The highlight of the scientific calendar has arrived! The Ig ® Nobel prize nominations are out, and there are some choice awards this year.

Of particular note is this years ‘Safety Engineering Prize’ awarded to:

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A brilliant invention, truly noteworthy in this era of international terrorism. The IgNobel committee have also kindly provided us with a patent number (US 3811643) with which we can further investigate the patent on the US Patent and Trademark Office’s website. The question we should be asking ourselves is, if this technology has been available since 1972, then why have these trap doors not been installed on all aircraft?

Judging by the date of the patent, it would seem plausible that the hijacker-packaging system was conceived in response to the highly publicized plane-jacking attributed to the mysterious ‘D. B. Cooper’. Given that this crime has never been solved, nor the real identity of the plane-jacker ever verified, it beggars belief that airlines didn’t take up the opportunity to install such a safety measure on their aircraft.

Practicality, as ever, presumably led to the commercial downfall of the hijacker-packaging system. But Mr Pizzo’s inventions goes to show that innovation can spring from many sources.

On a similar note, the winner of the UK round of the Dyson Award has been announced. The ‘Renewable Wave Power generator’ seeks to overcome the current shortcomings of current tidal power generators, which are hampered by the unpredictable nature of ocean waves.

In these autumn months, it becomes more apparent that solar power might have somewhat limited prospects in the UK as a renewable energy source. After all, given that we ‘enjoy’ such miserable weather in this country, we may as well make the most of it.

Prizes such as the Dyson Award are just one way in which innovation is rewarded in the UK. The commercial benefits of research and development cannot be understated. It is therefore promising that the government is keen on promoting British innovation as part of their ongoing efforts to stimulate the economy, with schemes such as the Patent Box as a means of encouraging creative thinking.