Bright Kiwis urged to reinvent themselves

TRANQUILISER GUN: Timaru's Colin Murdoch was studying the himalayan tahr (a sort of wild goat/antelope) when he thought they might be easier to examine if they were caught. Murdoch was a pharmacist and vet, and after teaching himself how to fix and modify guns he came up with something in the 1950s that would safely put an animal to sleep.
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TRANQUILISER GUN: Timaru's Colin Murdoch was studying the himalayan tahr (a sort of wild goat/antelope) when he thought they might be easier to examine if they were caught. Murdoch was a pharmacist and vet, and after teaching himself how to fix and modify guns he came up with something in the 1950s that would safely put an animal to sleep.
JANDALS: Who invented the jandal is still up for debate. Morris Yock and John Cowie are both given credit depending on who you talk to,  but there's no doubt it's a kiwi icon. Yock said he was inspired by a businessman he had seen in Japan wearing traditional sandals and began manufacturing the rubber footwear in his garage in 1957. He patented it too. But the family of Cowie claim he started making a version in the late 1940s.
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JANDALS: Who invented the jandal is still up for debate. Morris Yock and John Cowie are both given credit depending on who you talk to, but there's no doubt it's a kiwi icon. Yock said he was inspired by a businessman he had seen in Japan wearing traditional sandals and began manufacturing the rubber footwear in his garage in 1957. He patented it too. But the family of Cowie claim he started making a version in the late 1940s.
REF'S WHISTLE: It was Kiwi referee William Harrington Atack who first thought to use a whistle to control a game of rugby. Tired of yelling at players, it occurred to Atack during a Canterbury match in 1884 that his dog whistle might come in handy.
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REF'S WHISTLE: It was Kiwi referee William Harrington Atack who first thought to use a whistle to control a game of rugby. Tired of yelling at players, it occurred to Atack during a Canterbury match in 1884 that his dog whistle might come in handy.

New Zealand needs to wake up its ideas on innovation or face being left behind, the co-author of a new book on Kiwi ingenuity says.

Comedian Jon Bridges, who co- authored No. 8 Re-Wired with David Downs, said our DIY traditions could be holding us back.

"We're not coming up with stuff. The things you need to do these days to be inventive are different from what they used to be.

BIONIC LEGS: Robert Irving, and Richard Little, pictured, sketched out their first idea for bionic legs on the back of a beer mat about 2003. Irving was initially inspired by his mother, who had multiple sclerosis.
From the book "No. 8 Re-wired" by Jon Bridges and David Downs.
BIONIC LEGS: Robert Irving, and Richard Little, pictured, sketched out their first idea for bionic legs on the back of a beer mat about 2003. Irving was initially inspired by his mother, who had multiple sclerosis.

"It used to be a guy in a shed thinking differently and challenging authority and making something new - you've got to do more than that these days."

As a country we filed far fewer patents than countries of a similar size, and were making less money from innovation in technology than our peers, Bridges said.

"We think of ourselves as an inventive country and we're celebrating it with this book, but we could be doing a lot better."

BREAST PROTECTOR: Ces Richie, Wynn Martin and Max Rutherford made a fibreglass chest protector, which led to a range of revolutionary bras now sold in more than 50 countries.
BREAST PROTECTOR: Ces Richie, Wynn Martin and Max Rutherford made a fibreglass chest protector, which led to a range of revolutionary bras now sold in more than 50 countries.

Investment in research and development was crucial, but New Zealand also needed to start celebrating its scientists.

"We're not culturally valuing science and research, and because of that we're not putting our money where our mouth is."

No. 8 Re-Wired covers everything from the domestication of deer to the invention of bionic legs, and Bridges said it contained both inspiration and "cautionary tales" of inventors who neglected to patent their work and missed out on billion-dollar industries.

THERMETTE: "The stronger the wind, the better it boils" inventor John Hart said of his Thermette, from 1929.
THERMETTE: "The stronger the wind, the better it boils" inventor John Hart said of his Thermette, from 1929.

New Zealand could be leading the way, he said, pointing to Kiwi companies such as PowerbyProxi, which was working on wireless power, and LanzaTech, which turned waste into power.

"We could be the centre of this revolution. That's a bit of a blue-sky dream, but these guys are doing it the way it should be done - with research, and IP [intellectual property], and careful collaboration around the world."

The Dominion Post