Small Business: R & D - Garth Sutherland

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Garth Sutherland, CEO, Nexus6, which designs and manufactures a medical device solution called Smartinhaler

Garth Sutherland, CEO of Nexus6.
Garth Sutherland, CEO of Nexus6.

Smartinhalers help people with COPD and asthma track their medication usage and take their preventative medications.

What part has research and development played in your products and any updated versions over the years?

A massive role because we started the business from scratch, so in the initial stages our business had a big focus on realizing the solution through R&D. From that point on we have worked hard to continually improve the product to met new requirements.

How much time did you spend on R & D before launching your first product?

It took us 18 months, and there were three of us working on it, so a total of approximately 4.5 engineering years.

What sort of percentage of revenue would you devote annually to R & D?

About one third at the moment.

Has this changed over the years?

It's come down from the early days when there was no revenue and we put almost all of our effort into realizing the product so we had something to sell.

What does your research and development actually involve?

Designing and implementing new features on our devices and software, making our products smaller, designing cost out, and fixing issues in previous generations. We also tend to patent any inventions we come up through this process.

Have you applied for and received grants to help with R & D?

Yes we have had tremendous support from the Callaghan Innovation through the Technology for Business Growth grants and other grants on offer. These have made a significant difference to our business.

What advice would you give to other businesses who would like funding to help with their R & D?

It is a discipline and it requires the company to have a business plan and to be working to that plan and to be investing in innovation that is aligned to that plan. If the business is doing that, and Nexus6 has always tended to do that, then it is a straightforward process.

In addition to the grants, Callaghan has been excellent in connecting us into other New Zealand companies and researchers who can help with the innovation process which has also been very useful.


Next week: For many small businesses in New Zealand, they can't find the materials to manufacture locally or there is a factory in Korea or India just doing it so well and so efficiently, that it is the best option. Tell us your overseas manufacturing stories. It can be pioneering stuff.

- NZ Herald

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