Innovation is a very broad word, what do you make of it?
Based purely on the dictionary definition, innovation means; “make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.” However, where I think the focus should be is on the word invention; creating something completely new from which you can then innovate from. The excitement for me as an engineer lies within that moment when you have found a way to do something better, or uncovered a completely new approach to an everyday problem that no one else has explored before. Constant questioning of the status quo and looking for new ways to do things can be a lengthy process, but it is a vital part of what we do as engineers and designers. Invention is scary, challenging but also unrivalled in its limits. For all future James Dyson Award applicants, I encourage you to focus on invention. Be curious about finding an entirely new solution to a problem, rather than improving what is already out there. Turn convention on its head, as that will uncover the greatest engineering surprises.
How far do you think an idea and an invention are from each other?
This really is a question without limits! It also touches on one of the most exciting aspects of being an engineer – the design process. A time where all kinds of different approaches are uncovered. Testing your idea, creating prototypes, collating feedback and iterating your design following learnings are all crucial stages that, for the very transformative inventions in our world, take a lot of time and thought. More often than not, this process uncovers a web of engineering opportunities to explore. It’s not a linear process but a chasm where unthought-of possibilities can arise. Your final invention may be far from what your initial idea focused on. But that is fine, the key is to not be afraid of failure. Failure helps us as engineers to learn and ultimately create better and more powerful inventions in the long-term. Adopting this mind-set is really the response, it shouldn’t matter how long it takes you to get somewhere, just as long as you have taken the correct path to get there in the end. The James Dyson Award (JDA) is a great platform for young designers worldwide to start exploring the design process and its complexities.