An artificial intelligence-driven toaster that gets the perfect level of brownness each time, a device to humanely remove flying insects from a room, and a sensor that tells you when a nappy needs changing. These were just three of the new things created by UK based inventors last year.
A Guardian analysis of patent applications listed by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) found 6,087 patent applications published with at least one UK-based inventor listed in 2021.
Cambridge was the most inventive area in the UK with 146 invention applications listed for every 100,000 residents.
Those included a coffee making apparatus, invented by resident Willam Playford, which is still yet to be examined by the IPO. The machine – a modification of an earlier design – is a brewer with a pressure valve and a cooling chamber that allows coffee to be brewed at the desired espresso temperature.
After Cambridge, the area with the most applications per capita in 2021 was South Cambridgeshire, with 105 for each 100,000 residents. That was followed by Three Rivers in Hertfordshire (86), Spelthorne in Surrey (70) and Westminster, London (69).
Most patents across the country related to highly esoteric, technical or scientific devices and methods. However, many of the applications were for tools that could be used by everyday consumers.
These included an application for an AI-controlled toaster invented by Philip Davies of Southsea, Portsmouth.
“I was one of these people that just got really annoyed when the toast popped up too early. I’d put it down again, then forget about it and it would come up black,” he told the Guardian.
His application – which is currently pending – aims to “provide a system that can consistently toast bread products to the desired level of browning”, using a neural network trained on thousands of images of toasted bread taken directly through the toaster. Despite initial interest from Dualit, Sage Appliances and Kenwood, the device is yet to come to market.
“I’ve forgotten what burnt toast is. It just hasn’t happened,” he said.
“I think I’ve got the best toaster in the world at the moment and we’ve had it for a few years – I’m just a bit frustrated that other people don’t have a similar one!”
Peter Foster, from Hickling in Norfolk, invented a device that promises a more hygenic and humane way of ridding rooms of flies. The device – which was granted a patent by the IPO – consists of an air amplifier with an entrance and exit, and insect attracting means such as a UV light placed near the entrance.
It promised “a new approach” which “keeps our indoor spaces as free from flying insects as is reasonably practicable without replacing them with cadavers, and without any moral unease.”
Mohamad Yasser Al Aioubi and Syed Ejazul Huq from Oxfordshire were listed as the joint inventors of a “sensing device for a nappy”. Their inventionwhich is currently in order for a grant, promises to help carers and nappy wearers by removing the need for manual nappy checks throughout the day, by attaching a sensing device that can check for nappy fullness.
Some of the inventions have featured on Dragons’ Den. Tristan Holbrook from Kinross had his patent for a gas-flushing toilet granted by the IPO – however he failed to secure any investment for his “Bubble Bog” from the dragons.
Other patent applications included to device to stop rodents moving along pipes, a method to stop ballet dancers’ feet from slipping in their shoes, a satellite-linked cigarette substitute that allows you to track how much you vape, and a shock necklace to stop dogs fighting each other.
The figures show that the pandemic was still influencing some UK inventors. Six applications mentioned “face mask” in the title, two mentioned “social distancing” and 13 mentioned “ventilation”.
Crypto was also popular, with 26 applications from UK based inventors mentioning the word “blockchain” – the technology behind digital currencies including bitcoin and Etherium.
35% of the 6,087 UK based patent applications had been granted, while fewer than 1% had been terminated before grant. The rest were still going through the grant process at the time of writing.