Productiv CEO, Richard Bruges discusses the concept of Venture Engineering and its role in delivering a vision of UK plc for the post-Brexit era.
The UK has always been a hub of invention and engineering excellence, but gaps in the commercialisation process mean that, even now, many good ideas still never make it to market, particularly in engineered or ‘hard’ products.
British inventors often fall into what is known as the ‘valley of death’ – a figurative wasteland between development and commercialisation in which they run out of money, time and capability before achieving commercial success.
The engineering clean technology (cleantech) sector is particularly vulnerable to this challenge. The drive to reverse the damage caused by 200 years of industrial development is propelling innovation in this area, but the uncertainty of market demand makes it doubly difficult.
Although many cleantech inventors do obtain early investment from enthusiastic friends and family, it’s often harder to secure private investment at later stages.
Venture Capital funds tend to work to the relatively short timescales typical of software or service businesses. Venture capitalists also struggle to provide much practical support for transforming engineering investments into profitable businesses.
Meanwhile, inventors themselves can lack focus at this stage in their business development. Many tend to ‘gild the lily’ by devoting time and resources to perfecting their technology and design, rather than focusing on getting their product to market and ensuring a return for their investors.
It’s perhaps no surprise that venture capitalists continue to look outside the sphere of engineering for their next big commercial opportunity.
In theory, the UK should be among the world’s best places for getting clean technologies to market, with outstanding marketing, legal and financial services, as well as agile manufacturers and engineering service providers supporting the aerospace, motorsport and automotive industries.
British government support, through initiatives such as Innovate UK, the Office for Low-Emission Vehicles and the Advanced Propulsion Centre, is funding development in this area.
Our universities provide an excellent source of research and technology, while the Catapults offer leading-edge support in a multitude of industries.
Central, regional and city governments are also providing increasing clarity in their regulatory plans and incentives, providing further market entry opportunities.
So, why is it not working as well as it could be? How can we get more inventions out of the lab and the shed, and into factories and markets?
We need to find a way to enable investors to take a longer-term view, providing sufficient funding to access the outstanding support available on the doorstep.
A solution to this challenge is now offered in the form of Venture Engineering: a ground-breaking approach pioneered by Productiv, which blends engineering and entrepreneurial expertise with patient capital to transform ideas into prototypes, technologies into products and projects into businesses.
Venture Engineering differs from other technology commercialisation approaches through its emphasis on collaboration.
This means working with, rather than for, the technology developer, providing support such as commercialisation, industrialisation, cost reduction, supply chain development, prototype manufacturing and low volume production.
In doing so, Venture Engineering accelerates ideas to market, sharing the risks and rewards with the inventor, combining funding and expertise to commercialise technologies.
Venture Engineering embraces a longer-term shared risk and reward approach by raising credibility with investors and customers; hitting commercial viability with genuine pace and guaranteeing a stronger, longer-term commercial return for all parties.
Productiv has demonstrated that Venture Engineering can routinely get advanced technologies to market and into production over 30% faster than traditional methods.
If adopted more widely, this approach could keep the UK at the forefront of global cleantech innovation, particularly if the economic challenges of the post-Brexit era become manifest.
Although these are uncertain times for the UK, it remains one of the most promising countries in the world for cleantech innovation. An approach based on Venture Engineering will bridge the final few gaps.