Here at the Museum we recently appointed a new Inventor in Residence Mark Champkins. Now you may recognise Mark from his appearance on the popular TV show Dragon’s Den where he battled it out in the den to secure backing from Peter Jones for his company Concentrate.
Mark will be spending two years at the museum helping support our exhibitions and galleries and taking inspiration form the objects to help design new products and inventions.
We sat down and had a chat with Mark to learn a little bit more about what he’s up to.
What inspired you to become an inventor?
I had a brilliantly creative childhood. I’m one of three brothers with quite an eccentric Dad, and we used to make go-karts, peg-guns, dens, aerial runways, and all sorts of daft contraptions. My Mum also ran a business from home making Jack-in-the-Boxes, and then computer dust-covers, and my brothers and I were regularly part of the production line. When I look back we were always hacking things together, bodging up ideas and trying to create things which we thought would be fun. I ended up studying design at school, and it was the only lesson that didn’t feel like work, so I knew I wanted to design things for a living!
What is your favourite invention ever?
I think for its pure usefulness in everyday life, especially when I was younger, sellotape is my favourite invention ever.
What invention could you not live without?
I don’t think I could work or be inspired nearly as regularly or effectively without the internet. It’s a cliché to talk about how much it has transformed the world, but it really has opened up the exchange of ideas and information in a way that even 20 years ago, would have been unimaginable.
Which object in the museum is the most inspirational or influenced your time here so far?
I am constantly noticing new and fascinating inventions in the Museum. I was in the Making of the Modern World gallery and it occurred to me that it contains a collection of the most influential artefacts in human history - and they are the actual items.
The tool that Jenner used to do the first ever vaccination. A sample of the very patch of penicillin that led Fleming to develop antibiotics. The actual Rocket, the very first train. All of these changed the world.
The latest I have noticed is the first ever Davy Miners lamp. It’s a simple, elegant solution to a problem that was well identified and was causing hundreds of deaths a year. Humphry Davy figured out a safe way to make lamps that used naked flames, but did not ignite the flammable dust and gases often present in mines. Using a fine mesh he tested and refined his lamp until it proved a safe solution for miners to light their work underground.
Keep an eye on this blog and follow Mark on Twitter to find out how he is getting on in the Museum and how you could get involved in his inventions in the future