UK inventors sound off at Earls Court

But it may be better to let their products do the talking

The UK inventors fair at this year’s Tomorrow’s World Live event was characterised by a palpable sense of frustration and desperation.

From talking toilets to Hindi word processors the Fair offered a heady mixture of the wacky and the innovative, a platform where the hopeful rubbed shoulders with the hopeless. But the word on everyone’s lips was `funding’. It seems that British companies – despite the success of high-profile inventors like Trevor Bayliss and James Dyson – are still too quick to dismiss Britain’s unsung innovators as cranks. Although, to be fair to business, some of the inventors do little to improve their chances by playing along with the media’s desire for `mad inventors’. We are not proposing an end to British eccentricity, but while big-business could undoubtedly do more to foster home grown innovation, some inventors would prosper by taking themselves a bit more seriously.

It is not all bad news for the penniless genius though, with the event seeing the launch of lottery-funded NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts), which, at current rates of return, is receiving an income of £10 million a year.

NESTA will work by offering a tailored portfolio of support to talented individuals selected through a nomination process. It will assist these individuals over a period of three to five years, offering between £25,000 and £75,000 of financial assistance. To find out more why not check out the website at www.nesta.org.uk?

Back at the inventors’ fair, invention of the year award went to Dorset based innovator Abbotsbury Software for its Portland Horn – an air powered horn that works underwater. Designed for seismic monitoring applications in the oil industry, the horn generates a high volume, low frequency tone which, after computer processing, can be used to provide 3D `snapshots’ of oil reservoirs. Oil field operators traditionally use seismic sources from ships (such as air guns) – which as well as providing poorer quality information are also thought to be damaging to marine life, particularly whales and dolphins.