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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 March 2008, 08:28 GMT
Inventors reveal their new ideas
Stephen Thomas and his Topster invention

Welsh inventors have been showing off the results of their eureka moments at a convention in Cardiff.

The Innovation Into Action 2008 event had more than 60 products on show exhibiting the best in Welsh invention.

Ideas ranged from a top that stops milk bottles from dripping in the fridge to a straw which helps soldiers find clean water on the battlefield.

Backed by the Wales Innovators Network (Win), it gave Welsh innovators the chance to show off their wares.

There was not a wild haircut or lab coat in sight at the show in the National Cricket Centre in the capital's Sophia Gardens - the first of its kind to be held in Wales.

Instead, the aisles were lined with a mix of garden shed, university and business-led inventions dispelling the myth of the bespectacled professor working from his secret lab to try and find inspiration.

The whole day was made possible by the assembly government-backed Win programme, set up six years ago to aid innovation in Wales.

Win has enabled me to be a lone inventor without having to be a lonely inventor
Inventor Marcus Plummer

Win programme manager Tony Guile said: "The network is a unique programme in that it's free and dedicated to supporting inventors.

"It's very difficult to find anything like we offer anywhere in the UK, Europe or anywhere in the world.

"We never say, 'that's a fantastic idea' or 'that's a rubbish idea', instead we give them the chance to work it out themselves and provide the support and advice they need to help them come to a decision about where they want to take their idea."

It carries out this work with the help of its 16 officers stationed across Wales who provide free face-to-face advice to anyone who wants and needs it.

Marcus Plummer, from Cardiff, was one of the first to take advantage of this expertise back in 2001 when he called on Win to help develop his wooden floor draught excluder system - Stopgap.

The former business sales manager's product now brings in 50,000 a year through its website and he hopes to start selling it right across Europe and the US.

He said: "I was a complete novice when I started out. They've given me so much support and advice and been an absolute lifeline for me.

"Win has enabled me to be a lone inventor without having to be a lonely inventor."

Since those early days Win has gone from strength to strength and seen and helped more than 4,000 people.

Some of the latest recipients of the programme's help were on show at the event, which is part of Wales Innovation Week, and included the following:

  • Llanbradach-born Stephen Thomas's Topster - A screw-on pourer which prevents milk from dripping down the side of the bottle and making a mess of your fridge which now sells 2,500 a month and is available through Lakeland stores.
  • Caerphilly-based RMB Security Services Limited's Lifestraw - A high-tech water-filter in a straw, invented and manufactured by Swiss company Vestergaard-Frandsen, which uses allows soldiers to drink clean water from any source while out on operations. The Welsh company is distributing the product to military markets.
  • Aberystwyth-based Chris Finch's Every Which Way - An updated sat nav system which reads out cultural, environmental and historical information to drivers as they pass landmarks
  • St Asaph-based Jacob's Adder - A simple wristband counter which pregnant mothers can use to count the kicks from their babies in the final weeks of pregnancy to help put their minds at rest
  • Pontllanfraith-based Sarah and David Hill's Freehand - A decorating system which makes painting simpler and cleaner by making use of a harness and specially-designed ladder clamp
  • Penarth-based Barbara Blackburn's B-Tidy - A gardening range and system which helps gardeners store their tools and tidily get rid of their waste
  • Bridgend-based Janet and Rebecca Matthew's Over The Top Pouch - A back of the chair storage system for younger school pupils allowing them to keep their books and water near at hand in the classroom

Many of the products have already found buyers and distributors but some at the event were hoping they would catch the eye of sponsors Boots Centre for Innovation, Kodak and Proctor and Gamble who had representatives present on the day.

Business development manager Helen Taylor from Boots Centre for Innovation was at the event hoping to spot something to develop and sell in the high street store.

"We're not looking for things which we can build ourselves," she said.

"We're looking for products which we can be put direct onto a Boots shelf."

"If we see something here and it's right for market then we'd expect to have it ready within about 12 months so it really does represent a great opportunity for innovators to turn their ideas into real products."



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