Tuesday, 10 May 2011

David Wilks Leeds Inventors Group 20th April 2011

David began his talk with an interesting quote:- “It was Inventors who dragged humanity from the caves and only inventors can prevent our return.” David is managing director of Varyflush Ltd which makes water saving devices. He demonstrated two of them – Interflush and Saver-Siphon, both of which are patented and the names protected by trade marks.

The background to this, of course, is global warming and water shortages which are set to become critical in the coming years. However, as David pointed out, these crises are still in the future and many people spend little time thinking about them. Saving money, on the other hand, is something that everyone is focussed on. Interflush and Saver-Siphon do that.

Households account for 52% of all water use and toilet flushing accounts for most of this. Much of this use for flushing is unnecessary. The Varyflush systems reduce this waste, saving water and significant amounts of money. You only flush the water you need rather than the full cistern. He listed several organisations and councils which have saved large amounts by installing the system.

David feels that the main obstacle to people changing to a more efficient system is simply that they have “always done it this way”. The fact that companies jump on the “green” bandwagon for commercial purposes and customers then become jaded with the subject also doesn’t help. He also feels that replacing leaking valves is an industry in itself which means less incentive for a more efficient system. He questioned whether selling water is more important than saving it.

Another difficulty which he has found in promoting his inventions are the usual toilet jokes. This he came across particularly during his appearances on ‘Dragons Den’ (though after his second visit he was offered a deal which he turned down). He sees it as part of the experience which many inventors go through: ridicule – attack – acceptance.

David manufactures his products himself. It was because he couldn’t afford the tooling to begin with that he developed the retrofit kit first. Many inventions fail at the tooling stage because of the cost. It’s now 16 years since he first had the idea and it’s just starting to make money.

He decided against licensing the products. He explained that one difficulty with licensing is that the licensees may not have the same drive to make the product a success as the inventor. In a difficult market would they promote the product with the same enthusiasm?

Interestingly David described how patent searches carried out by Business & Patent Information Services in the early stages of his product development were critical in enabling him to overcome a number of difficulties when determining the patentability of his products.