Nottingham Spirk Innovation Center

How one company entirely reshaped the commercialization of innovation

In this episode of the Decoding Innovation podcast, the speakers explain the process of innovation and the factors that determine the successful introduction of a new product in the market.

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Most businesses are hesitant to invest in innovation when their existing products are already performing well in the market. According to John Nottingham, Co-President of Nottingham Spirk, and Joe Gfoeller, President of Nottingham Spirk, innovating at such times can transform a business from a market leader into a dominating force.

At Nottingham Spirk, an idea is carefully vetted before work begins on it. Furthermore, the company only works on sustainable and big ideas. John describes how the commercialization of innovation is a relentless process — one that involves market analysis, customer insights, design, engineering, manufacturing and launch.

One of the best known ideas that the company worked on was the Spinbrush. At a time when powered toothbrushes were being sold for US$100, Nottingham Spirk launched the Spinbrush for US$5 — completely transforming the powered toothbrush market. This product was eventually acquired by a multinational corporation. 

Joe explains that when they find a product — typically, a durable and a consumable product — that has the potential to dominate a domestic market of a billion dollars or more, at a gross margin of 50% or higher, the company considers it seriously.

Commercialization of innovation begins by identifying an opportunity in the market. Once that is done, depending on the market and economic changes, Nottingham Spirk applies pivots to launch the product.

The need for innovation is now more than ever — given the speed at which the world has globalized and is being digitized.  

Key takeaways:

  • Only 5% of all patents issued by the US government get commercialized. However, 95% of the 1,400 patents that Nottingham Spirk created were commercialized.
  • Nottingham Spirk introduced a portable men’s deodorant spray and sold a single pack for US$0.99.
  • The Spinbrush — containing two alkaline AA batteries, a motor, a switch and two moving nylon heads — was manufactured for US$1.25 and retailed for US$5, at a time when other powered toothbrushes retailed for US$100.
  • The EY-Nottingham Spirk Innovation hub integrates Nottingham Spirk’s innovation and design experience with EY digital, manufacturing and wavespace™ capabilities to help businesses from concept through commercialization.   

For your convenience, full text transcript of this podcast is also available. Read the transcript.


Episode 11


0h 44m 24s