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Thursday, September 24, 1998 Published at 11:29 GMT 12:29 UK


Thank you, I've always wanted a self-raising toilet seat

You don't have to be a genius to change the world, but it helps

The average brain stores more than a million ideas - quite a waste of hard drive when you consider that you don't need a million ideas to win fame and wealth or improve life on earth. All it takes is one good one.

Hundreds of people who believe they have isolated the most purposeful of their thoughts, are gathering this week at the International Inventions Fair in London.

Click here for a top ten of this year's inventions from the fair.

On show will be concrete evidence of their mental gems - a mind-blowing variety of inventions - all aimed at filling some gap in our lives, contributing to the development of the modern world and boosting the economy.

They include a self-lifting toilet seat, an inflatable bumper car and a meteorite-proof dome - all just waiting to be snapped up by willing manufacturers and investors.

"Somebody probably laughed when the first wheel was invented," the exhibition's organiser, Malcolm Cook, says.

"But some of the ideas on show at the Fair will be commonplace items of life in the next century."

While some of us can hardly wait for this year's offerings, among them the collapsible wheelbarrow, the hand-held lottery checker or the eye-lid protector, stop for a moment to think of the years of thought and planning on the inventor's part.

The thought that counts

Frank Bisson of Wow Hair Design, has worked on his technique of cutting hair with bits of broken glass for the best part of 20 years.

"I was bored with using scissors, razors and clippers to cut hair, so I thought about it, and then realised what could be sharper than glass?", Mr Bisson says.

"Then I found that cutting with glass really revolutionises the hair, giving it more body, better texture and real lift and volume."

[ image: Mr Bisson says glass-cutting means no two haircuts look the same]
Mr Bisson says glass-cutting means no two haircuts look the same
Expressing a preference for using the glass of Budweiser beer bottles in his work, Mr Bisson today says he has clients from all over the world, who pay up to £1000 to have their hair cut in this way.

"They know that I am not just a hairdresser, but a true artist who cares about the development of his profession. That 's what most inventors are about," Mr Bisson says.

If so, then where on earth did Enda Keavney get the inspiration for his self-lifting Clever Jacks Toilet Seat? One could say he was in the right place at the right time.

"It was 1994, St Patrick's Day, and I was in a pub in London. I went to the toilet and the seat was in a most disgusting state and that's when I decided to invent a toilet seat that could lift itself," Mr Keavney says.

[ image: Lifting up the seat could be a thing of the past]
Lifting up the seat could be a thing of the past
The Clever Jacks Toilet seat is fitted with a small hydraulic unit at the base of the seat. This automatically lifts the seat up eight seconds after you finish using it, and if desired, the seat can be manually pulled down.

However it has obviously been designed by a man - a woman would doubtless have thought to invent a seat which automatically lowered itself when it had been left up.

However Mr Keavney is now eagerly looking for investors for both the toilet seat and his other invention, the self-cooling hard hat. Otherwise he fears his creations will never get anywhere past their prototypes.

Thinking big

Although 50,000 British patents were granted last year, the success rate is low, with many inventors forced to look to the manufacturing industries of other countries.

However, last year, the fair generated an estimated £25m worth of contracts, mostly in exports, and is this year expected to do the same.

[ image: Apple's Steve Jobs with the iMac]
Apple's Steve Jobs with the iMac
"At the fair, inventors are put in a situation where they can meet investors, manufacturers and members of the general public face to face and get their feedback," Mr Cook says.

"After all, most of these inventors have great ideas, but they are not necessarily very good at developing them commercially, assessing a market or setting up a business."

And Mr Cook advises budding Alexander Bells and Steve Jobs not to hold back with an idea.

After all, even sliced bread must have seemed strange at first.

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