As an island, it is generally felt that Britain had a head start on Innovation. We designed and developed products out of need and led the Industrial Revolution. It wasn’t difficult therefore for BBC 2 to come up with 50 Great British Inventions for their Genius of Invention season.

I am sure every individual would choose their own special Inventions but here are the top five chosen by our young Work Experience student Sam Thompson:

1. The Electric Telegraph
This was invented by Charles Wheatstone and William Cooke in 1837 and the first fully operational telegraph ran in 1839 from Paddington to West Drayton Railway Stations in London. Morse Code made it efficient and in 1858 the first transatlantic cable was laid and by the end of the century, there were more than 150,000 miles of cable connecting the globe.

2. The Steam Turbine
After the invention of the electrical motor which transforms rotation into electrical power, the next step was to find a device to drive it. Piston engines vibrated too violently and then Charles Parson invented the steam turbine making the gaps between the blades very small so that the steam would accelerate through the turbine and turn it quicker. Three-quarters of the world’s power stations still use steam to operate.

3. Sewage System
There are very few creations that we use every day hardly ever thinking about it but that is exactly what sewers are and the largest and most forward-thinking sewage system in the world was created by Joseph Bazalgette in 1865 in London. The existing, smelly and unhealthy system pumped sewage into the Thames – Bazalgette’s sewer was pumped miles away into the sea. The London sewage system measures 80miles and is still operating today.

4. Passenger Railway
Coming from a very poor background, illiterate until 18, it is remarkable how George Stephenson rose from a night school student whilst working at a colliery to invent not only steam engines that could actually run on tracks but the first locomotive without horsepower and eventually the first regular passenger-carrying railway. This was the Stockton and Darlington and the first intercity railway was between Liverpool and Manchester. Stephenson’s system of train coupling became the European standard and his chosen gauge or distance between the two rails of 4ft 81/2 in (1.435m) became the world’s standard gauge.

5. Telephone
A number of people could have invented the telephone but it was Edinburgh born Alexander Graham Bell who patented it first in 1876. The telephone came about thanks to the discovery that a thin metal sheet vibrating in an electromagnetic field produces an electrical waveform that corresponds to the vibration and can be acoustically reproduced. Following a simple call to the room next door, the first long distance call over ten miles was made in Canada a month later. The rest, as they say, is history as the telephone has had numerous evolutions over the years.

New products and services can be very valuable to a business and being first to market is usually a good thing BUT we aren’t all inventors and sometimes we need a helping hand to come up with new ideas.

If you or your team need a helping hand come along to the BIC’s next workshop looking at Innovation and Ideas Generation – we might be able to help you come up with the next generation of products for your business as we can’t afford to stand still!

Profit from Innovation – 26 September 2108
8 – 10 am Sutherland Institute, Longton, Stoke on Trent