How to turn good ideas into profits

Innovation Roadshow speakers (from left): Dr Johnny Ryan of The Irish Times, entrepreneur Pádraig Ó Céidigh, Catherine Guy, managing partner at Byrne Wallace, and Derek Young of i360 Medical. photograph: cyril byrne

Innovation Roadshow speakers (from left): Dr Johnny Ryan of The Irish Times, entrepreneur Pádraig Ó Céidigh, Catherine Guy, managing partner at Byrne Wallace, and Derek Young of i360 Medical. photograph: cyril byrne

Mon, Feb 11, 2013, 00:00

There was plenty of inspiration at The Irish Times Innovation Cities Roadshow for those looking to make money from their ideas. Derek Young, a medical devices entrepreneur, described how he built a structure to examine new ideas and commercialise the best of them. The concept recalls that of the IdeaLab, Bill Gross’s dynamo of patenting and product development in the US.

In the mid-1990s, Young and a co-founder developed a device for laparoscopic – “keyhole” – surgery in a basement on Dublin’s Mount Street. Having proven the device in trials, they sold the idea to a US company.

Over the next nine years, they worked closely with such industry giants as Johnson Johnson, making €8 million in global sales.

During his travels, Young was struck by the number of ideas that were worthy of development. Eventually he opened a centre for innovation in surgical technology at the Royal College of Surgeons to evaluate and develop concepts. It became a “drop-in clinic for medical devices ideas”.

In one year, Young got more than 250 ideas, 10 of which became commercial products. Now the centre has reformed as a private commercial entity, i360 Medical, and is working with a global network to commercialise a new ideas.

The Innovation Cities Roadshow heard a simpler message from Pádraig Ó Céidigh, a serial entrepreneur and former chairman of Aer Arann: Identify a problem. Find the solution.

So, for example, in 2010 when the State ran out of salt to put on the roads during the snow, he bought 10,500 tonnes from a commodities trader and sold it to the Department of Transport at a profit.