Bunhill: Cutting edge

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INVENTORS have always found it tough to finance their dreams. The high street banks are more cautious than ever, and most venture capital companies can't be bothered with investments of less than pounds 250,000.

However, wealthy individuals are increasingly interested in taking a punt on a start-up business, according to Hamish Stevenson, editor of Venture Capital Report. 'Things are improving. We've added a net 20 'angels' to our subscriber list in each of the last three months.'

One angel has invested pounds 30,000 in developing the ultimate summer consumer durable, the robot lawnmower. The gadget, pictured below, negotiates flower beds, ponds and moggies, using a system of ultrasound beacons planted at the edge of the lawn.

The inventor Gareth Edwards is busy improving the prototype. 'It's wandering around our factory, but still a bit groggy,' he told me last week from Kimpton, Herts. He is convinced the Sunday garden chore will soon be a thing of the past: 'No one will be mowing lawns in 10 years' time.'

Alas, promising talks with a European manufacturer have fallen through. And Edwards, 41, who heads the CAT Systems electronics company, is again seeking a partner to make the rechargeable battery-run robots.

Let's hope history doesn't repeat itself. In the 1970s, Edwards worked for EMI developing medical body scanners - machines that have since made hundreds of millions of pounds for the Japanese and Americans, but barely a penny for British companies.

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