Inventors gather to show off new ideas

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MORE THAN 250 of the nation's keenest inventors gather in Birmingham today, hopeful of turning their ideas into commercial success.

Among the ideas on show are a shopping trolley that can be manoeuvred with one hand, a chess game for three players and a toothbrush with built-in flossing unit.

Malcolm Cook, on whose instigation the Great British Innovation and Inventions Fair has been set up, said that Britain is wasting its innovative talent. 'We have some marvellous ideas but those need to be developed. Inventors need exposure, they need to meet people with marketing abilities and potential investors.'

The new shopping trolley, on show today for the first time, was designed by John Grantham, a helicopter pilot. It can be pushed with one hand, but is primarily designed to be easy to steer.

It has a lever close to the handle which stops the front wheels from swivelling. In aisles the trolley is used as normal. At corners, the steering unit is brought into play by locking the front wheels facing forward. This prevents them from swivelling the trolley away from the direction it is being pushed in, requiring a 'push-pull action from the hip', which Mr Grantham says makes trolley pushing troublesome. The project is being supported by Safeway. A spokeswoman said the company was 'very excited' by the design and will be encouraging people to test-drive it at the fair. If the reaction is good they may appear in shops this year.

The chess game for three has the same rules as conventional chess, its inventor Kaj Rasmussen said yesterday. The board has 96 instead of the usual 64 squares, and these are distorted into bendy oblongs. Mr Rasmussen is seeking a manufacturer and backer, and charging pounds 90 for the 10 chess sets he has had handmade so far.

The toothbrush with built- in floss was designed by a dentist, Naresh Gathani, who is further down the development line. He has spent more than pounds 100,000 on the project and expects to have his 'Routeene' toothbrush in shops in three months' time at pounds 2.39 each.

The idea is that people brush their teeth then turn the brush round and floss with the unit at the other end. The floss is a hollow fibre made of resin and is reusable. 'It's a revolutionary concept, yet I could raise no interest from British manufacturers at all when I went to them with my initial idea three years ago.'

Mr Cook said exhibitions generally charge so much for stands that individual inventors cannot afford to attend. He is charging pounds 150, and a pounds 10 entrance fee for visitors. More than 2,000 people have already registered for the fair. Mr Cook said the event could have included double the number of inventors if he had had enough money to publicise it further.

(Photograph omitted)