Innovation Start-Up Kit

There are many different ways to get from idea to product, but by assuring you take some important steps along the way you'll be that much closer to attaining your goal.


Ideas are at the heart of every invention. The initial thoughts that lead to these innovations, however, are usually quite rough. This helps to explain that while imagination is a powerful tool, it also needs to be tamed by recurring doses of reality.

Sketching your ideas from the very beginning will help you refine the basis logic and form of your concept. When drawing, don't just draw the object. Draw the environment that it will operate in. Draw it in different colors from different angles.

And don't worry if you can't draw very well. The purpose is to bring life to your concept, not to hang it on a wall and win a prize. And if when drawing you find yourself in need of inspiration to figure out some details, don't be afraid to look for that inspiration in nature, or in places you might not expect.

As you draw, your idea will evolve quite naturally. Sometimes you will spin off into a new idea and sometimes you will realize that the idea will not work at all. Let your mind be free and do not be distracted by failures.

lt can be helpful as well to imagine that you are being interviewed by a journalist about your idea. You can then probe your concept through the questions that you ask yourself.

Every good idea needs to go through a comprehensive and self-critical thought process.


No one has everything it takes to realize an idea alone. The skills that are needed are vast and might involve things that you may not realize. They include:

  • Engineering
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Drawing
  • Writing
  • Marketing
  • Business Analysis
  • Animation
  • Social Analysis
  • Law

So how do you figure out what skills you'll need on your side?

The first thing is to go online and read up and learn through the material that is already out there for an actual product. While immersing yourself in the material, you should also ask yourself:

  • "What skills were needed to make that?"
  • "Who do I know who can do that?"

These questions will help you build the right team. And while its composition will always depend on the final product, here are some basic stages:

Ideas stage

Yourself Plus:

  • Someone who can draw
  • Someone who can write good stories
  • Someone who can
Concepts stage

The 'Ideas Team' Plus:

  • Someone who can do project management
  • Someone who can do industrial design
  • Someone who can write a good business case
  • Someone who can model in 3D
  • Someone who can run computer based analysis of the physics
  • Someone who can develop marketing material
  • Someone who can do the engineering analysis
  • Someone who can program
  • Someone who can protect the intellectual property
Prototypes stage

The 'Concepts Team' plus:

  • Someone who can build
  • Someone who can attract funds and inyestrnent
  • Someone who can file a patent
  • Someone who can operater/fly


Many paths lead from an idea to a prototype. One of them is outlined below.

But if you get stuck then you need to find your own path, or perhaps look around on the internet and borrow a step from someone who has done this before.

The key thing to remember is that a good idea is open to adaptation and change. That makes it resilient to failure.


This step usually follows right after the initial idea is put on paper.

Using 3D design software (many of which are now free or low cost and for which there are many online tutorials) you can start to create a 3D model of your design.

As with all steps, you will iterate throuth a series of designs. As you see the 3D rendering you will realize how something will not work or how something could work even better. The team members will bring in their own input and, for example, point out how something would be difficult to build, or how you need to make space for a larger battery. Keep your whole team involved in the process.

This will help all team members to have a good understanding of the eventual product - regardless of their specialization. Sometimes the best engineering idea comes from the marketing guy.

Software based testing

What looks good may not work well within the laws of physics. This is why it's important to evolve from your 3D Model to computer based testing. Various on line tools can help with that.

Computational Fluid Dynamics {CFD} tools will put your model in a virtual wind tunnel and let you know if it can fly or be stable in the air. Structural analysis models will show you at what stress levels and how the model will fail.

Materials and Technology Selection

Designs are brought to life through materials and the variety is vast.

Different types of metals, woods, composites, and other elements can be used in a wide range of strengths, and prices. Everything that can be built one way can also be built another way.

Regardless of the above, materials are not the only important item to choose wisely. Your product will probably also require its own computer, sensors, motors, and other components to bring it to life. Here again there are many options.

So where to start? Go on the internet and find something that is already out there that is close to what you are thinking of. Then see what materials are out there. In many cases the best way to build something is to un-build or 'reverse-engineer' something else. So you can take a drone apart and see how it can be rebuilt into what you have designed.


Important reminder: please make sure that you always educate yourself on all related safety risks before you build and test anything.

When you get to this stage you must designate a person on your team as the safety lead and all team members should take a basic course. Always assume the worst –wear goggles, take fire-safety precautions, and do all those other things that you know you should do.

Once there are some stable 3D designs you need to create a real model. There are various 3D printing options here.

  • You can send your files for printing to an online provider.
  • You can invest in your own 3D printer.

3D printing is not the only option. Indeed you can print 2D templates of the various parts and then cut them out of Styrofoam or cardboard and use sticks, glue, tape and cloth to create your prototype.

While most designs need an energy source, in the initial prototypes it can be wise to keep the energy source external. So instead of an onboard battery use a long cable hooked up to something on the ground.

Once you have your initial prototype you will then use that to iterate to your fully working prototype. So if your initial prototype is not to scale, then you can build a slightly larger one, incorporating all the lessons learnt from the initial one, test that one, and then build the next one – until you have a full scale version.

Step 4: How to get others excited about the idea

Give your work a following from an early stage. To do so, you’ll need some initial drawings and some good text about what it is and why it is.

But sometimes, even before a concept is born, the problem that it is designed to solve will attract people with skills who may want to be part of coming up with the solution. First impressions are important in this regard. Your idea has to speak to the everyday person.

It is always more effective at this stage to tell a story about how the product will be used and helpful, than to describe it physically. Compare the following texts:

“The XYZ123 has 12 motors that will allow it to move along 6 degrees of freedom and stay airborne for longer periods of time using a combination of power sources and utilizing both horizontal and vertical flight modes.”

“The XYZ123 will help endangered bird species re-discover their lost migratory routes.”

Your idea should have its own social media page. And through that page, it should make friends and build a following. Those who are interested will see how the idea progress and eventually becomes a product. They will interact with feedback, and even sometimes offer to help it along the way. The more they get involved the more likely they will spread the story and news about it through their own social networks.

Post your ideas on various websites dedicated to new ideas. And for anything aviation-related, you should also submit your idea to ICAO’s Future Aviation Prototypes page.

Before you do this, however, make sure to protect your ideas. In many countries, a 30-minute discussion with a legal expert about how to do this is well worth the cost.


There are many new ways to fund your ideas. Crowdfunding is probably the easiest way to float an idea to see if others will invest. While that will get you some level of resources, it won’t get you involvement from experts who can help make your concept even better.

So don't be afraid to advertise investment opportunities to those not just with funds, but with access to skills. To do that, put your idea in a high-quality marketing package and don't be shy to directly approach investors.

In some cases the investment does not go to the people who thought of the idea first, but the people who first had the idea to go to the investor.