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.

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.


A packet of crisps in a bar

Today was my second annual visit to the The British International Innovation & Technology Conference and Exhibition (of which more anon). As someone with a relatively limited imagination I have to confess I just can’t understand where inventors get their ideas from.

For instance I would never have thought up the idea for Crisp Bars. In fact everything about it just sounds wrong to me. But, as is so often the way with inventions (and this one is patented) the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Or in this case in the crunching. I approached the product with great cynicism but was proved wrong once again. The ‘bars’ not only taste like standard crisps but somehow manage to maintain the crispiness of a crisp.
As with almost all inventors I come across, the idea sprang from seeking a solution to a problem. In this case, how to continue to consume crisps when you have a babe in arms, and so only have one hand to spare for eating purposes.

Their website doesn’t seem to be working at the moment but you can watch a video where Richard Hammond of Top Gear fame tests them out on the 5 o’clock show.

Watch this space to where this product goes…

New trademarks equals new products

Thursday 19 October 2006

Keeping an eye on new trademarks can give a good insight into what might be round the corner in terms of products.

apple_logo_blueiPhone tantalisingly close as Apple register trademark. Dual model rumours start.

An Apple iPhone or two could be a step nearer as there are reports of Apple officially filing for the ‘iPhone’ trademark. An analyst from Prudential Equity also believes that his ‘sources’ and ‘recent checks’ suggest that Apple could release two models – one a smart phone and the other a slim music phone. At least one of them will have wi-fi connectivity, and a keyboard for messaging.

American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu has written “Our research indicates that an Apple-designed smart phone has moved from concept to prototype and recently has progressed to near completion as a production unit. We believe this smart phone has been in development for over 12 months and has overcome substantial challenges including design, interference, battery life and other technical glitches”.


Springwise for inspirational new business ideas

Tuesday 17 October 2006

My current favourite source for new business ideas is the Springwise fortnightly newsletter. Tagline ‘new business ideas for entrepreneurial minds. They claim a global network of 8,000 spotters who scan the globe for smart new business ideas, delivering instant inspiration to entrepreneurial minds.

In particular they look for ideas that can be replicated or franchised in the readers home country.

It’s free and comes in a nicely designed html email or pdf download from Netherlands based Springwise BV.SpringWise_logo

I’ve put a sample story below to show the kind of thing they do:

Born out of frustration from hearing their female friends complaining of frizzy hair, entrepreneurs Richard Starrett and Neil Macka took it upon themselves to devise a solution. They came up with the Straight Up machine.

Trading under the name Beautiful Vending Ltd, the two men realised there was a gap in the market, since English weather can turn perfectly styled hair to frizz, ruining a night out for women fixed on having pin-straight hair. It took them a year of research to develop the Straight Up, a patented vending machine that lets women purchase short use of a ceramic straightening iron. The vending machines use professional-grade GHD tongs, “the irons that styled a thousand catwalks”, and 90 seconds’ use goes for one pound (approx USD 1.85/EUR 1.50).

Offering style-conscious females the opportunity to look their best at all times -– regardless of unpredictable weather — this is a simple business idea with low start-up costs and serious potential. The business is currently run solely in the United Kingdom, where 500 units have been placed so far, but Beautiful Vending is seeking to grow quickly and franchise opportunities are available worldwide. Press hype regarding the product has been huge in the UK, garnering much interest from club and bar owners. Straight Up machines will of course be a hit anywhere women preen and primp: restaurants, gyms, shopping malls, office buildings…