Necessity’s Children

We love to talk about our research and development at 3M, but it’s no secret that we have also come by many of our technologies via acquisition. In many cases, these deals are high-profile agreements that are covered by prominent media outlets, but it’s also not unheard of for us to purchase an idea or product from a much smaller operation.

Occasionally, I am approached by an individual inventor, often a dentist, who is interested in selling an idea to 3M ESPE. On these occasions, before anything else happens, my first response is to make sure the inventor has a patent. This protects both the inventor and 3M ESPE, and without one, we simply cannot proceed. After confirming the invention is patented, however, I can then evaluate the idea and share it with the appropriate business teams within the company.

What happens very frequently in these situations is that we decline to pursue the opportunity. I can understand this is very disappointing news for the inventor, who has likely already invested upwards of $25,000 in their product. But unless a technology is clearly aligned with our core competencies and growth strategy, it simply does not make sense for us to take it on. This doesn’t mean the invention is a bad one—just that it’s not for us.

If you are an inventor, I encourage you to continue pursuing your goal—whether that is to grow your own company or find one that would like to acquire your invention. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that rejections along the way are common. With perseverance and the right product, however, many dental entrepreneurs have turned their ideas into successful tools for the industry. When you reach that point, companies like 3M ESPE may just start coming to you.


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