Commercial paradigm brings inventors down to earth

Apr 22, 2010 by Alix Rijckaert

Inventors are often perceived as eccentric, original thinkers inspired by dreams: but many of the 700 inventors at an international fair in Geneva showed skill, pragmatism and good business sense.

"I can have an idea anytime, anywhere, when I wake up or in a restaurant. There's no rule, ideas come without warning," 53 year-old Mircea Tudor explained.

But that inspiration has translated into the company he runs in his native Romania, which employs 75 people and expects to generate a 20-million-dollar turnover this year.

Last year he won first prize at the International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva, with a mobile truck scanner he designed to speed up and ease customs checks at borders. It is now marketed as far away as India.

"I invent during the night, when I'm alone and I have left the office," Tudor told AFP.

"During the day there are always daily problems that need to be managed, it's not simple running a business with 75 employees."

Impeccably turned out in a sharp suit, Tudor is a far cry from the scruffy old image of Professor Branestawm made popular by children's books decades ago -- or the temperamental Professor Calculus in Tintin comics.

Tudor said he had always been a something of a problem solver.

But his brand of thinking was honed as a qualified engineer on Romanian railways from the 1980s, when he maintained Western equipment imported behind the Iron Curtain in a bid to keep the trains running.

"It was still the communist period, we didn't have access to technical information or spare parts," he explained.

"I was obliged to invent in order to replace the original parts that were no longer available, that was my formative period as an , a good training ground."

In the early 1990s, Tudor set up his own company and he developed his first invention by 1995.

Now equipped with cutting edge laboratories, the firm makes its own .

"Inventors are no better endowed with qualifications than others," said David Taji, president of the jury at the inventor's fair.

"But the majority have a practical mind and are handy, and many are self-taught."

Claude Fournier, a former army engineer, was displaying his first patented invention in Geneva, a lightweight shopping trolley that can be slung over the shoulder when folded.

"An inventor is someone who dreams a little, but who likes to follow through to the end and turn his ideas into something concrete," the 67-year-old explained.

"This isn't high tech, but it has a practical side, I invented it by trying to imagine how I could provide some relief for elderly people who go shopping in big cities."

"Making a useful invention, that's the most satisfying thing," he added.

Nevertheless, he said, along the way inventors would often have to make a patent application, set up a company, find suppliers and cope with "quite a few" hurdles.

He ploughed his life savings into his new venture and is pinning his hopes on finding a foreign producer in order to at least recoup his costs.

French engineer Janick Simeray said inventors had to master several jobs at once in order to make a living.

"You need to very well versed in technical and legal matters and have reasonable knowledge of the commercial and marketing side," he explained.

Simeray has patented 120 inventions and reinvests his profits in research. This year he was displaying an electromagnetic plinth that can levitate small household objects.

Explore further: Google building fleet of package-delivering drones

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Inventors float novelties at Geneva fair

Apr 21, 2010

A French invention that levitates objects is one of the star attractions of the inventors fair in Geneva, which opened on Wednesday, alongside new fangled bottle openers and shopping trolleys.

Economic crisis drives the mothers of invention

Apr 04, 2009

Crisis is the mother of invention, if one believes the bright sparks behind the gizmos, contraptions, novelties and potions at the international inventions exhibition in the Swiss city of Geneva.

Inventors inducted into Hall of Fame '06

May 08, 2006

Helium-neon laser inventor Ali Javan and Internet founders Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame over the weekend.

Recommended for you

China's Alibaba plans IPO for week of September 8

13 hours ago

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba plans to hold its initial public offering on the US stock market the week of September 8, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Tablet sales slow as PCs find footing

13 hours ago

Tablets won't eclipse personal computers as fast as once thought, according to studies by market tracker International Data Corporation (IDC).

Startups offer banking for smartphone users

13 hours ago

The latest banks are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Startups, such as Moven and Simple, offer banking that's designed specifically for smartphones, enabling users to track their spending on the go. Some things ...

FIXD tells car drivers via smartphone what is wrong

Aug 29, 2014

A key source of anxiety while driving solo, when even a bothersome back-seat driver's comments would have made you listen: the "check engine" light is on but you do not feel, smell or see anything wrong. ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

kasen
not rated yet Apr 22, 2010
Combining two or more separate technological items is what people seem to call invention and innovation these days. Take my co-national above for instance. He didn't invent the scanner, and he sure as hell didn't invent the car, but sticking them together made him the most original "inventor" at an international fair and possibly a millionaire.