The First Invention Show

The first invention show can trace back to the first World Expo, the Great Exhibition, which took place in London in 1851. Before the World Expo, showcasing new inventions was more like a press release and not widespread, let alone collaboration. The concept of showcasing innovations at the World Expo caught on and is still practiced today to highlight each participating nation’s technological advancements.

Crystal Palace Interior

The Great Exhibition 1851: Crystal Palace Interior (Source: Wikipedia)

Modern Invention Show

After years of progress, the method of communication has progressed from surface mail & pigeons to airmail & telegram. Traveling becomes normal and hazardless. The population of innovators has also grown exponentially over the decades. The contribution of innovators to industrialization and the economy can no longer be ignored. So the World Expo is unable to meet the market demands.

Invention-related shows start appearing in the European imperial powers in the early 19th century to showcase their advancements and an arena for innovators to best each other. This is the period sometimes known as the Big Bang of Innovation. The things we took for granted today, from electricity to aircraft, were mostly invented during this period. The longest-running known edition is Concours Lépine in Paris, founded in 1901 by the Prefect of Police Louis Lépine. Concours Lépine is into its 122nd edition in May 2023.

The first modern invention shows can trace back to the early 60s or 70s in European countries. Besides showcasing the host nation’s inventions and innovations, it also invites international partners to showcase their inventions, to increase collaboration and commercialization. It is also a fundraising platform for innovators before the startup hype. The tradition of awarding medals to the exhibitors during the Great Exhibition is also kept as a form of encouragement to the innovators.

TeamSG @ IPITEx 2023 (Source: IDEA)

Singapore's First Invention Show

The first invention show in Singapore can be dated back to the 70s, said Dr. Husein Hujic. He was one of the Yugoslavian delegates back then. It was probably initiated by Dr. Toh Chin Chye when he was the Minister for Science and Technology. The last invention show organized by Singapore that Dr. Husein attended was in 1980 because Singapore’s Ministry of Science and Technology was abolished in April 1981.

So the invention show is not new to Singaporeans. Just forgotten.

Many countries’ officials still sing praises about the invention shows in Singapore and hope for its return. That is one tall order we are trying to fulfill.