Fri, May 11, 2012 - Page 8 News List

Inventors must be encouraged to invent

By Teng Hon-yuan 鄧鴻源

At the 40th International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva last month, Taiwan was the biggest winner for the third consecutive year, breaking the record it set last year by winning 45 gold medals, 52 silver medals, 25 bronze medals and eight special prizes.

Taiwan’s award rate was the world’s highest, and by winning eight special prizes, Taiwan set a new all-time record by winning the most special awards in the exhibition’s 40-year history.

Most of the winning inventions this year were in the energy-saving, carbon-reduction, and “green” power categories. For example, energy-saving lamps, wind-power energy-storing systems and energy-recycling lighting devices all won the jury’s praise.

Among the winners, the youngest was Lee Kun-lin (李昆霖), whose design of a multifunctional disaster prevention and life-support device was inspired by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11 last year. When an earthquake strikes, his multifunctional water bottle can help victims survive for three to six days. Such a device can also be used by mountaineers and hikers when an accident occurs.

Taiwan is a global leader in technological innovations, and these inventors bring many patents and a lot of foreign currency to Taiwan, making a major contribution to the country.

Unfortunately, for many years the government has paid little attention to their great achievements. They do not receive the full support of the Ministry of Education or the National Science Council during the invention process. Nor does the government offer any rewards to grand-prize winners of international invention contests as it does to athletes.

Some of their inventions have been plagiarized by unscrupulous businesspeople. Even if an inventor files a lawsuit when this happens, it usually takes a long time to conclude and is hard to win. This is a disappointment to many inventors.

Because of Taiwan’s lack of natural resources, we have to build our future on creativity and invention. The government is providing NT$50 billion (US$1.7 billion) over five years to big universities for technological and scientific research to improve the nation’s academic standing internationally.

Perhaps it could also allocate a budget to support inventors, so that they could devote themselves wholeheartedly to their inventions without having to worry about money. After all, their contributions to the country are more direct and obvious. Scientists are very important, but aren’t inventors even more important? Furthermore, over the past few years, many professors have applied for funds by fraudulent means, making one wonder what contribution they are making to the nation.

Imagination is required to create inventions, and imagination can be developed through careful observation in daily life. As physicist Albert Einstein said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

Unfortunately, the Ministry of Education has for a long time only focused on imparting knowledge, and as a consequence, most students only know how to follow the rules and stick to established practice instead of being creative, while most teachers only have theoretical knowledge, instead of the ability to be inventive. Rather than encouraging teachers and students to publish papers in international journals, it would seem to be more practical to encourage them to invent.

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