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Prizes for inventions

Prizes for inventions from the life-saving to the weird

INVENTIONS from an oil spill cleaner to an instrument made from PVC were rewarded with prizes at this year’s Concours Lépine.

Retired engineer André Boniface from Lunel in Hérault became the first person to win the top prize at the annual innovation contest for the second time. He won the President of the Republic’s Award with his machine to clean up underwater oil spills. He developed it after the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mr Boniface had previously won the prize in 1999 for a drilling rig. The Prix Lépine competition was launched in 1901 by Paris préfet de police Louis Lépine to encourage French innovation and boost exports. It includes a range of awards as well as the president’s one, whose winner is selected by President Sarkozy himself.

This year the Préfecture de Paris prize was won by a luminous jacket by Fernando Lajas with built-in flashing indicators. Cyclists using it do not need to take their hands off the handlebars to indicate. Raymond Zaoui came up with an indoor electric barbecue, which he says enables you to enjoy summer barbecue food all-year-round without odours or smoke.

Philippe Arrouart won with a foldable bicycle helmet aimed at users of Paris’s Vélib’ bike hire scheme. He realised they often did not wear helmets because they did not want to carry around a bulky traditional helmet all day. It should go on sale next year.

Didier Antile invented Ptisous, a gadget for storing small change. It sorts coins and releases them one at a time when needed. Musician Etienne Bonaud has invented the didgophone, a PVC instrument which combines the deep booming tones of a didgeridoo with the flexibility of a saxophone. “It gives you an octave of notes and for all didgeridoo players it’s a really nice development, he said”. Didgeridoos have one fundamental note, which experts can vary only very slightly up and down. It might appeal to musicians who want an “unusual” sound, in different genres, like triphop, drum’n’bass, electro, funk and pop, he said.

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