The patent office grants thousands of new patents each year, this has been increasing over the last decade, but why? Surely the more inventions that are released the less opportunity there is to develop something novel and useful worth patenting, right? Well this isn't necessarily true, there are a number of different factors that have contributed to this increase in innovation over time including technology as mentioned in one of my previous blogs. But in this blog we look at how the increase in innovation breeds further innovation.
3D printers are readily available to anyone who has a couple of hundred pounds to spare nowasays. Whilst you won't get a top of the range model for that amount of money you can still purchase a machine that can help you manufacture items in the comfort of your own home. The freedom this creates is amazing, lets say I break a blu ray case, I could manufacture a new one so my collection doesn't have a broken case. Now that is a very basic example, but this extends much further than blu ray cases, and as a result this technology presents similar challenges to those we face with music and films today.
Look back 50 years to a typical UK citizen, they most likely have a job in a factory or office, own a home and a car if they are lucky. They don't have a mobile phone or access to the internet, they don't have much disposable income and the only tablets they have are a form of medication. If the average person had an idea for an invention they would have to find the materials to build a prototype, phone around to companies who may be interested and maybe fax over an NDA for protection.
My Dad loves his watches, he has boxes of the things including a smartwatch, but he only has 1 smartwatch. He bought the smartwatch because of it's functionality, it does a lot more than tell the time. The other watches do have a variety of features such as showing the date or having a light, but essentially they all do the same thing. So why does he have dozens of them? The truth is they are designer watches and he likes they way they look. So what if people saw a smartwatch in the same light? Not as a cool gadget, but as a designer item that goes with a certain outfit.
Innovate is a very trendy word today, people throw it around quite a bit and yet not everyone knows exactly what it means. The dictionary definition is to 'make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products'. When I think about innovation and what it takes to succeed I notice a pattern and after some research I converted this pattern into my three main rules of innovation.
The majority of people I meet have an idea for an invention that they believe is a 'million dollar idea'. Out of all of these people, and there is a lot, only a few people go on to do something with their idea. Those people work with us at InQuartic and currently have patent pending as we look to refine and market their products. But everyone else just sits on their idea or even forgets about it. So, my first piece of advice when you think you have a 'million dollar idea' is to decide if you want to see it through and then act on this idea. You won't wake up one morning finding that your invention made it and you have your millions unless you act.
For thousands of years the human race has had ideas on how to make life easier and help society move forward, from the wheel all the way to the iPhone (I will let you decide which of these has the greatest importance). In fact it's not just humans that innovate, many primates use tools and you could argue they have entered their own stone age. Capuchin Monkeys for example use rocks to crack open nuts. I believe that it is within animal nature to come up with new and better ways to do things, after all evolution is just mother nature innovating.
I have been watching a lot of Ted talks recently, I find that they are a great source of stories. The talkers always seem to have a knack for getting across an emotion to the audience. Sometimes it is a happy theme and others it is quite sad, but either way it makes you think about their topic. My brother has always been the more emotional of the two of us, you can see it when we are talking about our ideas, he instantly gets excited about all the possibilities. It is great to have such emotion and passion for what you do, but it can be dangerous if you get ahead of yourself and can lead to you making decisions based on an emotion instead of informed decision based on logic and facts. Within our partnership, this is really where I come in, not the making of good decisions, although I am happy to take the credit for that, but in ensuring we stay grounded.
Oil prices are dropping drastically at the moment and the Paris climate conference seemed to have a positive impact. These two big events seem to be drawing more attention towards green energy solutions world wide and this can only be a good thing. But in reality green energy has been a hot topic for the last decade, its just now there appears to be more urgency. In March 2015 the Department of energy and climate change in the UK reported a £42bn investment in 'renewables, nuclear and CCS' since 2010. We have really advanced in this area over the last decade and government investment is a huge reason behind that. But is fracking and nuclear about to put a dampener on the green energy industry? A report from the Independent suggests so.
A crucial ingredient for inventing is inspiration, different people are inspired in many different ways. For my brother and I the inspiration came from our Grandad, he was an Engineer by profession, but in reality he was an inventor. He held a number of patents for a series of designs, but the one he was most proud of was his engine. I remember having many conversations about his engine and how it was more efficient than anything currently being manufactured. At the time I wasn't particularly interested if truth be told, but times change and now these conversations are sadly missed and are partly responsible for my brother and I working to make innovation accessible to everyone.
You see, the biggest topic of conversation with my Grandad was that of patent law. 'In short, it is wrong' he would say. He would often refer to the example of Frank Whittle who invented the jet engine, but was 'mistreated by the patent law'. It is for this reason and fear that he never progressed with his own ideas that could have been of real benefit to the world.