Design in Britain: Coming up with the goods

From chocolate to needle-free syringes, each Millennium Product encapsulates a specific aspect of innovative British design. By Nonie Niesewand

For many, it will come as a delight to discover that the brave new world opening up at the Dome will feature British inventions that are having a global impact. Nowhere else will you be able to take such a wide-ranging look at the achievements of our creative industries - advertising, architecture, fashion, music and industry.

Good designers look at everyday things with new eyes and work out how they can be made better. They challenge existing technology. The Millennium Products which sport the swooshing logo of the Design Council vary from the titanium Rolls Royce Trent engine that will lighten loads on the wide- bodied planes of the future, to Norman Foster's E66 wind-powered electric generator (built on the aerodynamic lines of the albatross), to Reuters' charity website which gets help and action to disaster zones.

The Lotus Elise demonstrates why Britain is still at the forefront of motorsport because, as David Williams of Williams Grand Prix engineering says, "We produce extremely versatile designers, engineers, craftsmen and management - free-thinking people who like to work with minimal restraint and get involved in all areas."

Inventiveness has traditionally been one of the UK's great strengths, and if you take scientific research as a yardstick, the picture is still bright. "We are only about one per cent of the world's population yet the UK carries out 5.5 per cent of the world's research effort," Michael Bichard, permanent secretary at the Department for Education and Employment points out.

Scale models and photographs of buildings by British architects demonstrate the truth of Norman Foster's observation in Time magazine: "Since Stonehenge, architects have been at the cutting edge of technology. And you can't separate technology from the humanistic and spiritual content of a building."

Millennium Products will be showcased around the world in trade shows, exhibitions, expos and at British embassies. In addition, all Millennium Products will be represented at the Millennium experience in Greenwich, both inside the dome and in the Design Council's "Spiral of Innovation" outside. A web-based programme of activities called Sharing Innovation is also in the process of being developed for schools, businesses and colleges.

The Foreign Secretary's cabinet in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is also getting a reshuffle to display a selection of Millennium Products. When Robin Cook moved in two years ago, he cleared out the Hansards stacked in the handsome 19th-century walnut cabinet and used it as a showcase for designer playthings. A banana-shaped underwater camera designed by Seymour Powell made in Japan for Minolta, Pet Shop Boys' orange bubble CD cover, and a Fisher-Price childrens' camera that digitises images to print out instantly on fax paper were some of the products to engage visiting dignitaries.

Now the Foreign Secretary is changing his collection over to a selection of Millennium Products. The Design Council only accepts submissions from businesses that are registered in the UK or which are identifiable units of the British economy, with their own employees and distinct products. And, according to the rules, "businesses must own the intellectual property of the product or service being submitted". So the world's largest airport, Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok, designed by Norman Foster, is on display.

Green, recyclable, and a tad earnest - frivolity won't do for heads of state - Robin Cook's choices will come under scrutiny for their entertainment value as well as their export drive. Anything embarrassing is out. The condom for those allergic to rubber, and the breast pump (both Millennium Products) are unsuitable. Nor would Robin Cook easily pass the time of day chatting about Cyberlife Technology (cyber creatures with characteristics ranging from physical appearance to sex, which learn from their computer environment and pass on what they have learned to new improved generations of themselves). Artificial life technology has application in computer simulations and robotics but it may be a little out of place on display in the Foreign Office cabinet.

Products that improve life, save life and that make the future more secure are a safer bet on a world stage awash with new products. So the Intraject syringe, the Oxfam stackable water carrier and that Foster-designed Chek Lap Kok airport are much more diplomatic choices.

Hong Kong's Chep Lap Kok airport, by Foster and Partners with Mott Consortium: one of the few man-made buildings visible from space.

Electric Paper, by TDI Advertising Ltd: electric paper makes the panels on the side of buses light up as advertising billboards. Luminous chemicals that coat the paper are activated by a mild current, turning posters into light boxes.

Intraject Needle Free Injector, by Weston Medical Ltd: healthcare staff are injured by needles more than anything else. The world's first pre-filled, disposable, needle-free syringe injects using pressurised gas.

Remarkable Recycled Pencils by Remarkable Pencils Ltd: a pencil that writes and sharpens like an ordinary pencil, but which is made from recycled polystyrene cups. Companies collect vending-machine cups, then buy them back as pencils.

Divine, by the Day Chocolate Company: an example of what is meant by a millennium service, Divine Chocolate gives the producer a chance at profit sharing. Cocoa beans bought from small-scale Ghanaian cocoa farmers, who own a stake in the Day Chocolate Company, produce chocolates that are marketed all over the world.

Oxfam Stackable Water Carrier, by CORE Plastics Ltd: designed to meet the needs of famine relief, 180 of these durable, stackable, lightweight water buckets occupy the space of 40 Jerry cans. Road-tested in Botswana.

Hot Springs, by Bisque Ltd: traditional radiators stand about in rooms looking awkward. Paul Priestman designed these energy-efficient loops of warm tube like slinky coils to have a presence in a room.

Gecko Marine Safety Helmet, by Gecko Headgear: until now speedboat racers had to wear motorcyclists' helmets. The Gecko helmet's close-fitting shell protects the neck against high-speed impact with the water. Also used by lifeboat crews.

Electric Violins, Cellos and Double Basses, by Bridge Musical Instruments Ltd: these instruments won't buckle under the heat of stage lights - they're made from Kevlar, a substance that can be moulded into startling violins.

Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
Life and Style
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

    C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

    £60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

    Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

    £75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

    Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

    £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice