Teen scientists transforming projects into business products

Our budding teenage scientists are translating their bright ideas into more and more projects with the potential to become successful businesses.

The number of patents pending from entrants to last January’s BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition has jumped to eight out of 16 applications made to the patents office. It had enquiries relating to more than 30 projects ahead of the event.

“We are certainly seeing a trend for more of a product, innovation or invention-led project from the applications we get. Prior to this, on average we would have seen approximately 12 patent applications and traditionally one or two of these are accepted,” said patents office examiner of patents Dr Fergal Brady.

The surge reflects the growth recorded by organisers in commercially viable projects among the hundreds making it to the annual exhibition in Dublin each January. From analysis of more than 3,000 entries that qualified since 2007, they have seen the numbers with a business potential jump from just 2% of the projects to 15%, or more than one-in-seven.

The trend has resulted in the patents office having staff at the exhibition every year to help students protect and grow their ideas. They are advised to apply for a patent before the event if possible, because once it has been exhibited it is considered to be in the public domain.

“Our presence at the RDS affords us the opportunity to connect with and offer sound intellectual property advice to the inventors and innovators of tomorrow,” Mr Brady said.

Many of the commercially viable entries in the last two years have featured applications for smart phones and other devices, grown from a basic concept through to availability for purchase by consumers.

But entrants are not just focused on developing lucrative inventions and innovations, they are also showing increasing awareness of the issues affecting themselves and their classmates.

Over the last six exhibitions, for example:

* The number of projects relating to mental health has risen from just two to 20;

* There has been a five-fold increase in projects on environmental conservation;

* A similar rise in projects investigating alternative and renewable energy sources.

As organisers encouraged students to start working on projects for next year’s exhibition, with applications due in by Oct 1, it also revealed a growth in entries from many counties. The number of projects qualifying for the exhibition from Kerry rose from two to 15 since 2007, Cork projects chosen topped 100 for the first time this year and Limerick projects exhibiting surged to 29 last January.

BT Ireland chief executive Colm O’Neill said that while it is inevitable that our young people will bear some of the burden of Ireland’s current challenges, there is reason for hope.

“As evidenced by their participation in the exhibition, we have vast numbers of bright young people whose focus is on discovering solutions to our problems, on bettering the economy and society,” he said.


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