BT launches first National Inventors Day to champion nation’s inventive future


​Day celebrates rich heritage of UK invention Aims to inspire new ‘Generation I’ inventors

Day celebrates rich heritage of UK invention 

Aims to inspire new ‘Generation I’ inventors
BT today launched National Inventors Day to pay tribute to the creativity and pioneering spirit of UK inventors.

To mark the day, it also published the BT British Invention Index, which reveals British perceptions and attitudes towards invention, and recommends ways to inspire the nation’s future inventive thinkers: ‘Generation I’.

The UK has produced some of the most important inventions in history, including the telephone, the television and the jet engine, but we need to make invention and inventive thinking more mainstream and accessible to make sure our nation’s inventive future matches its past. That’s according to 68 per cent of the adults involved in the UK study.

BT’s wide-ranging study, which involved more than 2,000 adults and 1,000 12 to 16 year-olds, uncovered key challenges that need to be tackled to secure Britain’s inventive future. These include:

  • Women are more likely than men to doubt their inventiveness, and girls are more likely than boys to do the same. Over two-thirds of women (69 per cent) say they aren’t inventive, compared with 58 per cent of men. Women are much more likely than men to say they don’t want to be inventive – 29 per cent compared to 18 per cent, respectively.
    • Almost half of girls (49 per cent) say they aren’t inventive, compared with 42 per cent of boys. Boys (21 per cent) are more likely than girls (13 per cent) to want to be inventors when they grow up.
    • As pupils move through secondary school they are less likely to consider themselves inventive thinkers. Although more than half of 12 year-olds (54 per cent) consider themselves inventive people, under a third (32 per cent) of 16 year-olds think the same – just above the adult average of 31 per cent.
    • Only just over half of UK adults (58 per cent) and close to one-third of UK children (32 per cent) can correctly name a British inventor. Alexander Graham Bell was by far the most popular answer, followed by James Dyson, John Logie Baird, James Watt and George Stephenson.
  • To address these issues and help make invention more mainstream and accessible, the report highlights the need to update what it means to be inventive. Among adults, an inventor is perceived as a genius (65 per cent) scientist or engineer (64 per cent), who is hard-working (41 per cent) and male (37 per cent). Amongst kids surveyed, the idea of the male (37 per cent) scientist or engineer (58 per cent) as a typical inventor dominates as well – although geekiness (39 per cent) and a bit of craziness (38 per cent) also apply. Almost two-thirds of children (64 per cent) and nearly half of adults (49 per cent) believe that the most important inventions are made by great scientists, engineers or geniuses.

    Tim Whitley, Managing Director, Research and Innovation at BT said: “As a company with a long history of innovation, BT wants to celebrate inventors past and present – and help bring invention home. That’s why we’ve launched the very first National Inventors Day, and our new report, to raise awareness of the contribution that great British inventors continue to make to society, and to inspire the next generation of inventive thinkers.”

    To help budding inventive pupils to flourish, the report recommends that creativity and inventive thinking should be part of the national school curriculum – a notion supported by over two-thirds (68 per cent) of adults. It also recommends changing perceptions of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects: a fifth of girls (21 per cent) said that making it more socially acceptable for them to do these subjects would encourage them to be more inventive or even become an inventor.
    Nineteen year-old inventor, Amber McCleary, embodies the gender challenge to traditional thinking about what an ‘inventor’ may be. In her sixth-form year she invented Copper Clothing, which has powerful anti-microbial properties and is used by the NHS as a means of controlling dangerous infections, including, potentially, Ebola.

    “I am proof that anyone, from any background, can be a successful inventor with enough perseverance, self-belief and courage,” said Amber, “and I am delighted to be involved in the first National Inventors Day. Whether or not you want to be an inventor, as BT’s study shows, there is a huge appetite amongst adults and kids alike simply for more inventive thinking in their lives. To encourage more young people to think big, be creative and become the inventors of the future, we need to invest in schoolchildren who are hungry for experiences that will develop their inventive capabilities.”

    As part of the National Inventors Day celebrations, today Amber is talking to students at BT Tower in London. BT is hosting a session for the pupils with STEAM Co., an organisation that promotes creativity and inventive thinking in schools by harnessing the creative talents of teachers, parents and other people in local communities, including artists, scientists and engineers.

    On top of launching and promoting National Inventors Day, BT is lead principal sponsor of the Science Museum’s Information Age gallery, which celebrates more than 200 years of innovation in communication and information technologies. BT is committed to supporting schools and the wider community in this important role of inspiring the next generation of inventors. The company delivers a range of school activities using technology such as Bee-Bot robots and Raspberry Pi computers to offer practical ways to encourage creative thinking and invention in the classroom. In Ireland, BT supports the long running BT Young Scientist and Technology exhibition, which helps to nurture the talent of hundreds of future scientists and engineers. The company also supports the Barefoot Computing project, a scheme that develops resources and workshops to help teachers in delivering the new computer science curriculum.

    Other findings of the research include:
    The top five character traits to have to be a successful inventor are creative (70%), problem-solver (69%), determined (64%), curious (62%) and resourceful (61%). Kids (30 per cent) are more likely than adults (22 per cent) to see inventors as cool.
    Highlighting the hunger amongst adults and kids for more inventiveness, the research found that two in five (40 per cent) adults and 34 per cent of children don’t consider themselves inventive people, but want to be.
    Pointing the way towards a better inventive future, 69 per cent of adults agreed that we need a greater focus on inventing for social good, and 71 per cent felt that it’s more important than ever to work together to invent solutions collectively.

    For more news and information on the first National Inventors Day, or BT’s ongoing support and promotion of innovation, visit www.bt.com/ingenious or follow @BTIngenious and #InventorsDay on Twitter.


    Notes to Editors
    To celebrate National Inventors Day, throughout Tuesday 2nd December the BT Tower info band will be displaying the names of the top 10 British inventors named by those who took part in the research.

    BT is committed to recruiting female network and service engineers, as part of its fibre broadband roll out. For more information on apprentice and graduate roles at BT, visit the BT Graduates and BT Apprenticeships sites.

    About the research
    The study’s quantitative research was conducted by independent market researchers, Atomik Research, on a sample of 2,019 men and women, aged 18 to 65+ years old, and 1,002 boys and girls, aged 12 to 16 years old, living in the UK. Field work was undertaken between 14 and 17 October 2014. The research was carried out via an online survey.

    The study also involved qualitative research of a sample of 10 boys and girls, aged 12 to 17 years old, who live in or around London. Field work was undertaken between 23 and 27 October 2014. The research was carried out via extensive paired in-depth interviews.

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