• Switzerland's news in English

'Camel cooler' among inventions fair novelties

Jonathan Fowler/AFP · 3 Apr 2014, 11:16

Published: 03 Apr 2014 11:16 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

"I'm the only Chadian with five patented inventions to his name," Oumar Ayoumbaye said proudly, before pitching his low-tech, camel-borne air conditioning unit which he says could revolutionize desert life.

"It's an extra flat aircon unit that's energy independent," Ayoumbaye told AFP.

"It's destined for nomads or tourists who travel by camel, or even by elephant," the inventor said.

"On top of that, it helps go easy on the water, because it keeps the camel's hump cool," he said.

"And when a camel has a cool hump, it can go for 17 days without a drink".

Tucked in amongst corporate and university research staff at the International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva, lone players like Ayoumbaye are what gives the annual show its character.

"I would say that the best inventions are those created by people who in fact are active in another field," said Jean-Luc Vincent, the fair's founder.

"They bring a fresh, new, original approach,"

Billed as the biggest showcase of its kind worldwide, the event's 42nd edition kicked off on Wednesday and runs until Sunday.

It has drawn a record 790 exhibitors from 45 countries.

The inventions, all of which must be patented to go on show, range from the never-knew-you-needed-it to ultra-practical, and span the spectrum from low-tech to super sophisticated.

For those in the innovation business, Geneva is a potential goldmine.

Breakout successes from past editions include above-stage displays to translate operas, mobile scanners for shipping containers, and inflatable neck pillows for travellers.

The hunt for investors

Exhibitors pay an event fee of up to 1,200 francs ($1,360).

That can be a good investment if the fair helps them make the leap to market by sealing a licensing contract — industrialists and distributors feature heavily among the 60,000 visitors.

Nearly half of inventions on show at previous editions have found a licensee, and the total value of licences negotiated last year topped 55 million francs, organisers said.

According to Vincent, the fast pace of innovation now incites companies to buy inventions rather than develop them in-house as they hunt for the next big thing.

And globalization means companies interested in an idea may no longer be on an inventor's doorstop, but in fact on the other side of the planet.

With innovation a weathervane of the shifting centre of the global economy, over half of Geneva's exhibitors now hail from Asia and the Middle East.

Most of the rest are from Europe, and just a handful from Africa.

In a twist of fate, Ayoumbaye's invention can be traced back to a savage beating by thieves.

He was taken to Saudi Arabia for treatment.

Gazing at an air conditioner from his hospital bed, he dreamed of ways to keep cool while on the move back in his arid homeland.

The solution was inspired by traditional clay containers that allow water to seep out, creating humidity and cooling the air, which is spread by a simple windmill-driven fan but could also be solar-powered.

"There are no greenhouse gases from this," said Ayoumbaye, maintaining that once he finds investors "this could be on the market within four months."

His other inventions include a cracker for soapberry tree nuts — an ultra-hard source of cooking oil in northern Africa — as well as a simple mechanical hand for the disabled and a cooker with a safety lock.

'It changed my life'

Story continues below…

The passion that drives inventors was clear at the fair.

In the case of Frenchwoman Francoise Goubron, the seed was planted when she survived breast cancer in 2007 and bone cancer in 2011.

"I lost my hair, and there I was in the south of France, in a wig," she told AFP.

"It was 35 degrees Celsius in the shade, and my scalp was dripping."

From that experience was born her "Clim'Hair", a skullcap made of organic cotton which, when discreetly moistened in a cafe bathroom and worn under a wig, keeps the head cool for up to six hours.

"When you have chemotherapy, you spend eight hairless months," the 59-year-old said.

"This is something that's stupidly simple, but it changed my life."

Another inventor from Goubron's generation was Spaniard Domingo Cifo, 64, a former B-team midfielder with Catalan football powerhouses Barcelona.

His idea for effort-increasing detachable weights on training shoes — which he called PowerInstep — came during treatment after a career-ending injury three decades ago.

"I kept putting it aside, but now I've retired I think it's the right time to do this," Cifo told AFP.

The Geneva fair also helps youngsters cut their teeth.

A group from 101 Middle School in Beijing showed off their "Intelligent New Green Plant Louver Curtain" —  a combination of window-blind, air purifier and plant feature.

"Pollution is very high, so we wanted to help our country to have better, cleaner air, without the high costs of machines," said Li Peize, 12.

"We invented it at school over around three months," he said.

"The other students went home and we'd stay into the evenings to get it right."

Jonathan Fowler/AFP (news@thelocal.ch )

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Swiss woman wins headscarf court battle
Photo: Jack Guez / AFP file picture

A Swiss court has ruled against a company that fired a longtime employee after she began wearing the Muslim headscarf, marking one of the first such rulings in Switzerland, media reported Sunday.

Montreux throws hat in Olympic rings
Could Montreux host the 2026 Games? Photo: Ivo Scholz/Swiss Tourism

Montreux is to put itself forward as the host city for the 2026 winter Olympics as part of a potential bid by the cantons of Valais and Vaud.

Geneva car share scheme could help reduce city traffic
Catch a Car is aimed at short hops within a city. Photo: Catch a Car

Catch a Car, already in Basel, launches in Geneva next month.

Swiss women will ‘work for free’ for the rest of year
Female employees in Switzerland earn 19.3 percent less than their male colleagues. File photo: Randy Kashka

Switzerland's gender pay gap means from today, Friday October 21st, women in the country will effectively be working for free for the rest of 2016.

Swiss luxury watches stolen in Paris raid
Police outside the Girard-Perregaux watch store on Thursday. Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP

The 10 Girard-Perregaux watches are worth half a million euros in total.

Brother-in-law arrested over murder of Swiss teacher
The victim worked in a school in Stabio, near the town of Mendrisio. Photo: Oliver Graf

The primary school teacher was found dead in Ticino earlier this week.

Inside Switzerland’s largest nuclear bunker – 40 years on
Designed to house 20,000 people, the bunker was built in and over two motorway tunnels. Photo: Unterirdisch Ueberleben

The Local takes a tour of the Sonnenberg bunker in Lucerne, opened 40 years ago at the height of the Cold War.

Ten Swiss ski resorts named most expensive in Europe
File photo: Renato Bagattini/Swiss Tourism

Skiers in Switzerland pay the highest prices for their ski passes of anywhere in Europe, according to research.

Eco group fights Bern over wind farm plans
There are currently more than 30 wind farms in Switzerland. Photo: Alpiq

Wind turbines are “gigantic and destructive” machines, says Paysage Libre Suisse.

Vegan wins battle to be accepted by Swiss army
Antoni Da Campo will now carry out his military service. Photo: Antoni Da Campo

A Swiss man who was told he would not be accepted for military service because of his strict veganism has finally succeeded in making the army change its mind.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Photo: Richard Juilliard/AFP
Man makes Geneva airport bomb threat ‘for a joke’
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Photo: AFP
Solar Impulse team reveals plans for unmanned plane
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Swiss to vote on passport rules for 3rd gen foreigners
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Photo: AFP
Swiss wingsuit hotspot Lauterbrunnen won’t impose ban
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Six reasons Switzerland isn’t as boring as you might think
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Report: Switzerland one of world’s best places for girls
Photo: The Local
Thief returns Swiss cow bells worth thousands
File photo: Wikimedia Commons
One in three rapists isn’t locked up: statistics
Photo: activistin.ch
Tampon-tax protest turns Zurich fountains red
Photo: AFP
Geneva police to lift ban on bearded officers
Photo: Marcel Gillieron/AFP
Suicide chef’s restaurant keeps Michelin stars
Photo: Lara de Salis
11 things the Swiss get tired of hearing abroad
Photo:  Ivo Scholz/Swiss-image.ch
Survey: expats in Switzerland have money but few friends
Photo: AFP
Swiss press criticize Bern’s 'capitulation' on immigration
Photo: Jura Trois Lacs tourism
German ex-policeman is Swiss city’s new hermit
Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl
Ticino votes to favour local workers over foreigners
Photo: file
Some deodorants could cause breast cancer: Swiss study
Photo: Royal Savoy
In pictures: Inside the latest Swiss luxury hotel
Photo: AFP
Geneva airport bomb hoaxer faces 90,000-franc bill
Photo: Schaffhausen police
Mother leaves toddler son alone in car to go clubbing
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Swiss populist attacked by knife-wielding pensioner
Photo: File
Bern argues over passports for 3rd generation foreigners
Photo: Broad Bean Media
Muslim pupils must shake hands – ‘no ifs and buts’
jobs available