Are you an innovative Great Briton?

If you have an idea for a product or service that’s different to anything else, the Great Britons competition could help you to make it a reality
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The Independent Online

The Great Britons judges are looking for talented individuals and groups who demonstrate the values associated with the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, and who strive to be the best in their chosen field, whatever that field is. The six categories are art and design, music, fashion, performing arts, community, and innovation.

If, like Oliver Blackwell (see below), you’ve come up with an invention or innovation, whatever it is and whatever stage you’re at, whether you’ve just thought of it or spent years developing it, this is your chance to move your idea forward. Only those who are determined, competitive and courageous enough to follow their dreams and who have a burning desire to visit a place that could advance their career will win.

“British Airways’ Great Britons programme is a fantastic way to find and nurture the talent of the future,” says Seb Coe, the chair of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. “It gives people of all ages and abilities the chance to fulfil their dreams.”

The Great Britons competition is open to every Briton aged 16 and over who lives in Britain and needs support to develop their talent. The winners get free flights to British Airways destinations and the use of its luxury Executive Club lounges, plus a winner’s pack, which includes a camcorder for recording their amazing journey.

There are few journeys more amazing than Denise Lewis’s sporting one. Lewis was a gold medallist in the heptathlon at the Sydney 2000 Games, despite damaging her Achilles tendon just 12 weeks before and having her leg strapped up for most of that time.

“Before the injury, I was in the shape of my life,” she says. “Sydney felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I worked very hard for it.”

These days, Lewis is an ambassador for sport and one of the Great Britons judges. “I got involved in Great Britons because I know what it takes to have a passion, and to need someone’s support and help to realise your dream. It’s important that an iconic brand like British Airways is doing something to draw out people’s passions and inspire them. Everyone deserves an opportunity to be the best they can.”

INNOVATION: WashDryIron, by Oliver Blackwell

WashDryIron, invented by Oliver Blackwell, 27, is the world’s first drumless washing machine that irons clothes. “The product was developed to overcome the hassle of ironing,” says Blackwell. “I realised that clothes go on and off in the bedroom, and yet travel all around the house to be processed, so why not wash and dry them in the wardrobe?

“The WashDryIron principle relies on the washing process not spinning the clothes and therefore not putting creases in them. You fill the machine’s tank with detergent, and then the correct amount of detergent is dispensed each wash cycle. Not only does this produce the best washing results, it also uses the correct amount of detergent and so eliminates waste. Dirty garments go in on a hanger and come out clean, crease-free and ready to wear.”

As for how the machine will be used, he says: “It was always designed for domestic use, to supplement a drum washing machine – tests show the average household can save five days of ironing time a year by using it – but it also has many applications in industry, hotels and the medical sector. WashDryIron was designed to be as friendly to the environment as it is to the user. Individual wash chambers share water and electricity, so, for example, the water from a rinse programme is used for the pre-wash for heavily soiled garments. The less water used, the less energy required.”

Blackwell, who was The Daily Mail Concept Designer of the Year in 2005, has built more than 1,000 prototypes of WashDryIron in the past few years, and although the science works the prototype has to be reformed to make it commercially viable. To do this, he needs to visit two businesses in New Zealand – a manufacturer of component parts and a large commercial laundry – to see their machinery working and to talk to the operators and engineers. The information he needs can’t be obtained by phone or email, so he has applied for Great Britons flights to help him on his way.

In the meantime, he’s developing new products, including Revolution Ball (, which will be in the shops shortly. He says: “My products are about making observations, understanding what people need and developing innovative solutions.”