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ASK THE ENGINEERS.

Are you stuck in a career rut or planning your next move? Or maybe you're a student struggling to decide on an industry. In each issue, we'll put your burning questions to our panel of seasoned engineers

A lot of engineers are natural problem solvers. This can lead to the creation of products and businesses. What should be considered when deciding whether to market products to one's existing organisation, versus starting a new business? From Russell Crow

Morality--many contracts of employment cover this off in detail. If it's something you are developing with and for your current organisation, it's their intellectual property. If it stems as just a thought triggered by working for them, I suggest there is more scope ...

Mike Cameron-Davies

Is the new product a natural match for the existing organisation? If yes, then go with it. If no, consider below. Is there a non-disclosure agreement that prevents you taking your idea elsewhere? If yes, then STOP. If no, then consider below. Have you got the nerve, skills and tenacity to go it alone? If yes, then off you go. If no, stay where you are and accept a missed opportunity of bringing a product to market. That's life!

Jonathan A C Knew

Depends on whether it is an innovation or an invention. If the latter, then the patent category (five steps from obviousity to blue sky) becomes important. The lower the category, the more likely an existing player will support it. The higher categories demand longer-term, higher-cost development, so a new business, with multiple patents, is needed. (Based on personal experience!)

Ian Weslake-Hill

Basically money. Can I afford to set up on my own, and if I need backing is a loan worth the risk? Ask yourself if the new product is a sure-fire way of supporting me and my family. Will the existing organisation be interested, will they give you a stake in your design or will it be a case of you work for us as your ideas are our property? I knew the founder of a major UK manufacturer 40 years ago--he had a good idea but also an inkling he was going to be made redundant which did happen. At 60 he remortgaged, bought some equipment and set up a well-known company. His decision was down to circumstances. Also remember nothing ventured, etc.

J Turner

I've faced this many times. For staying in the organisation are: availability of resources and expertise that you don't have (you need to be ruthlessly honest with yourself here), the market access routes the business already has, the possibility of still having a job if it doesn't fly, and the wisdom of colleagues and management regarding whether it actually is a good idea. For leaving and setting up yourself are: you may have a better understanding of the market need and technology than the existing organisation (again be ruthlessly honest with yourself), you stand to make a great deal of money and you get to be responsible for your own destiny to an extent. The key is not to let your ego, and some fixed idea that it must be a good thing to do without proper analysis, cloud your judgement. I've seen people go out on a limb and spend thousands and years of their lives on an idea, which an expert could prove in an hour will never and could never work. Only a very small proportion go on to be successful and they are the out-and-out pragmatists without exception.

Michael Reid

It depends whether there is the room to fly within the existing business. If there is a planned approach that considers the risk factors and a focus on outcomes, then start-ups can co-exist with the established business.

Nicola Johnson

Is the invention/solution related to the business of the existing organisation? If it is then, ethically, it must be offered to them first. Has the invention been thought of (initiated) during the time paid for by the existing employer? If it was or the development was done on their premises or in their time the ethics are a major issue for consideration.

Matthew Waterhouse

Do you have the guts and confidence to start a business, bearing in mind that most fail, or would you rather develop your ideas with the backing of an existing business? Use REnishaw as a successful model.

Michael Le Flufy
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Title Annotation:Supercharge
Author:Crow, Russell
Publication:Professional Engineering Magazine
Date:Jul 1, 2019
Words:730
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