The Matza

The Matza

The modern Israeli is known for inventing the new,

From flash drives, quasichrystals and cherry tomatoes too,

But what most people don’t realize is we learnt this long ago,

From the very beginning, I will have you know,

Clothing to hide nakedness for Adam and Eve,

A novel use of vine leaves I believe,

Noah’s ark the first recorded sailing craft,

Measurements and details for the technically daft,

Going straight from the flood to the Passover story,

Farewell to slavery and hello to freedom and glory,

We are told that matza was born from escaping haste,

But I wonder if it was not intentionally designed for its form and taste,

No complicated rising to make the baking fail,

Easier for transporting when on a dessert trail,

Quicker process, less ingredients and cheaper to make,

Could this be the serendipitous result of a timing mistake?

Or an act of genius, resulting in the prototype cracker,

For a fleeing Israelite or a modern day snacker,

So next time you’re told not to hurry, don’t heed,

‘Cos sometimes for success, speed is just what you need.

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When Necessity Is The Mother Of Invention – Food For Thought

I love hearing about the driving forces behind inventions. Sometimes the reasons are obscure, but many times that force is simply necessity. The following is such an example.

Israel is the home of immigrants from many different countries and cultures, their foods brought with them, adapted and combined with the raw ingredients found locally. Different foods or lack of certain foods define many of the festivals celebrated here.

When you think of the origins of pasta and rice, Israel is not the country which comes to mind. As such, it may be surprising that Israel is the origin of a food which resembles pasta in taste and looks like rice, called ‘Ptitim’. Plato stated that necessity is the mother of all inventions and it appears that such was the driving force behind ptitim. Apparently, in the early years of the State of Israel, there were many immigrants who were used to eating rice. However, rice was expensive and hard to find in Israel. Prime Minister David Ben Gurion turned to Ivgen Propper one of the founders of Osem and requested that he quickly invent a wheat-based substitute for rice.

The result was ptitim made from wheat flour roasted in an oven. Originally, ptitim were made in the shape of rice and were known as Ben-Gurion rice. However, since then ptitim can be found in a variety of shapes, including a version resembling couscous. The advantage of ptitim over rice and pasta is that it is quicker to cook and the large surface area can absorb more sauce. The ptitim are usually cooked by sautéing them and then boiling in water.

I have not been able to find a patent or patent application directed to the original invention, however the product has been a commercial success and is still popular more than six decades later.

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Patenting Hanukkah

This Saturday night is the start of the festival of Hanukkah. Candles of the Menorah (Chanukiyah) are lit each night. When I was a little girl, people generally used a Chanukiyah with the traditional design of a metallic eight branched candelabra construction and a shamash positioned in the middle. However, I used a Chanukiyah constructed by my father from glass valves he used in his work. Ever since, the design of Menorahs has held a special interest for me. Nowadays, it is possible to buy Menorahs of all different shapes and designs, some with innovative technological features. There is even a variety of candles that can be used. Patent protection has been sought for innovative Hanukkah related articles including the Menorah, dreidel and donuts. One might expect design patents directed to the ornamental design of the Menorah, but more surprising are utility patents directed to the Menorah. In this post I would like to bring to your attention some of the utility patents/applications directed to the Menorah.

 

US Patent No. 6,491,516 to Tal et al. is directed to an active Hanukkah candelabrum. The Hanukkiah for carrying combustible candles includes a sense circuit coupled to an output circuit. The output circuit includes at least one of an electronic playback device, an electromechanical device, or a light source device, or a combination thereof. Sense circuit includes a flame-responsive circuit adapted and arranged to respond to a portion of energy emitted by a lit shamash candle of the Hanukkiah, and an RF receiver circuit adapted and arranged to respond to a portion of predetermined RF signal. A dreidel is further provided comprising a rotation-sensitive RF transmitting circuit for generating predetermined RF signals upon spinning of the dreidel. The flame of shamash and/or the spinning of dreidel are adapted to activate output circuit of Hanukkiah to provide entertaining audible and/or visual output.

 

US Patent No. 6,053,622 is directed to a wand activated electronic menorah. The menorah, is controlled by a microprocessor. The Menorah has a LED circuit operably connected to a power supply circuit, and a sensor capable of sending a signal to the microprocessor in response to external stimulus. The microprocessor controls whether a LED of the LED circuit emits light, and is capable of independently controlling a number of LEDs and responding to signals from a number of sensors.

 

US Patent Application, Publication No. 20090135600 is directed to an outdoor Menorah. The menorah contains a horizontal bar having a series of light bulbs disposed therein. A vertical support bar is perpendicularly attached to the horizontal bar and supports the menorah in an upright position. A grounding stake is provided that further supports the menorah and grounds the menorah in the event of a lightning strike.

 

US Patent Application, Publication No. 20100261124 is directed to a Menorah with candles that burn different colored flames. Each candle is configured to sustain a flame for at least 30 minutes and each candle includes exactly one wick. The plurality of candles is placed in the Menorah. A first set of the plurality of candles is configured to burn with a flame of a first color and a second set of the plurality of candles is configured to burn with a flame of a second color that is different from the first color.

 

IL Patent Application, Publication No. IL122323 is directed to a foldable Menorah shield casing. The casing includes a plurality of panels hingedly connected to each other, the panels being foldable to form a box having a base, at least one side wall, a roof and at least one door. The at least one door is transparent and adjoining panels are connected to each other by means of tape placed on opposing faces of the adjoining panels so that the adjoining panels are foldable to lie flat over each other about the hinge.

 

Happy Hanukkah and Seasonal Greetings.

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How Old Is Too Old To Invent?

My previous blog post showed how even the very young can invent important and useful things. Is the same true of the elderly? From at least the examples below, it appears that there is no upper age limit when it comes to innovation and invention.

 

Charles Greeley Abbot, an American astrophysicist and astronomer was a prominent researcher in solar energy. At age 101, he may be the oldest inventor ever to receive a patent.

 

Simon “Si” Ramo, received US Patent No. 8,606,170 at the age of 100 for his computer-based learning invention.

 

George Weiss, aged 84, invented a mobile application Dabble – The Fast Thinking Word Game.

 

N.O. Brantly retired three times. He received US Patent No. 4,534,168 at age 82, directed to an oilfield continuous pressure pump

 

Dr. David Jones, 81 and Noel Poncelet produced a prototype oxygen monitoring system OxymonTM described in US Patent Application publication No. 20060070458. The invention was a result of his experience with his sick wife suffering from COPD, whose oxygen mask slipped off whilst in hospital. The lack of oxygen placed a severe strain on her heart.

 

It seems that creativity and the skills needed for innovation are far from being absent in elderly people. It would be advantageous for society to provide more tools to this age group in order to promote innovation. The problems unique to this age group may be identified, understood better and addressed by those experiencing them. Retired innovators can be exploited as a great source of mentors for younger less experienced entrepreneurs. Retirement does not need to mean the end of a retiree’s technological contribution and in some cases may even mark the beginning.

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How Old Do You Have To Be To Be An Inventor?

Although the business world tends to focus on and cater to entrepreneurs of whom the youngest are school leavers and the oldest below retirement age, there is no limit on the age of an inventor. I often wonder why incubators and centers for innovation are not promoted and established for school children and retirees. The different experiences and problems associated with these age groups combined with the lack of society’s expectations from them can make an interesting breeding ground for innovation and invention.

In this week’s post I am including a few examples of inventions by very young children to illustrate the point I am making. My next post will be directed to inventions by the elderly.

Sam Houghton was three when he invented a new type of broom. Whilst his father swept up garden leaves using two separate brushes, one for the larger leaves and the other for finer debris, Sam asked this father why he was using two brushes. He then tied together the two brooms with an elastic band. In that way his father did not need to switch between the two brushes. The resulting broom can be flipped for different functions. He was granted a UK patent GB2438091.

John J. Stone-Parker was four years old when he observed that when his dad tried to put ice in his drinks, it slipped. His solution was a star shaped device to prevent this happening. He received a US Patent No. 4,842,157.

Eight-year-old Chelsea Lanmon received a US Design Patent No. 343,233 in 1994 for her “pocket diaper,” a diaper that has a pocket that holds a baby wipe and baby powder puff. She thought up the idea when she was five from helping her mum change her brother’s diapers.

Eight-year-old Theresa Thompson and her 9-year-old sister Mary invented a solar tepee in 1960. They called the device a Wigwarm.

It is interesting and perhaps ironic to note that although the inventing was not problematic for these children, the patent application procedure was probably too difficult for them to handle without the help of an older grown-up person.

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Designing Products That People Want

Imagine

You want to make a certain type of product, but you want it to be different and better than other similar products being sold. You have asked yourself the question ‘How can I make this product something that people will want?’ You may have a list of things that you think will make your product great. However, wouldn’t it be advantageous to see what actual potential buyers think. One tip is to look at reviews of similar products, which you can find using a simple computer search. This enables you to see what people who are buying similar products like, do not like and what they really want. By seeing the holes in available products, you can then design your product to overcome the problems and to include the features, which are not available, resulting in products people want to buy.

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Questions Inventors and Innovators Should Ask

“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” – Voltaire

“What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.” -Werner Heisenberg

 

Young children ask questions all the time. Embarrassment and fear of failure does not stop them from asking questions. They are very innovative with solutions. Not having certain materials does not stop them. They use their imagination and find replacements. They are not stuck by the rigid assumptions of the adult world. Why not tap into the child in you when you innovate.

Remember that the answers are the products of your questions. Therefore, innovators should make sure they ask lots of questions. There are no wrong questions. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask questions. Sometimes, a naïve question is what’s needed to make a disruptive change. Ask questions to yourself as well as to others. Fundamental questions such as WHAT? WHAT IF? WHY? WHY NOT? HOW? WHICH? WHO? WHERE? AND WHEN? may lead to fundamental answers and fundamental invention.

 

For more on the importance of the questions you may want to read the enlightening article by Eric E. Vogt, Juanita Brown and David Isaacs ‘The Art Of Powerful Questions Catalyzing Insight, Innovation and Action, which can be found at the following link:

http://www.nonformalii.ro/uploads/resurse/fisiere/ArtofAskingPowerfulQuestions.pdf

 

 

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How To Get $50,000 Funding – Tnufa

Tnufa* is a grant under the auspices of the former Office of the Chief Scientist (National Authority For Technological Innovation, NATI  ). It supports innovative technological ventures of Israeli individual entrepreneurs and startups at a very early stage of the business. An objective of the Tnufa fund is to promote the technological project to a stage where it can raise funding from potential investors, enabling the continued later stage development of the product.

Tnufa provides a grant of up to 85% of approved expenses with a maximum of about $50,000 for each project. The money received is meant for specific purposes, such as building prototypes, patent protection, market research, feasibility testing and creating a business plan.

The application and selection process includes filling in comprehensive application forms and interviews. Important criteria for selection include the experience and skills of the entrepreneur/s, market potential of the product and novelty.

If you are an entrepreneur who does not have any funds, or does not want to risk their own capital, or give up equity, Tnufa may be a good choice for you. However, you should also be aware of possible drawbacks. You may want to consider the possible advantages and disadvantages of Tnufa. These may include those I have listed below.

 

Advantages

  1. The recipient company only needs to pay the money back if it succeeds.
  2. Tnufa does not take equity from the company.
  3. You can continue working in your regular job, until VC funding is raised.
  4. Receipt of the grant is a show of faith in your venture by a government body.
  5. After the period of the Tnufa grant has finished, a recipient can apply to other R&D programs of the OCS (NATI). This usually may not be done the other way round. (See my blog post Technology Incubators In Israel ).
  6. There is a similar vetting process for incubators and therefore Tnufa acceptance may increase chances of being accepted to these other programs.
  7. Being a recipient of Tnufa may encourages other investors.
  8. Tnufa may offer assistance in locating strategic partners and investors.

 

Disadvantages

  1. The Tnufa grant may be subject to the terms of the Industry Research and Development Encouragement Statute.**
  2. There may be restrictions and fining of transfer of the technology and IP outside of Israel.**

For more information regarding Tnufa click here.

 

*Please note that this not meant as a legal opinion and the information should be checked regarding your individual situation.

** See an article by Ofer Granot of Herzog Fox & Neeman relating to NATI and draft regulations http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=e7ffe471-2c89-418c-9e5e-9422cb75edf7

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Technology Incubators In Israel