical background, is a medium that is portable and can be refined at various stages of development. There are many ways to accomplish this including:
- Photos with clear notes
- Workflow diagrams
- Concept drawings
- Professional mock-ups/models
The Market Requirements Document
New Product Development (NPD) can be an exciting, but often slightly ambiguous time for startups and veteran companies alike. While business and marketing leadership hash out the details over the market opportunity and sales projections and technicians are laying the groundwork for a product development and regulatory strategy, the various interests will ultimately need to coalesce. This coordination of stakeholder needs and wants will result in a Market Requirements Document (MRD).
One effective way to encourage the team and “rally around the flag” is to maintain a transparent MRD as customer discovery and marketing efforts take shape. Just as story boards and early product concepts can help to explain the new product to potential users or customer, highly visible goals within the start-up can also have the positive effect of garnering internal feedback. Even unpolished concepts can become a sounding board for ideas while market requirements are evolving and will inform product requirements down the road.
Since our start, NEPDC has reviewed nearly 300 product ideas in the form of grant proposals. When applicants give thoughtful consideration to the visual communication of the concept or product, we see more engagement and interest from reviewers regardless of their area of expertise. Consider asking for a second (or third) set of eyes from colleagues in other disciplines to ensure that they are able to understand and follow your message. If that doesn’t work, consider working with someone who has visual communications skills, like an industrial designer.