Engage to Innovate

Learn how to take your idea to the world

You've got a great idea!

It may change the world or make millions, but...

Will anyone want to buy it?

Who can you talk to for help?

Working with industry and other partners is essential to bring your idea to life, so we have brought together experts in invention commercialisation to help. You can also see stories of the personal journeys of UQ students, graduates and researchers, and how they engaged with customers to refine their ideas and make them a reality.

First, you need know how to answer some tough questions:
If I build it, will customers want it?
Does my idea solve a real problem?
How will I beat the competition?
How can I find help?

Answering these questions by engaging with customers and industry will kick-start your journey to help your great idea create change.

Question 1: Why engage with industry?

"How do I launch my idea?"

So you have invented a new product, service or process, and you need help to launch it...

How can engaging with industry help? What's in it for you?

Working with industry is all about forming partnerships with people who understand how the market for your idea works.

People in industry can help you in many ways.
  • They might identify how your research or idea could be used in the real world.
  • They can give you information about who your customers might be and provide you with a way to get to know your customers.
  • They might allow you to get your foot in the door by providing an internship or job.
  • And they might provide $$ to take your idea to the next level.

UniQuest has raised more than $500 million investment for over 70 start-ups, and achieved more than $13 billion in gross product sales for UQ inventions. Dr Dean Moss, CEO of UniQuest, knows that collaborating with industry to form lasting partnerships is critical to every part of the innovation journey.

Why work with industry? - Dr Dean Moss

Lee Hickey and his research team work with industry in Australia and overseas to create change by speed breeding crops

Speed breeding of crops - Dr Lee Hickey

Industry: Agriculture

Market: By 2050, 9 billion people will need to be fed.

Problem: Our current crops can’t achieve this scale, and developing new crop varieties can take up to 20 years.
We need to speed up this process to respond faster to climate change and rapidly evolving diseases.

Solution: Use speed breeding techniques in collaboration with industry partners to develop crops with new traits, from disease resistance to drought tolerance.

ABC Rural: Farming in 2030
Hickey Lab
Hickey Lab You Tube Channel
Hickey Lab Facebook

Question 2:
If I build it, will customers want it?

Market validation is all about answering one question:

“If you build it, will they come?”

Rob Adams
To answer this question, you need to identify your target market and ask:
  • Do they like your product?
  • Does it solve a real problem they have?
  • Would they buy it, and if so, for how much?
  • What is their buying process?

Start validating the market early in the process.

Interview your contacts in industry and ask open-ended questions so that you can use this information to develop the most desirable product for the market.

Phil Nelson completed a Bachelor of Science (Chemistry) at The University of Queensland and is Director, Commercial Engagement - Materials, at UniQuest. He has over a decade of international experience in technology companies.

Market validation - Phil Nelson

Skyborne validated its first market to provide start-up funding to create change with its next-generation drones.

Skyborne - Drone start-up

Industry: Engineering

Market: $5.6 billion Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) drone market by 2020.

Problem: For infrastructure inspections, multi-rotor drones have limited endurance and limited line of sight, while fixed-wing drones can’t hover.

Solution: Skyborne Technologies is developing two hybrid tilt-rotor UAVs to address the market problem.
Skyborne has learnt that communicating with customers and building a great team to generate immediate sales is critical to funding the development of their new UAVs.

Skyborne website
Skyborne Facebook
Skyborne Twitter
Skyborne Instagram

Question 3: Does my idea solve a real problem?

"Does my idea solve a real problem?"

People buy products or services to find a solution to something that is annoying, frustrating or uncomfortable for them.

These are known as PAIN POINTS.

To understand your customer's pain points, you need to make sure you understand who your real customers are. This may sound simple, but in reality the product or service you are thinking about commercialising may actually be better suited to a different customer.

Once you know who your real customers are, you need to go and talk to them.

Talk to lots of your target customers and make sure that your idea is really going to solve their problem.

As a young inventor and entrepreneur, Larry Weng developed a product that he felt sure could be used by a group of customers he identified. Once he started to talk to people, he realised that his product had a different application and an entirely different set of customers.

Understanding the pain - Larry Weng

Fiona Simpson's understanding of customer pain drives her translational research journey to create change in cancer therapy

Cancer therapies - Dr Fiona Simpson

Industry: Cancer therapy

Market: 14 million new cancer cases each year worldwide with 8.2 million deaths.

Problem: Targeting tumour therapy in head and neck cancer and in breast cancer to reduce surgical impact.

Solution: Working with patients, survivors, advocates and clinicians to develop a new model of targeted tumour therapy.

Fiona Simpson's UQ Profile

Question 4: How do I beat the competition?

"How do I beat the competition?"

Competitors are usually successful because they have the best value propositions, and they know how to use them.

You need to understand the value proposition of your idea if you want to succeed.

What makes your idea valuable?

It is NOT your idea and NOT the features of your product and service.

It's what you can give your customers that the competition can't or doesn't - your POINTS OF DIFFERENCE.

So your value proposition should say:

What you do
Who you do it for, and
How you are useful.

Anne Bannister is Director of Commercial Engagement for UniQuest’s Social Enterprise portfolio. With a background covering a diverse range of sectors including senior management of a high profile publicly-listed corporate, CEO of a children’s health not-for-profit and entrepreneur with a successful execution of a business “fix-and-flip” strategy, she knows first-hand the difference a winning value proposition can make, no matter who you are or what sector you are in.

Value proposition - Anne Bannister

Perkii’s unique probiotic value proposition is creating change using Progel, a UQ food-processing technology

Perkii: Progel technology in a new drink - Cameron Turner

Industry: Food

Market: $50 billion market by 2018 for probiotic drinks.

Problem: Delivering probiotics direct to the gut in a low-calorie non-dairy drink.

Solution: After extensive market testing, Progel micogel manufacturing technology is used to create Perkii -- delivering one billion probiotics to the intestine in a fruit juice-based drink with only 26 calories.

Perkii website
Progel website
Perkii Facebook
Perkii Twitter

Question 5: How can I find help?

"How can partners help?"

Everyone connected to your business is a potential partner and a potential resource. Designers, suppliers, lawyers, business advisors, manufacturers, distributors, investors and customers can all help craft the development of your idea and how to take it to market. They have lots of experience and it is in their best interest to help you be successful.

It's never easy to hear criticism of your idea, but it's critical to listen to your partners with an open mind. Be prepared to change your story based on their advice!

Michael Angliss is a Director of SMART Arm and Chief Intellectual Property Officer at UniQuest. After more than 25 years advising clients how to commercialise their IP, Michael knows the importance of leveraging your business partners' experience.

Reducing to practice - Michael Angliss

Miriam Taylor Gomez's practical application of the ASK diary is creating change by giving healthcare independence to people with intellectual disabilities

ASK Diary App - Miriam Taylor Gomez

Industry: Disability support

Market: 3% of the global population have some form of intellectual disability.

Problem: People with intellectual disability often do not experience a sense of control over their lives, or over decisions about health interventions.

Solution: The paper-based ASK Diary was developed to provide a greater sense of ownership of personal and health information. An app was then developed in collaboration with users, families, disability support workers and the medical profession for a more convenient user experience.

Intellectual Disability Healthcare MOOCs (Online courses)
Get the app on the iTunes Store


We hope ‘Engage to Innovate’ has motivated you to:
  • talk to people who understand how the market for your idea works
  • validate the market for your idea with customers early
  • identify your customer pain points and make sure your idea addresses them
  • develop a clear value proposition or point of difference for your idea
  • listen to feedback and use it to fine-tune your idea and your target market
Good luck! What next? Explore the UQ Entrepreneurship and Innovation Pathways.

Return to the Masterclass Home Page.