Penicillin is the homegrown invention we are most proud of

We tested the UK’s knowledge of innovation last month by conducting a poll of 1,000 people, which revealed that Penicillin is the UK invention the nation is most proud of. Our study looked into the public’s knowledge of homegrown inventions, which UK invention the nation is most proud of and the most innovative cities, based on the number of patents published.

Penicillin, which was first isolated for the treatment of bacterial infection by scientists in Oxford in 1938, was the invention the nation is most proud of, chosen by over half (51%) of respondents. The MRI Scanner, created in Aberdeen (43%) and the telephone, which can be attributed to British physicist Robert Hooke (42%), completed the top three.

The UK is home to some of the world’s most famous inventions, with the jet engine, IVF and World Wide Web all being patented by British inventors. However, it seems the public aren’t clued up when it comes to which inventions we can claim as our own, with the majority of adults underestimating just how innovative we are as a nation.

The guillotine, the symbol for the French Revolution, was actually based on an English sliding axe known as the Halifax Gibbet – less than one in sixteen (6%) recognised it as a UK invention. Just over one in ten (11%) correctly identified the Ford GT40 racing car as hailing from the UK. The steam engine was the most correctly identified UK invention, identified by 44% of the public.

The inventions that were least recognised as being created in the UK are:

  1. The guillotine (6%)
  2. Ford GT40 racing car (11%)
  3. Defibrillator (13%)
  4. Fridge (13%)
  5. Contraceptive pill (16%)
  6. Tin can (16%)
  7. MRI scanner (16%)
  8. Toothbrush (16%)
  9. Lawnmower (17%)
  10. IVF (18%)

Our research also looked into the most innovative cities in the UK, based on the number of patent applications*. Cambridge ranked the highest, with a staggering 315.7 patents published per 100,000 residents – almost three times as many as the second closest city.

The city is famed for being the home of a number of inventions, including the reflecting telescope, IVF, hovercrafts and iris recognition. Coventry, whose residents were responsible for creating the bicycle, the jet engine and holography, saw 108.9 patents published per 100,000 residents, and Derby, home to the invention of the waterworks system, was a close third with 98.6.

Mike Price, Director at MPA Group, said:

The UK truly is a hub of innovation and it is reassuring to see that we as a nation still haven’t lost our entrepreneurial spirit.  With nearly 14,000 patent applications filed in 2016, we are really excited to see the next revolutionary invention to come out of our country.
However, it’s not just inventors that are leading the way for innovation, there are thousands of companies across the country investing into research and development. It’s great that this has been recognised by the government as being a vital part of business growth in the UK, and that Companies can be rewarded through HMRC schemes like Patent Box and R&D Tax Credits.

Mike Price, Director, MPA Group

If you’re interested in testing your knowledge on UK inventions, take our innovation quiz here: https://www.thempagroup.co.uk/cities-of-innovation/

To find out more about innovation funding schemes like R&D Tax Credits or Patent Box, speak to one of our experts today.

*Research based on the UK patent applications published per 100,000 residents, 2016: Centre for Cities Report