Wanted: Filipino innovators and inventors

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This year, the James Dyson Award is opening its doors to Filipinos inventors. The brief: find a problem and solve it through design engineering. Photo by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Daily life for most Filipinos is rife with frustrations, whether you’re stuck in traffic for hours on end, combating the blistering heat, or dealing with long queues and inefficient service. On a particularly bad day, one might dream up ideas to solve their biggest frustrations.

Though for most of us these thoughts are simply daydreams and rants on social media, there are people who dig in, get their hands dirty, and try to get to the root of the problem. These are the kinds of people that the James Dyson Foundation are looking for.

The James Dyson Foundation is a charity that seeks to encourage young engineers and inventors to pursue a career in design engineering. One of their core programs is the James Dyson Awards (JDA). It has only one brief: Find a problem and solve it through design engineering.

“We embrace frustrations. We do not accept things as they are. We find our frustrations and we find different ways to solve the problem,” says Thomas Ting at the press launch of the James Dyson Award at the newest Dyson Demo at The Podium. Ting is a design engineer at Dyson who facilitates engineering workshops for the James Dyson Foundation in Singapore.

_DSF4489.jpg 2011 finalist Esther Wang demonstrates the invention she entered into the competition at the Dyson Demo store. Photo courtesy of DYSON

Photo-11.jpg Wang's invention, Rabbit Ray, is a communication tool for hospital staff to explain the process of blood taking and IV drips to children. It is currently being used in 15 countries. Photo by JL JAVIER

The JDA has been held annually for 14 years, yet it is only this year that it will include entries from the Philippines. Entries will first be judged on a national level, where winners will receive £2,000 (approximately ₱140,000). Twenty finalists from all over the world will be selected by a panel of engineers. Two international runners up will receive £5,000 (approximately ₱350,000), while the winner will receive £30,000 (₱2 million) and £5,000 for their university.

The prize money helps winners set up and commercialize their ideas, but previous finalist Esther Wang says that one of the biggest benefits of joining the competition is that it trains you to think globally.

“I think as an inventor or engineer, you go back to the drawing board and keep reiterating,” says Wang, who spent four years developing her product. “But [after the competition], you enter with a global mindset. Because it's very easy for students and for young graduates to just look and think of the local market.”

Photo-14.jpg “You need to put yourself in the shoes of the users," says Wang when asked to offer advice to aspiring young designers hoping to enter the competition. "Design and engineering are important, but you have to have a sense of empathy that will guide your inventive direction.” Photo by JL JAVIER

Rabbit Ray, Wang’s invention and entry to the competition, is a communications tool for hospital staff to explain the process of blood taking and IV drips to children. It is currently used across 15 countries.

Ting says there’s also one massive intangible benefit to joining: The media exposure. “James Dyson Award is followed by many of the world's international media outlets. And to be honest, the kind of coverage you get from the JDA is worth a lot more than the prize money you would get.”

Wang, who was a Global Top 15 finalist in 2011, has gone on to be recognized as a Forbes 30 under 30, Healthcare and Sciences Feature Honoree in 2018.

For aspiring young design engineers hoping to enter the competition, Wang has some valuable advice: have a good sense of empathy. “You need to put yourself in the shoes of the users. Design and engineering are important, but you have to have a sense of empathy that will guide your inventive direction.”

Meanwhile, Ting is confident that Filipino inventors will do well in the competition. “[The Philippines] is one of the more densely populated countries in Southeast Asia. So there's definitely a lot of problems to solve, a lot of opportunities to showcase the Filipino spirit to the world.”

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The James Dyson Award is accepting entries until July 20, 2018. Candidates can enter through an online application, as well as find more details about the competition, on the James Dyson Award website.