By Jennifer Ferrero, APR

Do you have a great idea for a new product, but don’t know how to prototype it, or take it to market? If you live within the five counties surrounding the Seattle region, you are in luck for free support and development!

The NW Innovation Resource Center (NWIRC) is a function of economic development in the following counties: Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, San Juan and Island.

They offer hundreds of mentors to inventors and entrepreneurs who have collectively donated over 6,100 volunteer hours in 2016.

“THE NW INNOVATION RESOURCE CENTER IS FOR ENTREPRENEURS WHO HAVE AN IDEA, BUT HAVEN’T STARTED A BUSINESS YET,” SAID DIANE KAMIONKA, INTERIM DIRECTOR.

But she added that they will meet inventors and entrepreneurs where they are in the process and help them.

Diane indicated that there are usually two tracks that people can take when they come to NWIRC:

1. Build-it – I am an inventor with a good idea, but don’t want to run a business or take the product to market. Solution: License the idea.

2. Enterprise – I am an entrepreneur and business owner and want to see this through prototyping to going to market with the product or idea. Solution: Use the support resources and mentoring provided through the organization to get started.

Here’s what to expect when meeting with NWIRC (from their website):

Process on NW Innovation Center

For those that decide to start a business and take the product to market through the Enterprise track, they will have opportunity, when they are prepared, to meet with investors. They will also potentially be referred to companies that can prototype products, or to a makerspace where they can prototype the product themselves.

For those interested in a licensing approach (so they can get onto their next big idea), there is an organization called Slingshot that will is an alternative for inventors. It will license their product and then find a market for it.

There is a great resource in Everett, WA at Paine Field called SnoCo Makers that offers a low-cost makerspace to folks who want to prototype, make or test their idea with a supportive peer group.

Representative photo of inventors and entrepreneurs