The Innovation Framework outlines four steps to successful innovation. Each step follows a process to help you complete it successfully.

Development process

The development and testing process is a learning exercise; it’s the opportunity to objectively view your selected idea through the eyes of your customer or end user. As with ideation and selection, you should bring together a multi-disciplinary team to provide input.

Watch this short animation to ensure your idea is developed and tested thoroughly.

Concept development

Concept development is the process which enables you to assess if is a tangible, valid reason  to continue developing the concept before you invest time, energy, and money developing a prototype or trailing new processes.At the end of the process you should have evidence to show that the new process, product or service will create value. 

How to develop a concept?

  • Concept

    Test the concept

    Hold small focus groups to see what people really think of your idea and if there is value in developing your idea further. Ask these questions:

    • What is the value of the idea to your customer? 
    • Does it solve a real problem or provide a clear benefit?
    • Is there a demand or need for it?
    • Is it value for money?
    • Will it actually add value or reduce costs? 
    • Will the company actually implement it?

    All feedback is valuable, use the feedback to modify your idea, if necessary. However, if feedback suggests there is no value in developing the concept further, you must abandon the idea, as to continue will only waste time and resources.

  • Document

    Document your idea

    Create a detailed description or blueprint of your chosen idea, which describes its key features, explaining how these features would help solve the problem or take advantage of the opportunity you identified earlier. These may include:

    • Convenience
    • Usability
    • Quality
    • Functionality
    • Performance
    • Price
    • Values
    • Experience

What is a prototype?

A prototype is a developed, workable version of your concept which allows you to collect the maximum amount of validated data from your audience with the least investment and effort. 

Why develop a prototype?

Building a prototype allows you to to test and modify the product or service you aim to deliver with your target audience. If you are considering implementing a new process, system or business model, validating and testing it with staff, management, shareholders will provide vital feedback. If testing does not predict value creation, you should stop development.

How to test a prototype?

  • Whiteboard


    Build an inexpensive prototype or a minimum viable product (MVP).

  • Survey questions


    Carry out focus groups and ask pertinent questions, such as: 

  • Would it improve their personal or professional lives? 
  • Would they be willing to pay for it?
  • What improvements or adjustments would encourage them to buy or use it?
  • Does it solve the problem or create a new market demand?
  • Will it improve efficiencies or reduce company costs? 

What is a ‘Fail-Fast’ Approach?

A ‘Fail Fast’ approach is when you stop developing a concept once you know it will not create additional  value for your business. This approach ensures effective use of resources.

Testing your concept and prototype will tell you if you can improve things like the design and functionality, but it will also tell you if idea fails to present value to the customer or end user.

It’s important to recognise and accept this; if the concept is not viable then you must begin generating ideas again. Further development risks wasting money and resources on an idea which does not offer a return on investment

Intellectual property

If you concept and prototype develop provide positive feedback, you should investigate approvals, trademarks, patents and intellectual property rights.

Acquiring IP rights will:

  • Protect it from being copied by others
  • Set you apart from competitors
  • Allow you to offer your customer something unique
  • Help secure funding


To accurately assess the viability of your concept you must fully cost the activities required to bring it to market or implement it within your business. 

Consider the wider impact on your finances such as production, machinery and delivery costs - remember to include your business support functions in these costs – make sure allocate resources to deal with the additional administrative pressures the new process, product or service will introduce to your company.

Development checklist

Make sure that you can answer these questions before you launch or implement your idea:

  • Is there any value in continuing with this idea?
  • Will anyone pay to use your idea?
  • What are the costs and risks?
  • Can this process really be implemented in your business?

Next steps


Next: Commercialisation

Now that you have developed your idea, the next stage of the Innovation Framework will help you implement it or bring it to market.


Get advice and support

The Northern Ireland business support finder is a searchable database that can help you find publicly-funded and not-for-profit sources of assistance.

Innovation Assessment

It's easy to take part in the Innovate NI Programme. Simply complete the assessment to discover where you are on the Innovation Framework today.