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The treatment of innovation is a national disgrace (why I took my invention overseas)


Every now and then we receive an unsolicited plea by a concerned reader with a passionate view to share. Today, Don E. Morgan, the inventor of the cone-head™ liner for helmets shares his experiences and views on innovation in Australia.

The appalling treatment of inventors and innovation by governments and politicians in this country is a national disgrace.

The federal government can spend something like 2.6 billion dollars on a disastrous program putting Pink Batts insulation in Australian homes but fail to help Australian inventors and innovation.

As the inventor of the cone-head™ liner for helmets, which won the 2007 Invention of the Year award on the ABC’s New Inventors program and in 2009 was voted top 10 in Australian Anthill’s Smart 100 innovations, I have been a little more fortunate in my endeavours than other inventors and innovators.

That’s not to say that things have been easy.

I did receive a small grant in 2000 from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB). Yet, that has been the only financial support that I have received from Australian government programs or Australian companies.

Instead, I was forced to take my innovation offshore.

When funding is hard to find

As it was, the small grant money that I gratefully received was not enough to cover the basic research costs.

I put in nearly twice as much money of my own to scientifically prove that the new shock absorbing cone-head™ foam liner was superior in absorbing an impact force when compared with current hard foam liners found in motorcycle and bicycle helmets.

You’d think, once you had proven something scientifically worthy and superior it would be all downhill from that point – but that wasn’t the case.

I spent another three to four years desperately trying to obtain funding from governments and get a manufacturer interested. On three occasions, I applied for the Queensland Government Innovation Start-Up Scheme (ISUS) and each time I was unsuccessful.

The third rejection was the lowest point in my journey as an inventor. This was the time when Peter Beattie was the premier of Queensland and had the view of making Queensland the ‘smart state’ of Australia. However, while happy to pour billions of dollars into biotechnology, the State Government’s interest did not seem to extend to clever inventions/innovations.

So, in desperation, I took my invention overseas and licensed it to a major helmet manufacturer based in Hong Kong.

The process of scientifically proving my invention and my struggle to find a suitable overseas manufacturer cost me and my family hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The actual development and manufacturing of a cone-head™ helmet would have cost me millions of dollars, which was beyond my means. The fact I couldn’t receive government support or industry support in Australia left me no choice but to license the cone-head™ design to a major overseas helmet manufacturer.

We must stop the innovation drain

Ideally, if I had been given support by the government or industry to start up a company, then the development, manufacturing and marketing of the helmet would have been controlled here in Australia, instead of all being lost to an overseas manufacturer.

The first helmet manufactured with the cone-head™ design is already selling overseas in Europe, USA and Canada (under the brand name Kali Protectives) and within weeks it will be imported into Australia. The helmet using the cone-head™ design has already won two major prizes in Germany and the United States.

Recently, other desperate inventors have been approaching me, asking for my advice about how to take their inventions overseas to be developed and manufactured. All the inventors have the same complaint: the lack of support from Government and big business.

Australia is currently in the grips of an innovation drain.

Both the federal and state governments are guilty of this deplorable treatment of inventors. In simple terms, they don’t seem to care two hoots about innovation if it is not related to big business.

In the meantime, Australian jobs, wealth and intellectual property are being forced overseas by inept, shallow and short-sighted governments and politicians who don’t deserve to be there representing Australians who want to make a difference.

The senseless wastage of Australian smart inventions and innovation to overseas must stop now.

Don E. Morgan is a physicist, inventor, educator and motivational speaker. He is a consultant in crash investigation, product development and manufacturing in China and Taiwan, as well as a member of the Australian Institute of Physics (M.A.I.P.).

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