The Innovation Institute and the WIN-I2 Innovation Evaluation Service
The WIN-I2 Innovation Evaluation Service is an inventor/innovator assistance service that provides inventors, entrepreneurs, and product marketing/manufacturing enterprises with an honest and objective third-party analysis of the risks and potential of their ideas, inventions, and new products. WIN-I2 is an expression of support for inventors and innovators by the Innovation Institute and our WIN Affiliates.
WIN-I2 has two components. The first, launched in 1979 by the Innovation Institute, is our Preliminary Innovation Evaluation Service (PIES), which is for inventors and people with new product ideas. If you’ve got an invention/product that is already at the market-ready stage (including final packaging appropriate for the market you are entering into), you might still consider a PIES evaluation to identify any potential weaknesses in marketability (in these cases we will likely bring in additional criteria adapted from our old PAS product assessment service).
Just as most inventors do not have the expertise to patent their own inventions, most lack the know-how to determine the commercial potential of their ideas and inventions. This is why WIN focuses on invention evaluation. We feel we can best serve inventors by helping them avoid costly mistakes. The same is true for entrepreneurs and product marketing/manufacturing enterprises, especially if they are entering a new market where they have little or no experience. Even large firms can benefit from a systematic, multifaceted, third party review of their ideas, inventions, and new products.
THE INNOVATION INSTITUTE
The Innovation Institute was established in 1979 to carry on the research function of the Experimental Center for Innovation at the University of Oregon. The Center was one of the first three innovation centers in the United States and it was part of the National Science Foundation’s experiment to test various incentives for stimulating industrial and product innovation in the United States. The Oregon center was unique in the NSF experiment in that it was the only center to focus on assisting independent and small business inventors. Dr. Gerald G. Udell was the Principle Investigator for the Oregon experiment and served as the director of the center from 1974 until the completion of the experiment in 1980. It was there that Dr. Udell developed the PIES (Preliminary Innovation Evaluation System) used by the WIN Innovation Center today (see below). Equipped with a background in product development at General Electric, Dr. Udell started work on the PIES format immediately upon assuming leadership of the Oregon center in mid 1974.
Upon completion of the Oregon experiment in 1979, Dr. Udell continued research on the PIES format in the private sector through the Innovation Institute. The Innovation Institute still continues this research mission. This research is part of the Institute’s continuing effort to improve the evaluation format and to stay current with the needs of today’s inventors. To the best of our knowledge, no other innovation evaluation format has benefited from this much research conducted over such an extensive period of time.
The Innovation Institute started its evaluation service, The Inventor’s Services Program, in 1980 as part of its research efforts. In 1990 we joined forces with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. to launch an experiment, the Wal-Mart Innovation Network, to test various incentives to assist inventors and innovators (this program also had some minor involvement of a secondary Missouri academic institution). This program lasted through the 1990s, when much of the research had been completed. In addition, the use of the Wal-Mart name in the program name apparently led some to conclude that WIN was part of Wal-Mart. To correct this misunderstanding, we changed the name to the World Innovation Network and moved forward on an informal basis; we still receive referrals from Wal-Mart personnel from time-to-time. In 2009 Dr. Udell, then Associate Dean of the Business School at a Missouri university, retired, in part to devote more time to the Innovation Institute and its projects. (The university requested that it not be mentioned by name in our promotional/informational materials so as to avoid any confusion about current involvement in the program. However, Dr. Udell’s complete curriculum vita is available.)
THE WISDOM OF EVALUATION
Innovation always starts with an idea; when pursued this turns into an invention and, after a lot of hard work, into a potential new product which then requires even more hard work and expense to launch into the marketplace. Innovation almost never happens if inventors are not excited about their inventions.
However, caution is likewise necessary. Without it, you may end up spending a lot of time, money, and effort pursuing an idea which solves a problem for you, but which lacks commercial potential. When this happens, you end up putting that time, money, and effort into a project that doesn’t go anywhere. That’s time, money, and effort which could be invested in another project.
No one really knows what the odds are as to whether an idea will be successful in the marketplace. That depends on the commercial quality of the idea and the quality of the venture which develops and markets it. Estimates of the number of ideas needed to generate one new product in corporate environments vary between about 50 and 500, depending upon the industry or market involved. The odds which face inventors at the idea stage are higher; a fair estimate is between 100 and 1,000 depending upon the market your new product will enter. The best way to improve these odds is to eliminate those projects with low commercial potential early and focus your efforts on those of reasonable potential. You won’t eliminate risk, but you can greatly improve the odds by evaluating your ideas and inventions. This is true for new and expanding products too. It’s easy to overlook important issues, and high volume sophisticated channels of distribution often have different and demanding expectations. That is why we provide both invention/idea evaluations and product assessments. Mistakes made in the marketplace are often very costly and can be fatal to a new product.
THE PIES-XII/XIII EVALUATION SYSTEM
We use the most recent version of the PIES (Preliminary Innovation Evaluation System) format, currently in its twelfth edition (implemented in October 2006). The PIES format is a comprehensive, structured evaluation system consisting of 45 criteria that are used to evaluate the commercial potential of your idea or invention and to provide you with a risk profile of your project. These criteria are based on years of research and new product experience, and will provide you with insights into the risks you face and the strategy you will need to employ to reach the marketplace. A WIN client described his evaluation report as an essential tool for future planning. This is precisely what we had in mind. Our reports are intended to help you make decisions and develop strategies for further development. Unless you are already well along in the innovation process, you may very likely have several months and perhaps years before your project will be ready for licensing or entry into the marketplace. Your report will help you focus your efforts and guide you in resolving areas of concern.
THE PIES-XII EVALUATION MANUAL
One of the truly unique features of the PIES-XII format is the use of an evaluation manual, Evaluating the Commercial Potential of Ideas, Inventions and Innovations: A Balanced Approach, which provides you with more feedback about your invention than can be placed in a report. We know many of the people you may wish to show your report to won’t wade through a lot of detail, so we’ve organized our 45 criteria into a 21 page report in order to keep the report as brief as possible. We’ll also send you a letter that explains our evaluation procedures and frequently contains specific comments from your chief evaluator. As soon as we receive your evaluation request, we will send you a copy of the evaluation manual which will provide you with a discussion of each of the 45 criteria, why each is important, and how they interact to affect the commercial potential of your invention. By carefully studying this manual, you can glean a lot of information about, and insight into, the commercial strengths and weaknesses of your project; we recommend you start reviewing it as soon as you receive it. Your report will conclude with a final recommendation about further investment in your project.
THE WORLD INNOVATION NETWORK
Because we have long recognized the importance of inventors and innovators world-wide, we have expanded our horizons. Inventors and innovators everywhere can now take advantage of the same invention evaluation and product assessment services we have offered to individuals and companies in the United States. To us, this makes a great deal of sense: just as inventions and new products from the United States have enriched the lives of people elsewhere, the creative efforts of people in other nations have greatly affected our welfare. Innovation knows no boundary!
The World Innovation Network utilizes the same invention evaluation and product assessment services, and the same team of evaluators, as the original U.S.-only WIN program. Evaluations are performed from the perspective of the U.S. economy. We realize that the U.S. economy is but one segment of the world economy, but it is the one our evaluators are most familiar with. Over time, we hope to correct this situation by licensing the PIES evaluation format and procedures to reputable companies or organizations in other countries. However, we will continue to serve those who wish an opinion of how their idea, invention, or new product is likely to be received in the United States.
International inventors and innovators wishing to utilize the services of the World Innovation Network can print out the appropriate Registration and Disclosure materials found in the Forms section of our web site. Please note there are two Registration and Disclosure forms. Inventors and people with ideas should use the PIES XII Invention Registration and Disclosure Form, while those with new and established products should use the PAS III Product Registration and Disclosure Form. As noted in our Registration & Disclosure forms, the fee for a PIES invention evaluation is $250 in the United States and $270 elsewhere; checks must be in US dollars (the extra $20 covers the cost of air postage outside of the US).
Any questions? Check out our FAQs for answers to some of the most frequently asked ones: