Monthly Archives: October 2007

The Boots Centre for Innovation wants your ideas

One of the most interesting speakers at The British International Innovation & Technology Conference and Exhibition was from the The Boots Centre for Innovation. It was good to hear that an organisation as large an bureaucratic as Boots is prepared to do something radical in order to foster innovation.
Boots centre for innovation
They recognised that getting new ideas from inside the company was not the most effective way to deliver new products to the market. So they teamed up with the Institute of Life Science at Swansea University, the Welsh Assembly and Longbow Capital to build a new centre based in Swansea ,investing £3 million of Boots money.

They can provide support and funding for the development of innovative products and technologies. But are particularly looking for new ideas for products in the following ten areas:

1 Improve and maintain the health, look and feel of skin
2 Improve the health and appearance of teeth and gums
3 Devices that enable people to monitor key aspects of their health
4 Improve the health, appearance and comfort of eyes
5 Improve digestive health, particularly issues related to stress, poor diet and obesity
6 Minimise the severity and duration of pain
7 Improve quality of sleep for everyone [including pregnant women, babies and the elderly]
8 Minimise the complications of living with diabetes
9 Anti-ageing products and devices for mind and body
10 Create more convenient methods of taking and using medicines and health products

Turn your water-tap into a fire-hose in under 10 seconds

This is the rather remarkable claim form Edward van Noord another of the exhibitors at The British International Innovation & Technology Conference and Exhibition. He has patented a way of attaching a very compact hose pipe to a normal household cold water tap. This is yet another case of what I would consider to be a really obvious solution to a problem which I’m sure many of you would already have thought about (I know I have).

Amazingly the particular solution Edward van Noord came up with hadn’t already been patented. Even more impressive is the way he has developed both the product and marketing all on his own. He had even paid for the stand at the show out of his own money.

The good news is that his perseverance (an essential component for any entrepreneur) is now being rewarded with sales increasing across Europe at a rapid rate.

The product is called 1-2-3 stop fire and you can see what you think of it below.

E.ON EnergyLab giving away £15,000 to inventors

E.On the electricity and gas company has joined forces with former Tomorrow’s World presenter Philippa Forrester to launch the E.ON EnergyLab nationwide talent search to find Britain’s next big innovations in energy efficiency.

The judging panel will be looking for clever creations that could revolutionise the future of energy and how it used.

The closing date is 30 November so you will have to get your skates on and apply at if you want to enter.

If you are in need of inspiration the site offers some suggestions for ‘generating’ ideas:

If you are finding it a challenge to get started, we’ve put together a simple approach that may help you generate some great ideas. Try using the following steps either on your own or with friends:
1. Define the problem

* So what problem do you want to solve?
* Is it in your home, school or office?
* Is it a problem that has been around for a long time?
* Generate a list of ‘problem’ topics

2. Creating ideas

* The idea here is to generate as many ideas as possible. Remember there are no ‘dumb ideas’ – they all count at this stage
* Set yourself a period of time to think – say 30 minutes
* Create a topic and stick to it (use your list of topics from step 1)
* Realise your ideas in words, pictures and anything that helps you describe your ideas – be creative!

3. Look at similar problems

* How have inventors approached similar problems in the past?
* If it’s a good idea it may have been done before – it’s worth checking before you enter
* How could existing inventions be improved?
* Are there parallel problems or solutions that you can draw inspiration from?

4. Start to define your solution / invention

* Try focusing of 2-3 ideas that you think have a chance of solving the problem you have set yourself
* Write down the pros and cons of each one
* Can you draw on ideas from previous inventions?

So now you are really inventing! You’ve picked your topic, generated ideas, narrowed these down to a short list and shortly you’ll have your preferred idea. Just keep asking questions of your invention and try and have an answer for everything.

Quirky gadgets and contraptions from 1851 to 1951

As well as being the main contact for Prime Thinkers Maurice Collins is also the man behind a collection of over 800 quirky gadgets and contraptions from 1851 to 1951. The collection contains some of the most eccentric labour saving devices, many from the Victorian era which is renowned for its Heath Robinson style excesses. Examples include a clockwork teas-made from 1902, a system for smoking 2 cigarettes simultaneously, a portable moustache protector for eating soup in polite company.

The collection does not currently have a permanent home but selections are available for hire, and I am hoping we can show off a few items in the Business & IP Centre soon, so watch this space.
Maurice has published two books featuring his collection:

Ingenious Gadgets


You can read more about them on


Prime Thinkers – Developing creative ideas for business, charities and the voluntary sector

At the recent The British International Innovation & Technology Conference and Exhibition at Alexandra Palace I came across a stand for Prime Thinkers. They are a group of 20 experienced business owners, managers in large corporations, academics and senior government officials, many of whom have now retired. The idea is that someone with a business idea or invention presents to and participates in a brainstorming session with a group of 8 or 10 of the Prime Thinkers team.

Together they will spend an hour focussed on solving anything from brand names, raising finance, finding customers, sourcing manufacturers and anything else relevant to the business idea.

The cost is £75 per session, but with all of the money going directly to the charity Kith and Kids.

If you are interested contact or 07796991140

Business & IP Centre wins BIBA award

On Friday evening I attended the European Federation of Black Women Business Owners – Black Women in Business Awards 2007. It was a fun event, but made more enjoyable because the Business & IP Centre won the Corporate Award award.

The award was in recognition of our help and support for support both women and ethnic minority groups in the sphere of business such as our Inspiring Entrepreneurs event Winners 1: The Rise and Rise of Black British Entrepreneurs. Winners 1: The Rise and Rise of Black British Entrepreneurs (in association with The Black Enterprise Awards) held in May 2006.

Redefining the Library for the 21st Century – The British Library Experience

In the unlikely event that you want to hear my recent talk, plus question and answer session to the previously mentioned 2007 ADLG seminar Library Information Service Survival Guide, it has been put on the ADLG website alongside my PowerPoint slides.

Can You Justify Why Your Library Shouldn’t Be Scrapped?

At the recent 2007 ADLG seminar Library Information Service Survival Guide, the most memorable speech was the first.

Steve Thornton, editor, Performance Measurement and Metrics, The international journal for Library and Information Services, gave a talk entitled Can You Justify Why Your Library Shouldn’t Be Scrapped?

He covered: adding value, making a case for the library, gathering evidence, identifying stakeholders and selling yourself.

However he didn’t pull any punches, particularly with his concluding comments:

“Start work on an active defence strategy NOW! If you sit back and wait to be slaughtered, you deserve everything you get.”

Steve Thornton

More interesting facts about paper clips

The wonderfully simple invention the paper clip has generated much interest, so I am adding a link to the Wikipedia entry which contains many pages of interesting information.

It contains the story of the myth of the Norwegian invention of the first paper clip and how it went on to become an National symbol. It was also worn by patriots during world war two as a symbol of resistance to the Nazi invaders.

Giant paper clip The giant paper clip in Sandvika, Norway

The rise of the Milli-grip spanner

At last years British International Innovation & Technology Conference and Exhibition I came across a brilliant invention for anyone who has ever scraped their knuckles undoing nuts and bolts with an adjustable spanner.

I remember asking what new technology the Milli-grip spanner incorporated, and was surprised to hear that the only thing new was the idea of the ratchet, which could have been developed at any point during the last 200 years of adjustable spanners.

Although it was nice to see the company exhibiting again this year with an improved and expanded product range, it was also somewhat disappointing they still needed to be there publicising the product. Apparently to keep their admin down, the larger retail chains don’t buy products from single item producers. I am hoping they won’t need to be there in 2008.