Business planning

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An essential tool for transforming an invention into a commercial product is a business plan. You need it to help you and your team plan and stay in control of your exploitation activities. You also need it to persuade investors and funding bodies to support you.

There are many sources of guidance on business planning, much of it free - for example, from banks. But a business plan for an invention may require a different approach.  

A common criticism of business plans is that they are little more than ‘future fiction', intended primarily to impress other people. In fact, the main function of a business plan is to help reduce risk to you, your team and potential investors. It does this by recording and organising every significant detail of your project in a way that can quickly reveal any weaknesses and enable them to be corrected.

A business plan is also the equivalent of an operations manual. It should be updated regularly, and always regarded as a work in progress. In the case of a fast-moving project, a business plan even a few weeks old may be useless!

Disclosure risk

Information in a business plan will count as disclosure. Before showing anyone your business plan you must ensure that your invention is adequately protected, for example by a patent application. This also applies to any drafts of your business plan written before a patent application is filed.

Even if you have a patent application it is important to limit access to your business plan. For example, do not put it on your website! Investors may be attracted to a new business idea in part by its exclusivity. They may be much less willing to invest if they think that details are already known to competitors.

Consider asking people to sign a non-disclosure agreement before letting them see your business plan. Potential investors may refuse, but they may also be impressed by your concern to keep information confidential.

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