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Monday, September 6, 1999 Published at 13:14 GMT 14:14 UK


Millennium mix of innovation

The "lantern" at the new Reichstag provides natural lighting

The penultimate batch of UK Millennium Products has again delivered an eclectic mix of inventiveness, from a digital hand drum to the Reichstag, Germany's new parliament in Berlin.

The BBC's Robert Hall displays some of the products
The 143 new products bring the total to 777 items chosen by the Design Council to reflect and encourage British creativity and innovation.

[ image: London's Imax cinema helped regenerate part of the city]
London's Imax cinema helped regenerate part of the city
"It is vital we recognise and encourage UK innovation - it is the key to business survival and prosperity in the 21st Century," said the Design Council chairman, John Sorrell.

The Millennium Product tag is proving a bonus for business with a number of previous award winners reporting a boost in sales. The Design Council, who have long argued that innovation spurs profitability, point out that 75% of Millennium Product companies export their goods, well above the UK average.

The light fantastic

Architectural innovation is particularly highlighted in the new set of products, with the highest profile building included being the new Reichstag by Foster and Partners.

The £200m reconstruction of the original war-damaged parliament created a very modern building praised for both reflecting historical sensitivities and the latest energy efficient designs.

[ image: Having a flutter: This device allows doctors to continuously monitor heart beats]
Having a flutter: This device allows doctors to continuously monitor heart beats
The building's energy is produced by burning rape and sunflower oil, releasing relatively little carbon dioxide, and much of the light is provided through the mirrored cupola which channels light down into the interior.

Within the cupola, twin helical ramps take people symbolically above the heads of their political representatives to give wide views of the city.

An Imax cinema in London, now the UK's biggest screen, was also chosen. Avery Associates built the cinema on a busy roundabout and near underground train lines, so giant springs have been used to isolate the screen from vibrations.

Camouflaged phone mast

Mobile phone company Orange also won their Millennium Product award by adapting to the environment. Their tree masts are mobile phone base stations disguised as Scots Pine trees.

The steel masts are painted with a bark-like pattern and have UV-resistant plastic pine needles. Innovative it may be but whether Orange's stated aim of "bringing coverage to rural areas, particularly National Parks" proves popular remains to be seen.

[ image: Digital drum: Making music the electronic way]
Digital drum: Making music the electronic way
A mobile heart monitor, which records cardiac activity for up to 24 hours, won Cardionetics Ltd their award. "It's the first heart monitor for use in general practice," said one consultant cardiologist. "It's a big plus for patients to get an answer from their own doctor instead of having to be put on a waiting list.

Proving that inventiveness can improve any aspect of life, a Millennium Award has been given to the Oasis Turbotable, a supercharged ironing board. Used with a steam iron, it sucks the steam through the cloth, smoothing the creases from clothes much faster.

Finally, a company called Digital Cow have received the Millennium seal of approval with a product called Skins. This digital hand drum stores over 500 sound samples which can be activated by hitting the drum skin or the rubber nipples and handles around it.

Although just one has been sold so far (£2,000), they have been used in performance by the inventor, Ben Smith. A music promoter endorsed the unusual instrument, saying: "Whenever I've booked Ben to play, it's gone down really well."

[ image: Shorts designed a new, more reliable, thrust reverser for a jet engine]
Shorts designed a new, more reliable, thrust reverser for a jet engine

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