The Innovation Panel
The Innovation Panel is a web based market research tool that is developed by KTH Innovation which allows researchers and students with promising product or business ideas to get early and crucial feedback from potential clients, users and other stake holders. The Innovation Panel plays an important part in indicating how the ideas should be developed, which applications have the most potential and, in some cases, if it is even worth pursuing the idea.
It has proven to be very effective when gathering information and opinions from potential customers and other relevant groups in early stage idea assessment and verification.
The Innovation Panel consists of three main parts:
• The recipients, that all are potential users, buyers, or other relevant stakeholders, all carefully selected for each Innovation Panel
• A short 2-5 minute narrated presentation of the technology focusing on the need it addresses, how it works, and what possibilities and limitations there are in the technology.
• A questionnaire with a number of questions, both multiple choice and free text answers, that cover some of the most important questions in the development of new innovations relating to, e.g. advantages and disadvantages, suitable areas of application, business potential, competitors, future possibilities and more
The presentation and questionnaire are sent out and managed through a web-based survey tool that allows for great efficiency and follow-up of the results.
What makes this panel unique and highly effective is the source of the recipients. They are primarily selected from the KTH alumni online database which contains approximately 20000 previous KTH students who are now working in a wide variety of positions in companies and organizations all over the world.
So far, 12 Innovation Panels have been sent out, each reaching between 100 and 4000 carefully selected recipients. The response rate has been high for this kind of survey, between 15 and 40% has answered the questionnaire, and the projects have gained invaluable information. We are continuously surprised not just by the high response rate, but even more so by the amount of highly useful information we get in the free text answers where many of the respondents spend a lot of time and effort outlining their opinions and suggestions, adding tips of people and companies to network with, and even wanting to invest or become pilot customers. It is obvious that many people have spent a considerable amount of time on answering the questions in the Innovation Panel.
In the questionnaire we also ask if the respondent wants to continue to get information regarding the development of the project and typically more than 50% say that they do. This means that in addition to the valuable feedback on the idea, the cases also get a potentially even more valuable set of new, very relevant, contacts with potential customers, partners, investors, business developers, and other people who want to follow the development and may become a resource to count on in the future.
Our belief is that one key reason why we get this high level of engagement is because the recipients have a relationship to KTH, their “alma mater”, and are genuinely interested in giving something back to the University by helping aspiring researchers and entrepreneurs in the development of new products and business ideas.
One other important part of the concept is that all the respondents get a follow-up presentation of some key insights from the Panel and how these insights will be integrated in the development of the idea, which has proven to be much appreciated. This gives the respondents the added value of finding out what the other respondents thought about the idea and shows that their input is appreciated and can influence the further development. This feedback, and the knowledge that they have contributed in the development of a potential future business or product based on research at KTH, is the reward for the respondents in the Innovation Panel.
We view these panels as a real win-win situation. The respondents see it as a great opportunity to get a preview of the latest technical advances that are made at KTH and to give something back to their old university. The idea owners benefit from valuable feedback from, and contact with, potential clients, users and other relevant stake holders.
The Innovation Panel has generated much interest amongst our peers at other universities in Sweden and we are now sharing the concept with universities that want to try it out.
When we started developing this tool some three years ago we thought that it would be a good tool to get market feedback early on in the development of the ideas, something we saw as an unmet need in many cases. What we have found is that the Innovation Panel is not just a highly efficient tool for early market feedback on new ideas but also a great approach for our need as a university to tie our alumni closer to us, and so far the results have exceeded even our highest hopes and expectations.