Inventors, your country needs you!

September 6th, 2010

The steam train, the television, the jet engine and even the web, are just a few of the revolutionary inventions the Brits have gifted to the world over the years.  Yet in 2010, is our proud tradition of invention at risk of becoming a thing of the past?

New research conducted by the British Library and invention development specialists, Innovate Product Design, has revealed that over half of the those working in the UK’s creative industries, a staggering 52% of the 1000 people surveyed, have never had an idea for an invention!

  • 78% of respondents stated they believe the UK to be an innovative country
  • Yet of those of who responded to say they had come up with a potential invention, 67% reported having not developed it beyond that initial idea
  • In total fewer than 10% of those who stated having actually had an idea for an invention reported successfully developing it into a product
  • 55% of men who responded to the survey stated having had an idea for an invention at some point in the last 10 years compared to just 41% of female respondents, yet there was little difference when it came to developing their idea

Launching today (September 6, 2010), the British Library’s “Inventing the 21st Century” exhibition will showcase the 15 of the most ingenious inventions to come out of the UK in the last decade.  Exploring the story behind each product and its journey from idea to market, this free exhibition aims to both inspire and inform a new generation of innovative Brits!

Working closely with thousands of aspiring inventors every year through its specialist Business & IP Centre, as part of the exhibition the British Library has teamed up with the invention development specialists, Innovate Product Design, to assess the innovative potential of the UK.

Where do people have ideas?
When asked where they were most frequently struck by ideas for inventions, most respondents stated ‘at home’ (24.3%) or ‘at work’ (21.5%), with ‘In the Shower’ (13.8%), ‘in bed’ (13.7%), and ‘in their dreams’ (10.9%) all scoring highly.  7% of respondents reported coming up with ideas for inventions whilst ‘on the toilet’.

What prevents people investigating their invention ideas?
Encouragingly those surveyed did not state a lack of motivation or unwillingness to take the risk involved as primary reasons behind their decision not to develop their ideas.  Overwhelmingly the reasons were either due to a shortage of finance (40.8%) and/or a lack of technical knowledge or ability (40.5%).

What can be done to improve the situation?
When asked how they would improve the situation for the future, both improving access to business advice services (32%) and making additional funding available through government grants for inventors (30.7%) scored highly, but the most frequently voted for option was to place greater emphasis on invention in education (43.6%) to help bridge the skill gap preventing the effective development of ideas.

The British Library’s Patent Expert and Curator of “Inventing the 21st Century”, Steve van Dulken, said:

“Britain has a proud tradition of invention, yet since the year 2000 we have slipped to 18th internationally in terms of world patent applications filed per million.  For example, in the early 1990s Britain was filing almost twice as many applications as France, yet by 2004 they had overtaken us and now file almost a third more than us.

“Offering huge potential in terms of driving economic growth, it is important for Britain to reach its innovative potential and encourage those with ideas to explore them and turn that spark of inspiration into a reality.”

On the exhibition Steve said:

“Exploring the journey behind 15 of the most ingenious inventions to come out of the UK in the last ten years, “Inventing the 21st Century” aims to both inspire and inform a generation of aspiring British inventors, helping them to kick start economic recovery and uphold Britain’s proud innovative tradition.”

Alastair Swanwick, Managing Director of invention development specialists, Innovate Product Design, said:

“This survey demonstrates people’s misapprehensions surrounding the initial costs involved with patenting and developing new product ideas: innovation carries inherent risks but the investment can be kept low.

“Here at Innovate Product Design, we provide advice and support to help individuals get their products to market for a minimal outlay.”

For more information on how the British Library and Innovate Product Design can help you investigate the potential of your invention ideas please visit or