How to navigate IP protection

As a start-up in the smart manufacturing space, the subject of intellectual property has no doubt already come up. One of your most valuable assets as a start-up is your innovation and ideas – so it makes sense to protect them and ensure you can commercialise them.  Given the importance of IP to a start-up, it’s wise to think about how you’re protecting your IP from the start of your business journey – if you haven’t yet, we recommend you give it some thought now.  IP protection doesn’t just protect you against theft and replication by third parties, it’s also likely to enhance the commercial value of your business and therefore make it more attractive to external investors and potential acquirers.  “Businesses that develop technical and scientific innovations, such as Tesla, Apple, and Novartis, as well as start-ups, spend enormous sums of time and capital developing the next big thing,” says Steven Saunders, Chair of the IP Group at Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP and mentor for Sixth Sense “These companies directly capitalise on that innovation. Ideally, nobody other than the entrepreneur who developed that innovation can commercialise it, giving the entrepreneur the exclusive right to own and potentially build the protected market/product.” How does it work? Firstly, you need to identify the IP in your business. This may seem obvious but there could be something valuable that you haven’t considered. Things like database contacts, customer lists, content on packaging, photography and brand slogans could be considered IP. Next, there are a number of ways to protect your IP, depending on what kind of asset it is.  For most start-ups in the innovation space, you’ll be thinking about patents. Patents protect new inventions. A patent gives the patent owner the ability to prevent others from using the invention without permission. A third party might have to obtain a licence from the patent owner, enabling that third party to use the patented technology.  “The typical patent process begins with preparation of a carefully crafted, customised patent application focused on the innovation and, hopefully, how it is going to be applied to your business,” explains Saunders.  “Effective patent coverage requires careful and primary attention to business. This demands many questions: What is the business model? How do you plan on commercialising this technology? Who are your customers? What are your business goals?”  Once you’ve filed the patent application, there will very likely be some back and forth between the examining office and your patent lawyer before you get the green light. Note: A provisional patent is not a patent. It’s the early part of the process and shouldn’t be considered as a given. “A provisional application gives its owner a first date of filing for the technology, and the right to try to obtain their patent rights within one year of that first date. That’s all. The technology still must undergo the rigour of the complete patent process,” adds Saunders.  Copyright is another important type of IP in our space. Copyright protects

By |September 15th, 2022|

Our next challenge areas and what we’re looking for

So! The next Sixth Sense challenge has been set. We are looking for companies working within Visualisation and Digital Reality and we are also looking for applications from companies working on Intelligence and Automation.  We wanted to take a deeper dive into these areas – let’s talk about what exactly we mean and what we hope to see from applications.  1: Visualisation and Digital Reality  This basically means taking any real object, process or environment and creating a digital representation of it to improve productivity, test automated processes, simulate outcomes and improve planning. This doesn’t necessarily mean taking an object and scanning it to make an image of it – it could also create a digital twin, which is the description of the object and how it operates using operational data. It won’t look the same.  Why is this important? If you can replicate the real world, digitally, you can save time and money – testing outcomes before you do the work. You can use AI to optimise things in the manufacturing process. Creating a digital replica of things can help to improve what you do in a less costly, much more sustainable way. Using the digital world to improve the physical world.  Hexagon already works within this space. Ultimately, we are all about the optimisation of processes. Visualisation is part of this because data on its own doesn't tell you much. Context matters and when visualised it is easier to understand. So digital reality and visualisation are usually planned into the same application. For example we have had the SFx platform for the last couple of years, now part of Nexus – which creates digital replications of assets and monitors their performance. We’re able to apply adjustments where needed to drive autonomous processes, improve outcomes and be aware in real-time of any issues in our asset management performance. We also work with Geosystems, which has a point cloud scanner called BLK, which many of the start-ups should be familiar with already.  The brilliant RIIICO, joint winner of Cohort 1 works within this space – creating digital realities that can be used for planning factory improvements and construction. RIIICO is a great example of the emergence of digital reality because it democratises it, creating replicas that look like the actual factories and allowing people with wide skill levels to use their tools. What we’re looking for: The trick with this area is the connectivity between visualisations and the actual operation data. How can you take something that's been digitised as an object or a process and connect it to real operational data? How easily can you digitise the reality and help create actionable outcomes from your data? We’re also interested in solutions with extended reality devices – e.g. wearables that enable factory workers to see operational data as they look at objects. These kinds of headless operations put the computing power in the cloud and visualisation on any device (mobile, wearable) as you walk about the factory. It’s much more

By |August 17th, 2022|

Scale with Sixth Sense: Product market fit – how to measure it and how to find it?

Product market fit is what happens when the product you have created perfectly answers a customer need and therefore finds a strong market that enables it to grow. The term is credited to entrepreneur and investor Marc Andreessen who has described it as: "being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market." The idea is that no matter how good or exciting your new product or technology is, there has to be a large enough group of people who want it, for it to be a success. According to head of Sixth Sense, Milan Kocic, it’s not uncommon for start-ups to create something new without first understanding whether it’s actually needed:  “You have to somehow validate the idea with the market. Before you start development, you need to speak to customers to find out what you’re solving. Otherwise, it may turn out that however amazing your product is, nobody wants it.”  How to find product market fit  Great product market fit happens when there is a good dialogue happening between a company and its current or potential future customers. Having an idea is one thing – making sure it has legs is another.  Two types of research are important in this process:  User research – observing potential customers to see their pain points and motivations  Market research – understanding attitudes to a potential product and the size of the market At the development stage, you’ve got to outline what your product or service is going to be or do. The problem it is going to address and from whom. Once you have your hypothesis clearly outlined it’s time to speak to the market.  This validation is essential. You need to ensure your assumptions are correct and allow for refinements based on feedback about customer problems, frictions, and habits. This comes under user research.  This doesn't need to cost the earth, argues Milan: "Many start-ups say they can’t afford to do the research and I just don’t agree. Every company knows some of its customers – pick up the phone and talk to a few of them. Wider market research can come later but this upfront dialogue is essential and it can be done quickly and cheaply.” Another important thing to keep in mind here is that finding product market fit is everyone’s job on the team. Each and every person who has a part to play – from product engineers, to marketeers, to the founder, to the social media intern – they should all understand what you’re trying to do and find the insight and evidence to make it happen and shape the end product.  Measuring product market fit  Marc Andreessen outlines in his blog how you know you’ve got product market fit and how you know you haven’t. In short: “You can always feel when product/market fit isn’t happening. The customers aren’t quite getting value out of the product, word of mouth isn’t spreading, usage isn’t growing that fast, press reviews are kind of “blah”,

By |August 17th, 2022|

Highlights from Sixth Sense Demo Day

Find out what happened when our cohort members when head-to-head, presenting their ideas to an advisory board of industry experts. The live and virtual audiences watched all seven start-ups pitch their concept at London's Tobacco Dock on 25 May 2022. Their ideas were judged by: Milan Kocic, Head of Sixth Sense, Hexagon MI Dr Benjamin Farmer, Deputy Challenge Director, Innovate UK Elaine Warburton OBE, Entrepreneur & Investor Mark Bryant, Head of Manufacturing, BGF Drew Rogers, Senior Director, Corporate Development and M&A, Hexagon MI Watch now to get the reactions and insights from the day.

By |July 21st, 2022|

Next Sixth Sense challenge is announced

Challenge two is here! Following the success of our inaugural cohort programme earlier this year, Sixth Sense is excited to launch our second challenge, aimed at advanced manufacturing start-ups in visualisation and digital reality, and intelligence and automation. This cohort’s theme builds on Hexagon’s commitment to accelerate innovation and drive the global shift to a new sustainable way of operating. Sixth Sense will see a focus on the following areas of emerging technology: digital twin innovations, metaverse factory design, predictive and prescriptive intelligence, and autonomous and sustainable manufacturing operations. As with the first cohort, the most innovative proposals and applications will be chosen to pitch to an expert panel at our Pitch Day, with 10 companies chosen for an intensive innovate-on-the-job scaling program to deliver a concrete project, supported by coaching, workshops and connections to Hexagon customers. Three winners will later be selected at our Demo Day and provided with resources for true globalization, including funding, worldwide office space, access to Hexagon’s full suite of products and services, incorporation into its ecosystem and exposure to its coveted customer base. Our first cohort of seven scaling start-ups answered challenges in the areas of smart manufacturing, AI and automation. From traceability in additive manufacturing parts, to machine learning algorithms and AI digital twins, we were impressed with their innovative ideas and appetite for scale. Our work with winners RIIICO, SmartParts and runner up Praemo continues today. Now, we are looking towards visualisation and digital reality, and intelligence and automation, and are keen on welcoming diverse founders from around the world, particularly from under-represented communities – based on gender, geography and ethnicity. But most importantly, we want to see innovative ideas that can help to create a regenerative future for all. The selection criteria for Sixth Sense include: $3m or less in revenue 1-5 years in existence Post seed, Series A, Series A+ Proven traction and product-market fit Propensity to scale Preferred qualities: Validation of investment from third party IP & licenses Applications close 09 September 2022, and applicants should keep the following dates free for their pitching teams: Selection day: 21 September 2022 Demo day: 07 December 2022 Why Sixth Sense is important  Hexagon technologies are used to manufacture 90% of aircraft, 75% of smart phones and 95% of every automobile produced worldwide. We have the scale, the network and the ambition to make a difference. And so, as we enter the era of Industry 4.0, we are searching for smart and efficient solutions that will not only boost performance, but benefit people and the planet. By inviting the next generation of innovators to the table, we can share our resources and make connections that accelerate progress – pushing the boundaries of design, manufacturing and engineering and start to imagine a better future for the benefit of everyone. If you want to join a global ecosystem and take your business to its full potential, you can apply now. Watch this space for more news!

By |July 21st, 2022|

The power of ideas: Insights from former Dyson CEO Martin McCourt

The Sixth Sense cohort recently enjoyed a fireside chat with Martin McCourt, the former Dyson CEO with over 40 years’ experience working at the heart of British manufacturing. He spoke to the start-ups about creating a culture that celebrates ideas, the power of doing things differently and how to deliver big ideas in a pitch. Here are just a few of the takeaways from the talk: Embracing ideas Martin spoke about the fact that Dyson created an environment where there was no such thing as a bad idea: “We all know that there is such a thing, but those are the ones you don’t commercialise. The point was that ideas were celebrated and encouraged. This is important when you’re starting out on your business journey, because it’s not just about your original concept – that’s just the beginning. Ideas need to flow like a torrent through the business – they’re the lifeblood of technology and innovation businesses.” Disruption The conversation moved towards the concept of disruption, and Martin called disruption a kind of mindset: “It’s actually setting out to create turbulence and disruption in the marketplace – because that’s when market share changes hands. Generally we only get rich in business when we steal share from someone else. If your competitors are criticising you, you know you’re hurting them – don’t see it as a bad thing necessarily.” He added a little warning to the start-ups before moving on: “It’s quite good for you guys to remember that you are disruptors right now, but you could easily become the disrupted before too long.” Innovation mindset Martin’s overarching message was a reasertation of the Peter Dricker adage, ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast.’ “For maintaining a culture of innovation, number one for me was having the right people around you. For me that meant they were young, incredibly bright, fresh graduates. Second thing is, imagine what traditional corporates do and don’t do that. What I mean is the way they restrict creativity and idea processes by having too many meetings, too many rules, too many regulations, too many minutes, too many action points. Thinking is stifled. Get young people in and liberate them.” Differentiating products Differentiating products starts with quality, argues Martin – but then it comes down to creative presentation: “Dyson’s vision was to be known all around the world for making products that were different and better than other people’s. If you have something like this, don’t camouflage the brilliance of your idea in a big PowerPoint presentation. I often look at pitch decks and I say to the founders, ‘I think your idea is brilliant but I’m not sure you do! It’s not hitting me between the eyes, you’ve befuddled it.’ Martin described building powerful pitch decks as a creative process. “I would always encourage teams to sit down and think about what it is that is really magic about the product and then give it the 123 test – if you can only say one, two or three

By |June 23rd, 2022|
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