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Scottish Plastics and Rubber Association Scottish Plastics and Rubber Association

From Concept to Commercialisation

Funky Cones: production version

At the final meeting of the 2012-2013 SPRA technical programme in June, SPRA members and guests were joined by teachers on the Polymer Study Tour to learn about the trials and tribulations of taking a design idea to market.

Ralf Klinnert: Managing Director of Funky Moves and inventor of Funky Cones
The main speaker, Ralf Klinnert, described how a postgraduate programme in electronics at Edinburgh Napier University followed by an Enterprise Fellowship programme under the auspices of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, had positioned him well to set up a company, Funky Moves, to develop an idea which first saw the light of day as a project during the Enterprise Fellowship programme.

Exercise game principle using Funky Cones
His initial prototype consisted of traffic cones fitted with electronic modules, including light and auditory output, which could be programmed by a hand-held wireless control to flash in a particular sequence.  The exercise was to run between the cones and cancel the lights, following a particular sequence.  The overall aim of the interactive product was to make physical exercise more fun, hence the title Funky Moves.

Ralf’s aim of getting more children involved in physical activities, through team games and relays, was confirmed by the excellent feedback he obtained after testing the beta version at local schools. At the same time he was receiving strong interest from sports organisations, including a practice routine for ice hockey goalkeepers.

The core concept had a range of potential markets:

 Education
 Sports
 Healthcare
 Leisure
 Toy Market
 Corporate Events

but Ralf recognised that there was a danger of spreading his resources too thinly and decided to concentrate his efforts on the school market to get the product into commercial production.  

Obesity in children is becoming a major issue.  By 2015 the NHS will be spending £4.6 billion per annum on obesity, much of which stems from children not receiving sufficient exercise.   Schools need to deliver better quality physical education with fewer resources and Funky Cones, a ‘lesson in a box’, can be part of that solution.

Compared to similar products, Funky Cones offer several competitive advantages:

  •  Unique patented product
     Robust, quick set up, easy to use
     Interchangeable active modules
     Works anywhere, small classroom to football pitch
     Suitable for teams up to 50
     Harnesses children’s fascination for technology
     Better cost/user than competitors

Design development of Funky Cones
A Glasgow product design company, fearsomEngine, designed the plastics cones to be more appealing, accept interchangeable active electronic modules with a secure locking action, easy stacking for transportation and a docking facility for charging.  At the meeting, Ralf was able demonstrate the operation of the system with the first production samples, which had been finally assembled just a few hours earlier.  The UK launch is imminent and the product is being introduced in the USA in the next two months.

Although the journey from concept to commercialisation had taken several years, there had been notable landmarks along the way.  The ‘garage period’, in which Ralf had developed the electronic circuitry and put together the initial prototypes fabricated from traffic cones, was constrained by resources.  The testing of the product in schools gave great encouragement to continue the project.  Pitching his idea to the ‘Dragons Den’ TV programme was a particularly significant experience as it did result in great interest from the Dragons and apparent investment.   Unfortunately the investment, after the due diligence procedure, did not materialise (as happens with over 90% of entrepreneurs who are ‘successful’ in the Dragons Den programme).  However it was invaluable publicity, it helped reshape the business plan and eventually led to a better investment arrangement.

The teachers of Design & Technology in the audience were delighted to listen to a real-life design story and for the opportunity to question Ralf on his design, business model and future plans, long after the formal close of the meeting.

Report by Charlie Geddes, SPRA Honorary Secretary, July 2013

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