Wayne was asked to film a piece for BBC Horizon about Invention in the 21st Century January. It was aired on 11th April 2013.
These were the questions he was asked and the answers he gave during the interview.
Q – What’s different about innovation today than the past?
As well as the great technology innovation there are tweaks and improvements to long term innovations. It’s often about taking ideas further, refining, rethinking. Taking things to a new level. As Churchill once said “The further I look back, the further forward I can see”.
Q – What’s making invention easier today?
The fact that so much great thinking, inventing has been done. There is a wonderful base to build on.
The internet and crowd sourcing, networking. Being able to easily contact specialists across the waters to discuss problems and find solutions.
There is access for everyone (in this country) to have good education, freedom and to follow your dreams. 150 years ago your destiny was determined by the class you were born into.
Because so many fundamental issues have been solved its leaving time to tackle some of the much more difficult questions. For example cancer.
Q – Of all the inventions of the last 150 years or so – what would you love to have invented?
The bicycle or the train, both are things that give freedom which allow you to travel and stimulate. The world wide web does this as well.
Q – What’s your favourite invention ever?
Q – Where do you think good ideas come from?
Genuine need and difficulty. After all human needs are simple, warmth, food, companionship.
Two good ideas that are ‘light’ and ‘everyday’ are The Breville sandwich toaster and The Cat Flap. The need to contain the hot contents of a toasted sandwich from spilling everywhere and the need to allow your cat freedom which takes one less worry away from your life.
When I was designing the Bug Digital radio (the first radio to allow pause and rewind), the thinking came from my days as a teenager lying in bed wishing I could have rewound that song on radio Luxembourg as I hit the tape record button, missing off the first few chords or bars!
Q – Which tech fields do you keep abreast of?
Sustainability, especially in housing and technology – in terms of making life and business easier.
Q – How do you tell where the next big thing is going to come from?
You have to confidence in your own ability to understand what people want and need.
Innovation in homes size is currently something we are working on now . In the knowledge that the price of homes are going to continue to be out of the reach of the majority of the current generation of 30 year olds , and with the understanding that owning your own home will continue to be a desire for many , something has to give , and for singles and childless couples one thing that can give is size of homes . There is going to need to be innovation in “living in small spaces”
Q – If you were a Venture capitalist, where would you be putting your money today?
Looking at the care of elderly, dementia etc. The speed of travel. Dealing with a growing world population allowing people to live at higher density. Feeding growing populations. Farming in previously uncultivated places looking at new ways of providing food, acceptable GM if you must. When you see pictures of thousands of shark fins being dried on a roof in China or a Blue Fin Tuna changing hands for £1 million (selling at over £2000 a lb) as it recently did in Japan, then you know we have to act quickly.
Quite simply we cannot keep eating meat and fish without some serious technological advances and a change in public and government’s acceptance of what is worth investigating.
Golden Rice surely this solves so many issues? Dealing with climate change. And of course thrifty solutions, how can we maintain our quality of life more frugally?
Companies that understand “customisation” and “bespoke”. How to marry that with mass production as Nike have been doing with trainers and car manufacturers like Vauxhalls new Adam. Individuality in an increasingly crowded world.
Q – What are the hallmarks of a good idea?
Positive public response and getting copied.
Q – What do you think it takes to get an idea off the ground?
First the idea must be genuinely needed. Marketing, dissemination and perseverance.
A culture that embraces new ideas and is set up to facilitate new ideas to have a chance to come to fruition governments can facilitate this.
Q – What are your hopes for the future of science and technology?
We just carry on as we are, trying to solve problems and overpowering the naysayers and climate change deniers. Which we will, we are human beings that’s why we thrive, evolve, overcome.
For innovations, inoculations to also reach the third world much faster than they do today
For teachers to be able to invigorate and inspire young children to want to be creative. The same part of the brain is used for ideas in science and technology as it is in ideas in art and design yet parts of this current UK Government doesn’t seem to get that.