Every year the EPO runs a major competition to identify and reward the most outstanding inventors, both in Europe and beyond. I have had the privilege of being on the jury for a second year. Reading the submissions truly is an uplifting experience.
Recently I raised the issue of girls in science and invention, and the fact that the stereotypical inventor is always a man. Figures released recently in an Institute of Physics (IOP) Report suggest that nearly half of mixed secondary schools fail to get girls to take A-level Physics, compared to all-girl schools. There is only 1 girl for every 11 boys in A-level computing classes, and only 3% of creative directors in the gadget industry are women. As a country we don’t produce the number of science graduates we require to meet the fast-changing pace of our economy, so it makes sense to address this shortfall in numbers of female STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) students, in order to plug the gap.
Like many inventors, I began my journey down the road of innovation through necessity. From the moment I discovered that my newborn daughter couldn’t feed I was in full-on solution mode. Determined to find a way to make feeding my baby enjoyable, rather than fraught with tension for both of us, I had the unique motivation of need to keep me focused until I had exactly the right product.
But what about the creative youngsters out there who aren’t facing such a compelling incentive? How do we get children engaged and empowered to nurture their inventive streak?
I believe that innovation is essential to business success. A good invention responds to a need, solves a problem, or simply makes life easier. In my experience women and mothers make fabulous problem-solvers; who better than a harassed Mum to find a way around the most difficult parts of her day with a new invention? Let me tell you, it is no coincidence that the baby-wearing sling was invented by a busy woman! So it always surprises me that there is a lack of focus on helping girls to become inventors.
It's Monday at 17.00 pm and I have to go for a walk, despite the rain. I've been sitting at my lovely iMac for most of the day but its intuitive techno delights are wasted on me now I'm knackered. I'm not usually quite so much of a vegetable at this time of day but this is the day after the night before, when I had had a big dose of Sunday night syndrome.