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Making Innovation Happen: Bridging the Gap Between Concept and Development

No doubt about it: Successful innovation—systematically turning good ideas into viable products and services—is challenging indeed. Many organizations are perennially frustrated by the large number of promising ideas that never make it to the product-development stage, let alone into customers’ hands.

There is no shortage of reasons why ideas may fail to make it across the “valley of death” into product development. Some of these failures are actually healthy and warranted, but too many research and development projects fail for the wrong reasons. Minimizing such failures without incurring undue risk can become the equivalent of the search for the Holy Grail.

One increasingly popular approach involves complementing a company’s internal resources with an external innovation partnership. Of course, the success of this approach hinges on finding partners that offer just the right focus and expertise, but determining whether a given company will be a great match can be tricky. After all, innovation may come from a design, a manufacturing approach, or a scientific breakthrough, among other factors. So figuring out exactly what type of innovation is needed is a critically important part of choosing the best partner.  

One company that offers a number of innovative strategies is Sagentia, which describes itself as “a science, product, and technology development partner”. With global headquarters in Cambridge, U.K., and U.S. headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts, Sagentia can sum up its mission succinctly as “using science and technology to help companies maximize the value of their R&D investments.”

While Sagentia may not be a household name, the company has played a part in developing many items that consumers use every day as well as products tailored to the needs of specific industries. These range from shower units, water meters, drink dispensers and skin-care devices, to products with more complex and critical use cases such as subsea monitoring systems, surgical robots, and diagnostic instruments.

Partnership in Action  

The case of U.K.-based start-up Lightpoint Medical is a good example of a successful innovation partnership. Lightpoint had discovered a potentially revolutionary approach to tissue diagnostics in oncology surgery. Using molecular imaging technology to reveal microscopic cancer deposits, Lightpoint’s solution promised to enable surgeons to identify whether they had completely excised the cancerous tissue, thereby promoting conservative surgery with reduced risk of recurrence or reoperation.

With initial funding secured and a challenging time frame to prove that its solution was commercially viable, the pressure was on. Lightpoint turned to Sagentia for help. The challenge was to turn this promising technology concept into a practical, marketable device that would meet the strict requirements for clinical trials. Sagentia scientists deployed their knowledge of nuclear physics and detection technologies and, together with Sagentia engineers, were able to overcome significant technological challenges to design an instrument suitable for the complex clinical testing process. Trials of this device in the treatment of breast, prostate and gastric cancers are now under way.

The Lightpoint example is just one of many where Sagentia has helped advance its partners’ R&D projects since the company was founded in 1986. “We work behind the scenes to turn great ideas into great products,” says Nick Collier, Sagentia’s chief technology officer. Tamara Kahn, senior vice president for corporate development, adds: “We apply science and technology in novel ways, to help clients deliver more interesting and more effective products and experiences.”

Science & Technology at the Core

Sagentia doesn’t claim to be the perfect partner for every company: its successes are specific to its specialties in science and technology. So while the company’s work spans the medical, industrial, consumer, and oil and gas markets, all Sagentia projects share a common theme. “Science and technology are at the heart of everything we do,” Kahn says.

While Sagentia’s specialists work alongside industrial design and contract manufacturer partners, the company’s real focus is on invention and innovation. Fully 75 percent of Sagentia’s 250 employees are scientists, technologists, or engineers, whose specialties range from physics and chemistry, to usability, mechanical engineering and embedded systems. They apply their expertise to areas such as personalization, connectivity, the Internet of Things, wearable technologies, robotics, and next-generation sequencing.

Just how does Sagentia help companies bridge that chasm between initial idea and viable product? Company leaders credit a highly collaborative culture that allows for cross-pollination of ideas across projects and specialties, and employees who are passionate about solving problems. “We’re not structured in silos,” Kahn says. “Project managers can pick the best people for any project, and so people take ideas and insights from one industry and apply them to another. Or they marry past research with current research to create something new.”

That integrated multidisciplinary approach, in turn, helps Sagentia’s clients transform their visions into reality. In addition, Kahn adds that the company’s core values of quality and creativity guide everything from recruitment through project development.

Here are two more examples of Sagentia’s behind-the-scenes innovations:

TGS

TGS, based in Norway with operational headquarters in Houston, provides oil and gas companies with geoscientific data products and services. Sagentia supported TGS to design and develop the surface recording unit for the Stingray Permanent Reservoir Monitoring (PRM) system. The goal: helping oil and gas companies get as much as possible out of their existing assets.

Historically, only 10 percent of the oil is taken out of a reservoir by an on-shore well, but at least 40 percent is now the norm. PRM is an example of how technology is enabling the achievement of target yields of 60 percent. “Developing new fields is expensive,” Collier says. “Particularly given the current price climate, it’s important for oil companies to get as much as possible out of existing reservoirs.”

NuSkin

NuSkin, a premier anti-aging company, had identified an opportunity to extend the reach of its beauty portfolio by developing a dispensing device for its core product range. However, this required NuSkin to move into unfamiliar technology territory, so the company looked for an external innovation network to help with the product development and launch. Sagentia was selected as a key partner in this network, focusing on realizing the underlying science and technology in a fast and effective way. The Sagentia team developed a final device that delivers on NuSkin’s vision of a more tailored customer experience and a new platform for growth.

Bottom line: For companies looking to realize the more science-and-technology-intensive innovation ideas, a behind-the-scenes innovation partner like Sagentia might just provide the answer.

Sagentia at a Glance

Founded: 1986
Based: Cambridge, U.K, U.S. headquarters in Boston; offices in London, Houston, and Dubai.
Business: Global science, product and technology development partner. Using science and technology to maximize the value of R&D investments.
Services: Technology scouting and landscaping, concept generation, system architecture, technology and prototype creation, product development, launch, and transfer to manufacture.
Main industry sectors: Medical, industrial, consumer, oil and gas.
Employees: 250
Projects completed: 10,000+
Stock: London Stock Exchange (AIM)

For more information, please visit: http://www.sagentia.com/

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