Trevor Baylis, former stuntman, water escapologist, swimming pool salesman and the inventor of the clockwork radio, is encouraging more children to get involved in engineering this weekend.
He tells Emma Pinch why everyone has an invention in them...
Imagine walking through Woolworths on a Saturday morning. There, amongst the crockery and pastry-brushes, nestles the kitchen gadget you invented. It makes opening tricky cartons a breeze.
Your brain is doing dizzy calculations. It costs #4.99, it?s selling at a rate of 5,000 a week...
While you should be feeling breathless and excited, your stomach is churning uncomfortably. You want to run away.
?It?s the worst feeling in the world,? said inventor Trevor Baylis. ?You have an idea, you haven?t done anything about it then a couple of months or years later you see it in a shop.
?Anyone who has ever solved a problem can be an inventor, because that?s all it is. But most people don?t know instinctively what to do after they?ve had that idea.?
It is the reason Mr Baylis set up Baylis Brands, a one stop shop for budding inventors. Currently helping 1,000 clients, patent lawyers will first check if anyone else has bagged the idea, then the company will help develop and market it and only take a fee on production.
Of course many have been thought of before - especially if it centres on a common everyday application.
?I had an idea the other day,? said Mr Baylis, who lives on Eel Pie Island near Twickenham. ?It was as simple as this. I?m of an age where if you?ve got a mobile phone it?s sometimes difficult to read without glasses.
?I thought it would be easy to take a prism like a lens and flip it over on the mobile phone so you can read it without getting you glasses out.? Excitedly, he got lawyers to perform a search. ?Guess what, it was done in 2003, someone in the US had filed for a patent. But we say great minds think alike and I haven?t lost out.?
But many British ideas are original and great potential money spinners for the inventor - and UK plc, said Mr Baylis. According to him it is high time inventors lost the tag ?eccentric? and were nurtured as assets.
?We Brits have got an amazing talent for inventing but we are appalling at bringing them to the market place and some foreign conglomerate will come along and take it from you,? said Mr Baylis. ?You are surrounded by spivs and crooks and venture capitalists.
?The most valuable asset this country now has is its knowledge. If you have a brilliant idea it?s of benefit to UK plc. It?s an essential part of the economy.?
Baylis?s own passion for invention was born out of tragic circumstances. During the war, aged six or so, he and his pals would collect rubbish for sixpence a week. They would separate the litter into metal, paper, rubber and cloth and take it to the air raid warden.
?I was asked to go to this house to collect the rubbish and the woman of the house said: ?you will need a wheel-barrow, I?ve put metal in it and it is heavy?. I struggled out with it, had a look and it was a Mecchano set so I took it home and it all started from there.
?I later found out that dear lady had just lost her 22-year-old son, he was a spitfire pilot and had been shot down.?
Mr Baylis?s personal life has been as individualistic as his varied career.
Ten weeks ago he had an operation to remove part of his small intestine because of Crohn?s Disease, and he is regaining the three stone he lost.
He never married, he said, because childhood mumps left him ?firing blanks?. His great love, a woman he met while working in a circus as young man, subsequently turned his marriage proposal down.
For the past 30 years he has shared his life with two women, frequently taking them out one on each arm.
?At 68 no-one can say I haven?t had a life,? he said. ?It hasn?t been pedestrian or boring. Some people in Twickenham put their suits on and sit in front of a computer all day long, and look at their watch because there?s an important meeting about the toilets.
?I?ve always said follow your heart. I think I?ve done that.?
* Trevor Baylis is at the Imagineering Fair at the Town & Country Festival at Stoneleigh Park near Coventry. It runs from August 27-29 2005 from 9.00am-5.00pm.