Millennium cash sought to fund pounds 8m inventors' centre

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The Independent Online
A group of British businessmen is trying to raise money for a national centre to help inventors commercialise their inventions.

Inventors have for decades bemoaned the fact that Britain consistently fails to commercialise its intellectual discoveries. Televisions, microwave ovens, digital watches, pocket calculators and computers were all developed in Britain, but are predominantly made abroad.

The proposed centre is aimed at helping people with technical ideas put them into practice in the United Kingdom rather than see them commercialised by foreign competitors. Trevor Baylis, one of the scheme's backers and inventor of a clockwork radio for developing countries, said: "Inventors need a safe haven where they can explain their ideas and they won't get laughed at."

A proposal for the centre, put forward by the Intellectual Property Development Confederation - a "club" of about 350 inventors, has been sent to the Millennium Commission.

The backers are seeking pounds 4m from the commission, which distributes cash from the National Lottery, and a further pounds 4m from the private sector. Nottingham Trent University has agreed to contribute money to the centre and may provide some land.

The centre will be expected to function along strictly commercial lines. Inventors with interesting but uncommercial ideas, such as new and innovative ways of boiling water or making toast, are likely to be refused funding.

Andy Scott, director of the manufacturing industry section of the Confederation of British Industry, said the centre "could play a role" in revitalising the UK's business culture. "They're right in identifying a problem, that's for sure, but what the UK has been doing for the last few years is to put in place a series of business centres across the country to serve as the first port of call," Mr Scott said.

The Business Link centres are designed to help entrepreneurs put their ideas into practice. Help is provided with developing business plans, securing funding and finding premises. There are currently about 150 centres in Britain with plans for a further 50.

A spokesman for the Institute of Inventors, welcomed the idea of a National Innovation Centre. He said it was a good idea, but feared that "because it's a good idea, it won't get millennium funding ..."