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Potting shed inventors everywhere will be mourning the demise of the Innovations catalogue. How important are home-spun inventions to driving commercial product innovation?

‘Truly innovative products will always flourish with or without the Innovations catalogue, or the myriad similar titles that it spawned. The real challenge for inventors and designers is to identify an outstanding concept and match this with commercial acumen, market understanding and a commitment to product development. Bring these elements together successfully and “home-spun” invention can lead to dramatic commercial success, as witnessed by the products of Dyson and Trevor Bayliss.

Dr Chris Thorpe, Senior product designer, QinetiQ

‘I suspect that home-spun inventions are not very important in driving commercial product innovation. We get to hear of very few “home-spun” inventions that make it commercially. James Dyson has been held up as a leading example since the early 1980s, but even he had to set up his own company to secure commercial success. And let’s not fall into the trap of thinking innovation is simply invention – the step changes in the development of mobiles more than demonstrate what 90 per cent (in my guess) of product innovation is all about.’

Deborah Dawton, Chief executive, Design Business Association

‘Sadly, in the UK, the private inventor is often portrayed as a quaint eccentric or worse still – a complete crackpot. Although the value of private inventions is tiny compared to those registered by companies, I really admire the enthusiasm and sheer determination of the “lone” inventor and occasionally, as Dyson has proved, their commercial success.’

Jonathan Knight, Principal consultant, Frazer Designers

‘Individuals’ ideas are often dismissed as hare-brained before they’ve been properly understood and developed. The truth is that large corporations don’t hold a monopoly on great ideas, but they do hold the money that’s required to take an idea and make it reality, and then on to be a commercial success. Luckily for individuals, organisations like the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, and television programmes like the BBC’s upcoming Innovation Nation are correcting the imbalance.’

Mat Hunter, Studio leader, Ideo London

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