Getting Started

From idea and concept to business development to production and marketing, we have experts, resources, and assistance for every stage of the product development process.  A common mistake is moving from idea directly to production and launch.  We stress the need to use an iterative process, do your homework upfront to avoid costly errors and assess the idea at each stage to ensure that it still is worth moving forward.  The need to build customer feedback and the business model into the product development process ensures that in the end you have a product that customers will buy and a model that is sustainable and profitable.  Don’t worry, taking it one step at a time and with the proper support, great new products are possible.

Initial Assessment

The initial assessment is all about determining whether a product can and (sometimes more importantly) should be built (does solve a problem or fill a need?). The initial assessment stage consists of:

  • Clearly defining the product
  • Defining the market and determining attractiveness (size, competition)
  • Identifying intellectual property and regulatory issues
  • Initial technical assessment
  • Establishing a basic business feasibility

This step is not costly and much of the work can be completed at your desk – online and on the phone.  The results of this assessment will determine whether to move on to further developing the business case.  Fill out the MI-Zone Initial Intake form to submit your product for an initial assessment.

Business Case Development

Once we have determined that the product can find a potential fit in the market, we build out the business case, looking for any areas that need work. Factors to explore include:

  • Completing a market and competitive analysis
  • Defining product development costs
  • Creating a technical design
  • Doing some initial interaction with potential customers, getting early feedback
  • Completing any legal and intellectual property filing
  • Creating a product management plan
  • Defining the financial requirement (both uses and sources)
  • Exploring funding applications and potential investment sources

Coming out of this step, we will have identified a potential market and market demand as well as the resources, constraints and key considerations if moving forward. A positive assessment at this stage moves forward to product development.

Product Development

Once we have a fit and business case for the product, it’s time to develop an initial prototype we can take back to those same potential customers and get some real feedback. This step consist of:

  • Developing a prototype or small run of the prototype
  • Undertaking initial product testing (lab, alpha)
  • Conducting limited customer test via “show & tell”
  • Developing a manufacturing (operations) strategy
  • Developing detailed a detailed test plan
  • Developing draft or initial launch plans

This cycle, combined with the business case development, are an iterative process. They are about getting and keeping potential customers involved; each iteration will bring the product closer to its final version and with each new version, the market and business will be expanded.

Testing & Validation

Once we’re through the business case and product testing cycle, it’s time to finalize the plans to take the product to market and do one final evaluation of the business as a whole. It consists of:

  • Completing the final tests of the product
  • Finalizing the production and operations & marketing strategy prior to full commercialization
  • Updating financial analysis and funding requirements
  • Preparing a final launch plan

Once this step is complete, the product is ready to be launched to the market.

Production Criteria

The intent is for the equipment to be available for multiple users, projects and parts to facilitate innovation and development. Innovative small run manufacturing must fall within the constraint of equipment time utilization. MI-Zone is not intended to be a permanent solution for long-run production. In order to ensure that projects meet the accessibility requirements, and to ensure that projects meet the small-run manufacturing requirement, any part may not consume more than 25% of the available machine time. Machine time is monitored monthly by the Innovation Centre.


You’re there: it’s finally time for your product’s debut. Once the product is in customers’ hands, we will continue to work with you on the following:

  • Finalize production and operations plans
  • Do final marketing and publicize the product launch
  • Monitor and adjust product development, business and sales goals
  • Create a product life cycle plan

The launch is certainly not the final step for your business and our goal is to continue to work with you on both your existing products as they mature and any new products that may go through the same cycle with us. If you’re ready to get started today, you should get in touch.

Off Boarding Process

The goal for MI-Zone is to increase the capacity and grow the advanced manufacturing sector in Northwestern Ontario. It is the intention for MI-zone to provide process innovation support as the product is refined and scales up.

As the project moves away from innovation (product development, testing and refinement or process improvements..) and towards larger-scale production, the Client will typically require less and less support from MI-zone and the Innovation Centre. There will be a point where MI-zone can no longer accommodate the needs of a particular product. (See our Innovation definition and Production Criteria above).

When the product reaches the Off-Boarding stage, we will support the transition from MI-zone to alternative manufacturing solutions. Don’t worry, you will be given adequate time to find a solution (i.e., other supplier/s, assessing potential for your own manufacturing etc.). We are committed to working with Clients to first identify and evaluate potential solutions and wherever possible attempt to find competitive alternatives in Northwestern Ontario. As part of moving on, we will ensure that your design files, fixturing and any other intellectual property are given to you. Moving on from using MI-zone resources will be necessary when a product needs to reach a wide audience and to ensure that MI-Zone’s goal—to increase the capacity and grow the advanced manufacturing sector in Northwestern Ontario—is achieved.