Glad Avurudu tidings for inventors
Have a formula; will sell? This is the eternal cry of fledging inventors who have an idea and hope it would be translated into a commercial product for the benefit of society.
For many years Sri Lankans have churned out idea after idea but apart from winning world recognition, these ideas turned into innovative products have merely entered the dustbin of history.
Some years ago, when former President Chandrika Kumaratunga was the Chief Minister of the Western Province, she asked the then CISIR (now Institute of Information Technology and the place for ideas, creations and inventions) for some information on the creative products that they have developed. “Alas,” she later told a presidential gathering at the National Awards for Inventors, there was no response from the CISIR. The point she made at that time was that Sri Lanka produces a wealth of ideas, some of it on paper; some of it in the form of a model but little is done thereafter. The CISIR in particular probably has developed research to solve many of the country’s economic ills and take the nation to a developed status. But scientists are either not savvy in turning this into the real thing or merely treat it as just research done for exactly that purpose. On the other hand, scores of inventors have produced models and prototypes from ideas, won awards locally and internationally but couldn’t translate them into a lucrative commercial product.
This has been a nagging problem in the field of ideas, research and creation. A well known example is Kothala Humbutu, the medicinal plant, which was spirited by foreigners, patented and used as their own product. Likewise there are scores of other Sri Lankan plants that have been perfected into medicinal products.
Sri Lankans are generous with ideas – we generate ideas and creations only to find others running away with the fruits of our labour! In the 1960-70s, inventors and creators like Ray Wijewardene and A.N.S. Kulasinghe spearheaded the drive towards producing energy efficient vehicles. Kulasinghe, who founded NERD (a research and development unit at Ekale), created many things including cars that can run on coconut husk!
Unfortunately all these became mere creations and didn’t translate into commercial products while the west is now turning environmentally-friendly cars when Sri Lanka was probably ahead of the race. Not surprising however, as we seem to miss the bus at every step of our development even after taking the lead!
Government authorities have now finally woken up from a deep slumber of developing ideas and models to help a society progress, and have launched a scheme that would, hopefully, turn these products into commercially viable ones.
The Sri Lanka Inventors Commission should be applauded for the plan, as reported in the earlier page, of helping inventors with financial and other resources to turn their creations into commercial products.
If a proper scheme is formulated with ‘genuine’ support from the private sector, it bodes well for the econony and the society at large. But there should be some safeguards also to ensure that the ideas of the inventors are not stolen by some sections of the private sector if there is a realisation that a ‘killing’ (lot of money) could be made from a particular product.
Thus it looks like a good Avurudu for Sri Lanka’s talented inventors and budding ones. On the flip side however, the Avurudu for the average Sri Lankan is not be as rosy as in previous years.
A review of the prices over the past year shows that most of the food items and the raw material used to make them for traditional New Year festivities have soared. Red rice has increased by 77 percent from April last year; White rice by 100 percent; Mysore Dhall by 85 percent; Sugar by 16 percent; Red Onions by 65 percent; Coconut oil by 114 percent; eggs by 14 percent; milk powder by 75 percent; green chillies by 272 percent, and so on.
One consumer said only betel prices have come down thus helping to preserve the tradition of offering betel leaves to parents and the elders. Elsewhere it’s going to be a mixed Avurudu for many.