Front End Innovation (FEI) Defined

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Ask a regular human being what front end innovation means, and they’re likely to hazard a guess that it’s maybe about innovating front ends?

But in the field of innovation, front end innovation (FEI) refers to the initial pre-development phase of innovation where opportunities are identified and concepts are developed.  And it’s what we do at Brand Genetics. The industry official definition of FEI by the PDMA (Product Development and Management Association) is “those activities that come before the more formal and well-structured [e.g. Stage-Gate or PACE] NPD process” [1]

FEI is also known as the “fuzzy front end” [2] because it can be less structured and more opportunistic than formal developmental phases. However, industry research has found that FEI typically involves at least three core activities [3]

  • Opportunity Identification and Analysis
  • Idea Genesis and Selection
  • Concept Development

These three activities are sometimes alternatively listed as strategic planning, concept generation and pre-technical evaluation [4]. Although less expensive than the later product development phases, pre-devlopment FEI is critical because it is where decisions to invest resources are made.  it is also the phase that has the highest impact on the process and result. This means that FEI activities typically include several validation exercises – opportunity screening by industry experts and management, and concept screening by target users.

The output of FEI typically includes

  • A Go/No-Go recommendation for development
  • A product concept
  • A product specification

And that’s what Brand Genetics, as a specialist front end innovation agency, delivers for global consumer brands.

Want to know more? Check out these links or get in touch

And here’s a great introductory presentation by the opinion leader in Front End Innovation – Dr Peter Koen of the Stevens Institute of Technology; it’s publicly available – and we’ve taken the liberty of uploading it to Slideshare for you.


Paul Marsden

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