We sat down with the AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassadors while they were in Washington D.C. for the AAAS Annual Meeting. We spoke to each about the importance of invention, the impact of their work, and what it has been like to be an Invention Ambassador. We continue our recaps of those conversations with inspirational words from Stephen Key about the passion for invention he tries to awaken in everyone he works with.
Everything only works with inventors. We need to teach more people how to be inventive. From young kids to old veterans, anyone can be an inventor.
Stephen Key is the co-founder of inventRight, a best selling author and motivated inventor. Holding 21 patents and intent on inspiring the next generation of inventors, Stephen is an active member of the invention community. He is passionate about helping inventors realize the potential of licensing and helping others succeed to make the world a better place.
How have your inventions made the world a better place?
I started inventing in the toy industry, and that led to inventing in the packaging industry. I found that there was never enough space on those small container labels for important information such as drug facts, warnings, or dosage, so I invented a new type of label to convey more information. Spinformation is essentially a double label where the top label spins around the container and reveals what is printed on the base label through a clear window. My label invention delivered more content so that consumers could get the right information. It was featured on products ranging from Disney to Nescafe Coffee.
I’m working on a new packaging innovation now. I’m focusing on those plastic rings that you see on six packs on beverages because they’re terrible for the environment. To help get rid of them, we have a new invention that’s completely biodegradable called Fishbone Packaging. It’s much healthier for the environment, and does the exact same task as the plastic packaging, so essentially it’s good for everyone.
How are you currently sharing your knowledge?
I’m very proud to be able to share my knowledge of some of the things you should and shouldn’t do regarding getting people’s inventions off the ground.
I have a company called inventRight that educates creative people, inventors, product developers – anybody who has an idea – on how to commercialize and market those ideas through licensing. This is a little different than a start-up. At a start-up you have to establish yourself; you need to have a business plan, find your funding, generate your marketing, but what we’re teaching inventors to do is to rent or license their idea to an established company so they can be brought to market much more efficiently. It’s a beautiful partnership, and I think it’s important that more and more inventors realize that licensing is an option.
I’m proud that inventors from more than 60 countries have studied my 10 step process for licensing, and that I’m currently working with universities around the world to make sure their students know about this alternative too.
Of course having the AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassador program is wonderful, because we’re sharing knowledge around the world to help inventors. The program is shining a light on invention across all industries, and we should, because no one is doing that at the moment. No one is looking at these inventions that are changing the world except the Invention Ambassadors and I’m excited to be part of that.
Why is it important to you to be able to share your knowledge of invention?
When I first started out I didn’t have anyone who was going to guide me, so I made a lot of mistakes that I’ve come to realize most inventors make. I’m excited to able to share some of my knowledge so the next person, the next inventor, doesn’t stumble as much. Commercializing an invention is not easy and it takes some time, so we all need a little guidance.
Plus, the big benefit for me and for other inventors to share our knowledge is that we can provide that roadmap so those young inventors can create great products, great services, things that the world needs today. So for us to be there kind of pushing them along, giving a little bit of guidance and a helping hand is a wonderful experience. I really believe that it’s extremely important for us, as a species, to be innovative, and any way I can help with that, I will.
What has inspired you most while being a AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassador?
This program has changed the way I look at inventing. I’ve met some wonderful inventors who are using some spectacular innovation to change the world. It’s a great group of people who have the same mission of making the world a better place. The program has opened my eyes to how I can help contribute to others’ pursuits as well.
What’s wonderful about the ambassadors is that I have gotten to meet some amazing individuals that are changing the world with their inventions – and why? Because they love it. It’s not a financial thing, it’s more of a calling. They’re from all fields, all industries and they are all dedicated to making the world a better place. Participating in this group of like-minded people coming together and sharing ideas has been incredibly inspiring.