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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 October, 2004, 08:29 GMT 09:29 UK
Those eureka moments
By Duncan Walker
BBC News Online Magazine

The inventor's lot is a hard one. Months of work are all too often followed by the realisation that nobody is interested in the idea. But are inventors about to buck the trend?

While there is no shortage of people sitting around having their own "eureka!" moments, few succeed in taking their grand design from the drawing board to the shop floor, says says veteran inventor Professor Heinz Wolff.

Professor Heinz Wolff
Professor Wolff says it can be difficult to make an idea work

From Thursday, hundreds of would-be James Dysons are hoping to beat the odds, selling their ideas to the public and potential investors at the British Invention Show in London.

"I feel we are on the verge of a renaissance for invention," says Professor Andrew Self, President of the British Inventors Society, which has 180 exhibitors lined up.

The Magazine asked Professor Wolff to select a few of the ideas on show which caught his eye. Vote for your favourite below.


"It's a fun entry," says Professor Wolff of Daniel Doheny's Mousemaster, a trap able to hold "12 to 15 mice in one go".

Mouse and traps - Corbis picture
The Mousemaster avoids the need for more traditional traps

The 27-year-old Irish inventor put the device on the market in Ireland in August, selling them for 25 euros (17).

Covering the top of an ordinary bucket, the Mousemaster lures the creatures to it with the help of a traditional treat of cheese ("chocolate is second best", says Mr Doheny).

Once on the device, their weight opens a trapdoor, they fall into the bucket and can't get out. Simple.

Mr Doherty, a keen amateur inventor, says the Mousemaster is "more or less geared up for farms or big businesses that might have a big mouse problem".


Planes don't always carry their passengers to sunnier shores. And airports aren't always well-equipped, point out the inventors of the Flexi-link Expandable Walkway.

Plane at airport
Planes don't always land at sunny, well-equipped airports

For those arriving at destinations without the covered passageways of Heathrow or Gatwick, they hope to offer a way to keep dry on even the wettest days.

When the rains arrive the walkway can be expanded to provide passengers a covered tunnel from the plane to the airport bus or terminal.

"It's fairly obvious," says Professor Wolff, but he approves of the idea nevertheless. "I was recently soaked to the skin at an airport."


A door security chain that can be released from the outside is the creation of Somerset-based inventor Robin Green.

Keyed chain
The chain can be unlocked from outside, if an elderly person falls ill

He hopes it will help keep the elderly safe in their homes, while ensuring friends and neighbours can still get in to help them in the case of an emergency.

From the inside it works just like any other security chain - keeping out unwanted visitors. The difference is that it can be released from the outside with a key that pushes the pin out.

"I have a definite interest in this because you have a problem getting into the homes of elderly people.... for example if they have had a stroke," says Professor Wolff.


"I would like one of these in front of my house," says Professor Wolff of Brian Lukes' anti-parking device. "We live opposite a university and the students keep on parking there."

Parking in London
Other drivers don't always respect a favourite parking spot

Strategically placed in a driveway or private parking spot, the Parking Post stops drivers leaving their cars wherever they choose.

A radio control handset raises and lowers the post and - with the help of a powerful spring - it flattens if hit by a car, to prevent damage to either the vehicle or post.

"It's been quite a challenge, I have been working on this every day for the last two years," says Mr Lukes, who will start producing the first 50 posts, costing 500 each, next month.


With winter floods an increasingly common headache for householders, Robert and Peter Jones hope their flood protection door barrier will help limit the damage.

Robert and Peter Jones' door barrier - from Wales Innovators Network
It's hoped the flood barrier could keep out the worst of rising waters

Secured in place with an adjustable bracket that fits into the frame, the barrier does not prevent the door being opened and closed.

The Joneses say the one-size-fits-all-device is suitable for any home which is susceptible to flooding and will be affordable for use in any property.

Professor Wolff, says such a gadget would certainly help keep out the flood waters, although "it could not be a complete barrier because there are other holes in your house".


"Bleeding radiators is a chore in my house," says Professor Wolff.

H50 valve
Aladdin H50 valve to help bleeding radiators

It's a problem which NLB Engineering hopes is common to many homes.

Its Aladdin Auto Vent continually removes trapped air from radiators, increasing the amount of heat they produce and reducing noise.

There's also the benefit that using the device avoids the problem of trying to catch rust-brown water in strategically placed bowls - the challenge normally faced when bleeding radiators.


You run a bath, answer the phone and forget the water is on.

The result is "overflow misery", according to the inventors of Tapmaster.

The invention aims to stop baths from overflowing

While the product is not unique, Watersave, the company behind it, hope their device is simple and effective enough to persuade homeowners to give them their business.

The system replaces the standard overflow outlet attached to a bath or sink and cuts off the supply if the water gets too high.

For the truly forgetful there is also the option of having an alarm attached. Watersave hope their gadget will cut the "inconvenience, distress and cost of accidental flooding due to baths or sinks left running".


A desktop mobile linking a traditional landline to the mobile phone network is being presented at the inventors fair by Burnside Telecom.

Burnside Desktop Mobile
The desktop mobile links landlines and mobiles

It means standard phones can be used to send or receive text messages. Connected to a computer, it can be used to access the internet and when attached to an alarm, it can be used to send a text message alert when the system is triggered.

The inventors also suggest that customers can save money when calling between a home or office phone and a mobile, by cutting out the problem or calling between two networks.

"This is quite a good idea, I can't think of a product like this," says Prof Wolff. "Many people these days don't have fixed phone lines and I'm interested in phones for elderly people - there may be something in this."

What's your favourite invention?
The Mousemaster
Expandable walkway
Keyed chain
Parking post
Door barrier
Auto radiator bleeder
Desktop mobile
13343 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion
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