Britain - The Innovation Nation 13 Nov 2015
~~Earlier this year the BVCA held a summit celebrating the innovative nature of Britain and it got me thinking… hasn’t this always been the case? A little bit of research confirmed this for me. As scientific method advanced throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the rate of innovation and discovery increased driven by the need to solve practical problems. The English patent system began to evolve from its medieval origins into the first modern patent system that recognised intellectual property in order to stimulate invention. This was the legal foundation upon which the Industrial Revolution emerged.
The Industrial Revolution (1760 – 1840) saw advances towards incandescent light by Hunphrey Davy and James Bowman Lindsay developed the first working lightbulb in 1835. Between 1840 and 1870 there was a second Industrial Revolution which saw innovation in steam transport as well as the increase in use of machinery in steam powered factories.
Medicine began to professionalise and physicians sought new tools. Francis Rynd was the first to use a hollow needle for injections and 9 years later the English physician, Alexander Wood developed a medical hypodermic syringe with a needle fine enough to perforate the skin in 1853.
Alexander Graham Bell was granted a patent for a design of a telephone in 1876 in America. John Logie Baird first demonstrated the television in 1924 and Frank Whittle patented a jet engine for aircraft in 1930.
Cat’s Eyes for road marking were invented in the UK in 1933 by Percy Shaw and went on to be adopted around the world. Cat’s Eyes were voted the greatest invention of the twentieth century.
More technological advancement was inspired by the Second World War – Alan Turing’s decryption device in 1939, the Colossus computer, the world’s first electronic digital programmable computer in 1943.
The ATM was invented in 1967, DNA profiling discovered by Sir Alec Jeffreys at the University of Leicestser in 1984.
In 1989 Sir Tim Berners-Lee wrote a proposal for what would become the World Wide Web, in 1990 he specificed HTML the language used to create pages and HTTP the protocol for data communication on the web.
That’s a quick whistle through some of the great inventions of British history and there are many more I could have mentioned – the thermos flask, collapsible buggy, the toothbrush, automatic kettle and the chocolate bar to name just a few… We continue to innovate with advancements in the sharing economy, app development etc; we are truly an Innovation Nation.