Steven Cooke

Assistance with Product Development

Blog Post created by Steven Cooke on Sep 16, 2018

We get a lot of requests for assistance/help/consultation/partnership for product developments.  I have compiled a short guideline for reference that I use to respond to many of these requests.  I am publishing it here for public use and hope that it will help many of those with similar questions.


There are a couple of things that any entrepreneur should keep in mind when developing a new product. The first is that there is a difference between an “invention” and a “formulation”. A process to make a particular formulation may be patent-able. The second is the understanding that to retain any intellectual property rights to an invention of any kind, you must be the inventor, or the actual employer of the person making the invention (independent contractors retain all rights not specifically granted to a client by a contract).

If you just have an “idea” with no understanding of the basic requirements, then you are not really in a good position for either the development of the idea, or especially, a business plan. For example, you may have the “idea” that a more effective, and more environmentally safe cleaner would have a good market. But if you don't really know how current cleaners work, or how different chemical compounds interact, then you can't really develop that idea any further. Asking for help is fine, but asking for the realization of your idea from someone else is not likely to happen.

“Consultants” add value to you when they are providing you with very specific information or capabilities for a limited time on a well-defined objective. If you need “employees” you need to use a different approach to hiring. An employee may need some background in chemistry to run your production process. A consultant will tell you how to improve your process. In both cases, you need some basic “process” that exists (at least conceptually). Otherwise, it will simply be the consultant's idea, invention, or business.

You may have the necessary business management knowledge and experience to operate a business, but just need that “niche” product, patent work-around, or novel application to get it rolling. You will also need the necessary capital and/or financing to make that work. In that case a consultant may be able to help. In the early stages, my own consulting value is in helping budding entrepreneurs to understand the complexity and pitfalls in the chemical industry and related downstream products. You may need assistance with a basic business plan or market survey before you can even decide if there really is a viable market for your idea or product. Finding the critical knowledge gaps in your basic idea will help you to identify what or who you will need to help you to achieve your goals.

Finally, before a consultant can even decide if he can help you (whether you agree or not), they will need to know many more specifics about your proposal. If you are afraid that discussing the details will “reveal” your secret for misappropriation, you either know enough already so that you don't need a consultant, or you really don't know nearly enough to have a viable proposal with any interest to a professional consultant. Outline your basic premise, and identify precisely what “expert” knowledge you need to complete your process.

Some additional resources for small chemical businesses may be found at the American Chemical Society Division of Small Chemical Businesses:

Other organizations in which to find a specific chemical consultant are:

Chemical Consultants Network:


You might also be interested in several Coursera online courses (free!) in starting a business.


Best regards,

Steven Cooke, MChE, FAIC, CQE, CQA


Process Systems Consulting