AN INTRODUCTION TO THE INNOVATION INSTITUTE (I2)

THE INNOVATION INSTITUTE AND THE WIN INNOVATION CENTER...

The WIN Innovation Center 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 is an expression of support for inventors and innovators by the Innovation Institute, the Center for Business and Economic Development of the College of Business Administration at Southwest Missouri State University, and our WIN Affiliates.

WIN has two components. The first, launched in 1991, is our Preliminary Innovation Evaluation Service (PIES), which is for inventors and people with new product ideas. The second is our Product Assessment Service (PAS). We have made two important changes in PAS program since it was first started--we have improved and expanded our product assessment format, and we now invite manufacturers and product marketing firms world-wide to submit their products for an assessment of their potential in the American marketplace.

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 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. We now have a very limited number of resource affiliates in other countries and we will be expanding our cooperative efforts with sources of management and technical assistance outside of the United States (in the U.S. our resource partners now number over 1600). 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.

We will be making some minor changes in our materials, but for now 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 site. Please note there are two Registration and Disclosure forms. Inventors and people with ideas should use the Invention Registration and Disclosure Form, while those with new and established products should use the Product Registration and Disclosure Form. As noted in our Registration & Disclosure forms, the fee for an invention evaluation is $200 in the United States and $220 elsewhere; checks must be in US dollars (the extra $20 covers the cost of air postage outside of the US). The fee for a product assessment is $220 in the U.S. and $240 elsewhere.

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 late 1974.

Upon completion of the Oregon experiment 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 1988, it launched a cooperative service with Southwest Missouri State University. We added to that effort in 1990 by joining forces with the world's largest retailer. This close association lasted through the 1990s. With the end of their involvement in the program, the Innovation Institute and Southwest Missouri State University expanded the program in 1999 into the WIN (World Innovation Network) Invention Center. For qualifying clients, we now suggest channels of distribution that we feel are best suited to their product and circumstances.

THE WISDOM OF EVALUATION...

Innovation always starts with an idea, which when pursued 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 would never happen if inventors were 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. The estimates of the number of ideas needed to find or generate one new product in corporate environments varies 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 things, and high volume and 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-X EVALUATION SYSTEM...

We use the most recent version of the PIES (Preliminary Innovation Evaluation System) format, currently in its tenth edition (implemented in Spring 2002). The PIES format is a comprehensive, structured evaluation system consisting of 42 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-X EVALUATION MANUAL...

One of the truly unique features of the PIES-X format is the use of an evaluation manual, Evaluating Potential New Products, 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 42 criteria into a 13 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 42 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.

Many new products are not suitable for review or introduction through large discount/mass merchandise stores. Pursuing improper channels of distribution can lead to serious consequences. Thus, we try to steer you in the right direction. Please refer to paragraph #3 of the Innovation Registration Disclosure page for a summary of recent evaluation results. Results may vary over time depending upon the nature of inventions/innovations submitted to WIN.


THE PAS-III PRODUCT ASSESSMENT SYSTEM...

Many of the questions we ask in the PIES format are relevant to product evaluation or assessment as well. For the most part, it is a matter of perspective. That is why we were able to use the PIES format to evaluate products as well as ideas and inventions. In 1993 we decided to modify our format to accommodate that perspective and to address more clearly the issues faced by product decision-makers. We launched a six year experiment designed in part to test and refine the new product assessment format. During that experiment, we evaluated over 2200 products submitted by smaller manufacturing and product marketing enterprises. At the end of the experiment we took the lessons we learned and created PAS-III, thus making the benefits of the system available to entrepreneurs and product marketing/manufacturing enterprises world-wide.

Many new products are not suitable for review or introduction through large discount/mass merchandise stores. Pursuing improper channels of distribution can lead to serious consequences. Thus, we try to steer you in the right direction. Please refer to paragraph #3 of the Innovation Registration Disclosure page for a summary of recent evaluation results. Results may vary over time depending upon the nature of inventions/innovations submitted to WIN.

THE PAS-III PRODUCT ASSESSMENT MANUAL...

Like the PIES format, PAS uses an assessment manual to increase the amount of feedback we can provide. We experimented with other approaches, but decided that an assessment manual would provide a good deal more feedback and do it at a lower cost to you. The manual explains each of the criteria and discusses why they are important. One of the earliest conclusions to come out of the Oregon experiment was that inventors can't act on that which they do not understand. We have carried that lesson over to the PAS program as we have developed a manual that explains each of the criteria used in the system. By so doing we hope to maximize the benefits derived from the PAS program. Our objective in preparing the manual was, and remains, to assist you to make better decisions about your new and existing products.

Any questions? Check out our FAQs for answers to some of the most frequently asked ones:

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