Davids & Goliaths : Insider's View of the Geneva Invention Show 2007
So we all set up, and for five days stood by our charges, as around 60-70,000 people filed past, probing and poking and photographing. And in amongst them all were the international judges, for a large part of the show is devoted to a very rigorous process in this regard, using teams of experts who specialise in various categories.
Which brings me to the sheer breadth of what was on offer, which made the range of categories so important. Because how do you compare an industrial process to separate out pure water from a contaminated solution using only solar with, say, a unique proposal for creating more fuel-efficient airborne propulsion... or a ladder prop? ... or my own submission, which was no more than a redesign of a small strip of packaging plastic that is intended to turn something that gets disposed of into a re:useful item
There really was an awesome array, from the devilishly complex sublime to the ridiculously simple ‘why didn't anyone think of that before'. Some were theories, most were prototypes, and a few were obviously well into production already.
And, come the judging, the accolades bestowed were equally diverse, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how thoroughly the judges had gone into what makes for a true, new innovation, based on the uniqueness of the concept and its potential application. Because, as I can testify, the most modest notion, with the most basic of investment behind it, stood as much chance as the best a massive scientific or commercial enterprise could bring to bear and share.
I must say I had a ball, and made many new friends from around the world. There were not too many from the American continents, but the distances involved perhaps explain why. But certainly every other one, especially Asia, was very well represented.
It would be impossible to share meaningfully all the amazing creations I was privileged to be amongst during that time, or do justice to the awesome imaginations that went into them. But I would be remiss not to share at least a few that tickled my fancy (which is, I stress, a lot different to being awesome, commercially-viable efforts). Forgive me if I do err in favor of my main area of interest, which is the environment, as these were the ones for which I grabbed literature. If I had one critique, I would say the show was not so good at capturing and allowing to be shared networking and/or sales information between exhibitors and visitors. Especially subsequently. So if there is one tip, that would be Carpe Diem... and the attention of anyone who looks interested in your product. You never know who they may be, or if you'll get another chance!
The Grand Prize Winner was an excavation bucket that not only scooped up the materials, but also then crushed it, saving the need for two different machines and operations. As a work of efficiency I was most impressed, but my old Civ. Eng. ancient history did make me wonder a bit about reliability issues and downtime. A quarry is a harsh place.
Another invention I liked was a foot-operated tap for taps to regulate water. Of course, as with many things, the devil is more in the installation.
Then there was a flood defense system that uses the very flood water you are defending against to create the barrier. Or a process to turn PET pop bottles into lightweight aggregate (see what I mean about the diverse nature of it all?). Several standby mode saving devices were on show, and I hope to investigate these further to see which one really can reduce this totally unnecessary aspect of our IT-obsessed cultures best. And there were also quite a few energy-generation systems, using tidal, solar and/or wind. I will be interested to see if the lone inventing warriors who have devoted themselves to such things have hit on truly practical solutions to help the energy crisis we face. And, as a fellow inventor, I also wish them the best in navigating the true horrors that are IP protection, commercial indifference and, of course, the dread curse of copycats.
But the sprit of the show is stand proud behind your invention and give it the best shot of finding a willing and interested audience. No matter what else, it can be inspirational to find yourself surrounded by so many other souls who can not only have such ideas, but also find the commitment to come so far to try and make the world a better place by bringing them to market.