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AN UNEXPECTED OPPORTUNITY: Four activities senior managers can do now during lockdown to accelerate product development

Whilst the primary concern of everyone in the country at the minute, and rightly so, is to save lives, we need to ensure that we are protecting our economy.  We can do this by  using our time effectively to make sure our medical device and in vitro diagnostics companies survive and indeed come out stronger, more resilient and able to grow in the new world.

The current lockdown and restrictions on movement are a worry to senior managers who are responsible for launching new products to market, maintaining market position (for existing products) and ensuring that they are maintaining full regulatory compliance. This is potentiated by the knowledge that competitors, are in all probability, using the ‘lull’ as a means to orchestrate competitive advantage.

By default the lockdown is making us step back from our everyday lives of jumping from project to project, attending meeting after meeting and responding to an endless amount of emails and phone calls.  Our hectic life styles make us reactive rather than proactive, focusing on the urgent rather than the important.

In this post I highlight four immensely important aspects of innovation management that can be conducted during the lock down and help us focus on value and ensuring that future product development is de-risked and that future revenue and profitability is maximised.

Your company vision

Have you ever sat back and asked “Where is my company going? What is our ambition? Where and what do we want to be?” A company vision articulates what your organisation aspires to be. A mission statement, describes how you are going to get there and might also include your values and ethics. Company vision and mission statements essentially help define the company’s innovation strategy and are a great way to communicate to those both inside and outside your organisation and are not only powerful drivers of grow but can help make sure  that all are pulling in  the right direction. This is not a ‘large company thing’ or a ‘nice to have’. If you don’t have one or feel it’s not fit for purpose, now is the time to get this right and it determines your entire strategy and ability to grow.

Portfolio planning

One key fact is that all products or services have a life cycle and will eventually become obsolete, outdated or simply the competition will overtake us and do it better or cheaper. These changes in the market can creep up on us and can be a threat to the very existence of our organisations.

To grow and even to remain still we need be constantly evaluating our portfolio and ensuring that we have the right product mix. This relates not only to products or services that we have on the market but also to those we have in development.

Luckily there are a number of great innovation and management tools and techniques we can use to evaluate our existing portfolio, current R&D projects and to determine a road map for future projects. Tools like the Boston matrix, Risk-Reward Bubble Diagrams and Multi-Generation Product Plans are immensely powerful can help ensure our organisations can weather any storm and enhance future profitability.  If you are not using such tools now is the time to take action to enhance the value of your future product pipeline.

Opportunity identification and analysis

You now know your strategy and have identified gaps in your future portfolio, but how do you convert these into growth opportunities? The first thing is to understand the market you wish to sell into. Key questions include what is the size and structure of the market? Who are the competitors? How are existing products regulated and reimbursed? What are the product indications and claims? What kind of evidence typically supports these? Does it fit in with an existing patient pathway or is pathway redesign necessary? This information can be captured in a market report that will help you understand the opportunities, benefits, challenges and risks and importantly provide the right data and information that is critical when making the Go/No Go decision as to whether you wish to invest in a new R&D project.

This is probably the one activity that is probably the most important part of new product development, but that companies often neglect. In essence, it kills bad project early and validates, as well as de-risk good projects enhancing the probability of commercial success. If you don’t have market reports for products that are in development, nor it is time to initiate these.

Regulatory Documentation

The Medical Device Regulations (MDR) and the In Vitro Diagnostics Regulations (IVDR) are undoubtedly a challenge with more documentation, a greater emphasis on identifying benefits and risk and the expectation of more clinical evidence to support product indications and claims.

If you have existing technical files, this is the time to improve them, or if you are developing new products this is the opportunity to get ahead of the game. Whether it’s a gap analysis of existing files, support with populating risk benefit matrices,  respond to feedback from a notified body, the need to commission a clinical evaluation report or performance evaluation report – now is the time to act.

The innovation and commercialisation team here at Medilink North of England expertise and routinely work with companies and provide support in all these areas, so please contact us now and we can help you plan how to move forward. 

Patrick Trotter PhD, MBA (Techmgmt), Head of Innovation and Commercialisation at Medilink North of England,
p.trotter@medilink.co.uk.

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