12:00-12:30 Awesome South African Inventions

Presenter: Prof Mike Bruton, Mike Bruton Imagineering


Mike Bruton, scientist, science educator and imagineer, challenges African scientists and technologists to be disruptive and to reject the status quo. He argues that science is, and always will be, ‘work in progress’, and that the most significant advances are made, not when we stand on the shoulders of giants, but when we kick their feet out from under them. Using examples from his latest book, ‘What a Great Idea! Awesome South African Inventions’, he argues that Africa is the ‘Bright Continent’ as our scientists and technologists have made a disproportionate number of great discoveries and inventions. He further argues that every innovation needs to have three ingredients: an understanding of society’s needs, a novel idea that addresses those needs, and the will power to take the idea to fruition. He proposes a set of character traits that all innovative scientists and technologists should have, and encourages our innovators to consider deep questions, such as, ‘Will my invention reduce inequalities and soften our environmental impact?’ or ‘Is rampant industrialisation and globalisation the only way to go?’ Although they are in the minority, innovators in all spheres of life are the backbone of a country’s economic development and it is no exaggeration to say that the overall health of the economy depends on the extent of their involvement.

Prof Mike Bruton Imagineering
Mike Bruton originally practised as a fish scientist, working extensively in the field in southern Africa and the Middle East. His approach to his work is encapsulated in the title of his autobiography, ‘When I was a Fish’, on the basis that, if you want to understand a fish, then you must become a fish. He introduced many innovative techniques into his field work and, later, as Director of the Ichthyology Institute in Grahamstown, created an environment in which creativity and innovation were nurtured among his scientific staff. Later, he developed a series of interactive science centres in South Africa and the Middle East whose role was to demystify science and technology and make it accessible to the public. He also developed a travelling exhibition on South African inventions which lead to the publication of a book, ‘Great South African Inventions’ (2010) and, in November 2017, to a more comprehensive book, ‘What a Great Idea! Awesome South African Inventions’, which he wrote from the perspective of a science educator. He now thinks and writes in retirement in his garden studio in Rondebosch, Cape Town, where he also develops concepts for interactive science centres and museums through his company, ‘Mike Bruton Imagineering’.