Inventa Partners Boost Technology Innovation and Transfer for UK Building and Construction Sector

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Inventa Partners enables UK companies to develop new strategic business opportunities by resolving the critical obstacles to major technological innovation in their manufacturing processes, materials and finished products. Current project applications include finding new materials for minimising water consumption and energy loss in billion pound construction projects. The company lists the major European research organisations as its it partners, with resources that include some 30,000 scientists and more than £60 billion of research funding.

Through its relationships with leading European research and development partners - such as QinetiQ and the Fraunhofer Institute - Inventa Partners identifies new advances in relevant technologies that companies can employ to achieve significant product differentiation. The service includes management of the process of technology transfer through to full commercialisation.

Inventa Partners, of Winchester in Hampshire, was founded in 2001 and is focused on innovation within the ‘built environment’: the materials, processes and structures required for the construction, maintenance and servicing of residential and commercial property, public spaces and transport infrastructure.

The building and construction sector increasingly requires new solutions to meet the growing technical demands within the ‘built environment’ arising from rising materials costs, environmental legislation and other pressures. Current project applications by Inventa range from finding new materials for minimising the water and energy consumption of heating and ventilation systems, to advanced coatings for the external fabric of buildings that will reduce the cost of operation.

“ Inventa offers manufacturers a unique insight and access into the latest technology research through our work with a number of leading European R&D organisations. We help manufacturers at a strategic level to achieve significant and sustainable competitive advantage and to develop increased revenues and new markets. Clients can make better products more efficiently, whilst minimising the inherent risks, time delays and costs often associated with major research and development projects that are initiated by the organisation,” says director Kerry Thompson.

Inventa Partners offers client companies a knowledge base of technological innovation that is often five to ten years ahead of an industry’s prevailing state of the art. This results from successful R&D undertaken by Inventa Partners, with resources that include some 30,000 scientists and more than £60 billion of research funding.

Often the technological advances that are identified by Inventa Partners result from purely academic investigation by institutions or are a by-product of research within fields that are unrelated to the client companies’ market sector. Inventa Partners functions as a catalyst – by understanding application issues for industry and finding practical solutions, using its experience in managing the transfer of technology to meet specific market opportunities and commercial objectives.

# Inventa Partners Project Development: Four Stages

Inventa Partners’ service comprises four project phases:-

1. Defining the project requirements and objectives

2. Assessing appropriate technologies

3. Agreeing the technical and commercialisation opportunities and issues

4. Facilitating the transfer of technology from the Inventa partner to the industry client

In the opening phase, Inventa Partners develops a project brief with the client to identify the product or system application where the introduction of new technology or processes will potentially offer specific commercial advantage. It is significant that the initial focus at this stage is external - on the market and application - rather than internal, on production materials and processes, according to Kerry Thompson: this ensures the project team adopts lateral thinking when exploring the range of possible solutions.

Activity at this stage includes defining the programme objectives as well as parameters – ranging from technical constraints through to the impact of impending legislation. Kerry Thompson says:-

“ This is a critical stage: we identify opportunities that many companies – often major multinationals - previously did not know existed or technology requirements that they thought were unsolvable. Whilst the solution may not exist currently in the public domain within their industry sector, it may well be available elsewhere, tried and tested by one of our R&D partners for an alternative application.

“ The programme we develop operates at a strategic level - to leverage market advantage through applied technical advance - and so requires agreement and participation at boardroom level, not just from the client’s R&D or production team.”

During the second stage, Inventa Partners undertakes detailed briefings with technology partners – such as materials scientists and process specialists - to identify and assess a range of candidate technologies. Inventa Partners produces a final ‘Technology Discovery Report’ that sets out the best solutions, prioritised according to the agreed assessment criteria.

In the next phase, Inventa Partners will confirm with the industry client the technological and business opportunities and then develop a ‘commercialisation roadmap’ for the client and the technology owner. This sets out the activity required to achieve full implementation. A typical roadmap might include an initial trial; followed by prototype testing; further development work; and licensing arrangements or a joint venture agreement, or both.

At the fourth and final stage, Inventa can assist the progression of the programme through its knowledge of the often unforeseen technical and business issues that arise from commercialisation.

This role as facilitator is supported by the detailed understanding Inventa will have developed in the preceding period of the needs and interests of the industry client. Inventa Partners will continue to seek out additional, multiple technological opportunities for the company, based on this close association, for a fixed period of usually one year from project inception, within its terms of engagement.

# R&D and Funding

Inventa Partners offers a unique model for technology innovation, according to Kerry Thompson. However, he emphasises that this is not necessarily a substitute for in-house research and development:-

“ Projects that Inventa undertakes may operate alongside or in support of a company’s existing R&D activity. We offer a new perspective, with access to a wide body of research that is not commercially available to any individual manufacturers. ”

Inventa Partners' model eliminates the high capital costs and risks associated with innovation projects, according to Thompson: the partnership’s pricing structure is based on a monthly management fee, with an agreed percentage share of future revenues only if the project is commercialised – costs that can be established and accommodated within the projected ‘Commercialisation Roadmap’.

The time required in bringing innovation to market is considerably shorter too than with alternative research and development projects - as Inventa will access technology that is already tried and tested, if not already commercialised in other industry sectors. Inventa Partners says that this timing issue is critical in ensuring that a company can maximise the commercial benefits of innovation as quickly as possible and retain a competitive advantage before it is inevitably overtaken by other technological initiatives by competitor companies.

According to Inventa Partners, the service complements the process of deployment of new technology directly by the commercial teams that the major research laboratories retain to find new markets.Inventa helps its research partners by identifying and pre-qualifying the requirements for their solutions within client companies – which otherwise may be unaware of their technology requirements or unwilling to share information with a third party vendor.

Inventa Partners’ model also offers major benefits for the sourcing and cost of capital for innovation. The requirement for additional funding for the project by a company may be confined to investment in just the final stages of commercialisation - such as to meet the costs of any new production plant. Also, the involvement and commitment of a blue-chip technology organisation – and a professionally-prepared ‘Commercialisation Roadmap’ – adds weight to the proposals made internally by any project team sponsoring the project in the company. There may also be new opportunities for investment support by industry or Government...

“ Technology innovation offers major commercial opportunities to companies that operate in the built environment – as suppliers, builders and construction companies. It allows them to achieve measurable, sustainable differentiation, as opposed to competing on price or marketing alone, which drives down profit margins and fails to address growing pressures arising from new legislation and escalating energy and materials costs, for example.

“ There is a wide and untapped range of tried and tested solutions available from research organisations for the building sector, just waiting to be identified and harnessed. This is where Inventa can help,” says Kerry Thompson.

Further information:    

Gideon Davenport, Inventa Partners, The Coach House, Worthy Park, Kings Worthy, Winchester, SO21 1AN Tel: 01962 888 521

Media Information:    

Patrick Rea, Rea-TMA Marketing Group. Tel: 020 8870 4976 Fax: 0709 237 9330

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