People tend to fall into two categories when it comes to the contents of their fridge: those that pay absolutely no attention to food labels, preferring the ‘smell test’, and those who throw things out the moment the use by date instructs them to. The maverick smell-testers and the wary food-wasters. Neither approaches can be wholly commended, but there’s a very real cost to the over cautious.
While even supermarket executives admit that they don’t pay much attention to use-by-dates themselves, it’s reported that a disgusting 15 million tonnes of food is wasted every year, much of it by supermarkets.
Use-by-dates are designed more to protect supermarkets from lawsuits than really give an accurate indication of when food will spoil. Any invention that can give consumers a better idea of when food is actually off could save individual households hundreds of pounds a year and bring relief to some abused stomachs.
Sloveiga Pakstaite, 22, was working on a project to develop a life-improving product for the visually impaired as part of her industrial design and engineering degree. Luckily she was quick to recognise the universal merit of her innovation. The product itself, called Bump Mark, is a victory of lateral thinking: a bio-reactive label tab placed on the food package, the idea being that the active ingredient, gelatine, will spoil at the same rate as protein-based foods such as milk, meat and cheese. The gelatine – the concentration of which is adjusted to match the food within – will go lumpy at the same time that the gelatine in the food decays, allowing the consumer to actually feel when the food is bad.
If smooth, the consumer can be confident that the food is fine to eat, but if the tab feels bumpy or uneven, proceed with caution. The smell-testers may be saved from dodgy leftovers and the food-wasters can stop slinging perfectly good food away. Dyson have awarded Pakstaite £2,000 for further development of the product in anticipation of the international stage of the Dyson award. And she is looking to get the Bump Mark patented and brought to the market place.
The transition between the lab and the market can be a difficult one. Many inventors who begin their own SME’s on the back of a good idea will have to spend a lot of their own money testing and prototyping before they even have a sniff of interest from a solid investor.RIFT Research & Development dedicate their time to ensuring businesses centred on a unique solution get the tax relief that they are entitled to. This can be in the form of a cash injection back into the business or relief against future tax bills, and RIFT are successful in helping a variety of UK business claim what they are due from the Government. It isn't all lab coats and microscopes, there’s a wide variety of industries involved in qualifying R&D. New ideas are at the heart of it.
And the Bump Mark just goes to show that it isn't always the grandest of problems that inspires interesting, marketable ideas, and those with the potential to have a positive impact on the future.
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