It is a challenging task to start describing the impact of an innovation. However, every inventor needs to do this in order to successfully apply for funding. This is particularly important when applying funding from public sources such as national funding agency (Instruments such as e.g. PoC, FTI, TutLi, Eurostars) or European Commission (e.g. ERC PoC).
1. Solution to a need
The best innovations from communication perspective were born to target a specific real life challenge, or a need for improvement. Typically this is not the case, though. Many innovations are byproducts of ground-breaking research, such as European Research Council (ERC) research projects. The innovations usually have Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 3, in which proof-of-principle or early proof-of-concept is established. Very often this is done in closed environment such as a lab and does not yet reveal the applicability in the real world. Hence, one needs to sit down and start matching the innovation to a need.
Typically there is a starting point to narrow down the thinking process. A cancer drug is very much different to an algorithm that in turn might have almost infinite uses. Even though you want to include all the possible challenges in the impact description, you should just briefly mention them all, and then pick one that seems to matter the most and affects many lives. Your communication task became just an order of magnitude easier.
2. The application
You already described the challenge, to which you are providing a solution. Now you need to understand what is the actual application the markets can use for solving the challenge. Think about the technology restrictions only later – we should not start shooting down the ideas at this point.
Who? – is the key question here. Who can use your application to solve the challenge? List all the end-users, and start thinking what do they gain by using your solution; Are they saving time in carrying out a task? Is the working process much quicker, so that they can increase the throughput with the same resources? Because the accuracy wasn’t available before, can they carry out a totally new task impossible before?
There are now many options for putting your innovation to use. It is time to think what is anyhow plausible.
3. Customer and added value
After getting a feeling of the user environment, one needs to think about the customer. Who is the one that is willing to pay for the application? If the end-user is not the customer, who is? Who has the end-users as customers? Are you able to sell to this organisation? Or, is it someone else who would be buying from you? Why would they purchase? What is the significant added value they gain in order to make the investment decision?
We started touching the value chain concept here. Deeper understanding of the markets is needed to address this better. Since you are speaking about early phase, low TRL innovation, you do not need to be 100% accurate. The next phases in the development process will tell you, whether your initial assessment was correct or not. Also, preliminary discussion with your initial target segments will quickly provide you more understanding on your innovation’s value.
Later on we will speak about the commercialisation, commercialisation vehicle (e.g. spin-off, start-up, license) and delivery. These are natural next steps in the thinking process.