DS 95: Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE 2019), University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. 12th -13th September 2019

Year: 2019
Editor: Bohemia, Erik; Kovacevic, Ahmed; Buck, Lyndon; Brisco, Ross; Evans, Dorothy; Grierson, Hilary; Ion, William; Whitfield, Robert Ian
Author: Sandy, Margot Lynn
Series: E&PDE
Institution: Imperial College, United Kingdom
Section: Changing Innovation Landscapes 3
DOI number:
ISBN: 978-1-912254-05-7


In the last 5 years, the demand for new goods has increased dramatically with the consumer products business seeing large gains in online sales and still some growth in brick and mortar stores. These types of manufactured products target different customer purchasing behaviours in areas of convenience, shopping, specialty and unsought goods.

Thus, this upward trend in consumer products continues as competition expands globally, emphasis on strategies for innovation gain momentum and there is an ever-increasing focus on customer engagement. At the same time, big business has had an impact on stifling start-ups with expansive market power, widening regulation and an escalated concentration in major industries leading to big companies being able to block new competitors easily. Nevertheless, there is still a need for entrepreneurial new businesses, like start-ups, to help spur/sustain job creation and provide global market competition especially with new products to aid in economic growth. These types of companies have extreme uncertainty which is reflected in the nearly 95% failure rate of start-ups globally. Typically market fit, product/customer value and ineffective product implementation are among the top contributing NPD failure factors.

This paper presents the results of a 4-month study from an entrepreneurial simulation to develop new consumer products with groups of university students (up to prototype stage). Students used some of the significant methods in innovation/new product creation that are prevalent in big business as guides. Some form of these creative strategies from Stage-Gate, Design Thinking and Lean Startup are used in most medium to large size established businesses. Studies with university students have shown to be quite useful in simulating/solving real-world problems. In general, students at universities have access to cutting-edge technology, time to explore and are surrounded by individuals from different disciplines and perspectives similar to what they will face in the real world. They also share some of the traits of start-ups by many having high-risk tolerance, ambition and intelligence to try something new.

The goal of this exercise initially was to evaluate whether the high degree of uncertainty in a start-up environment would be impacted using either the more rigid linear process practices (derived from Stage Gate) or more flexible iterative process practices (from Design Thinking / Lean Startup). These formalized processes typically occur in the more stable New Product Development (NPD) environments of medium to large size established businesses. Some of the specific research outcomes include: comparisons with time spent developing the product, customer concept acceptance and the amount of data related to costs (i.e. development costs, projected ROI). These can be indicators of product success. Nevertheless, other factors became apparent during the simulation and the findings suggest that further research opportunities around innovation methods and start-up success rates should be pursued.

Keywords: NPD, Stage Gate, Start-ups, Design Thinking & Lean Startup


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