The UK’s toy inventor community is under supported and underfunded and is calling on industry and government to act.
This is according to a poll of 250 toy and game designers carried out by us here at ToyNews ahead of our third Inventors Workshop in September.
The survey showed that 70 per cent of designers and inventors do not think the UK offers them enough support.
Nearly half of the designers surveyed (46 per cent) believe the biggest priority for change is more access to grants and funding; 16 per cent want the industry to provide more mentoring and internship roles for young people to access the industry more easily; and eight per cent believe it’s a grass roots problem and want the Government to step up and provide more education at school and university level to encourage and support designers.
"Breaking into an industry like this is undoubtedly an uphill struggle – it’s such a niche that traditional sources of business funding sadly don’t seem to recognise," said freelance toy inventor Ciaran Larkin.
"I believe funding would definitely speed up the process for inventors but the most valuable resource is networking events such as the Inventors Workshop.
“The chance to not only meet but pitch to the companies perfectly suited for my inventing seemed almost too good to be true; it changed my life and propelled me into the toy industry. I could not recommend it highly enough and am eternally grateful to everyone who made that event happen; it is a must attend for everybody in the inventing world and I would love to see even more events like this take place in future."
Richard Ward, a product designer with Bigjigs Toys, added: “The toy industry can be hard to break into as the few jobs that do come up often ask for industry experience, which is always a big ask for young people who are yet to secure their first job. I’ve been working as a toy designer for nearly three years now and learnt a lot of things on the job, and I feel strongly that industry should be offering a lot more training opportunities for new designers.”
ToyNews editor and Inventors Workshop conference director Billy Langsworthy added: “The UK toy industry is worth over £3bn a year. It relies on innovation and new blood to evolve and survive. In the UK, we have an amazing heritage for invention – everyone from James Dyson, to Clive Sinclair and Jenga inventor Leslie Scott – but for every success there are hundreds, maybe thousands, who are not breaking through either because the barriers to entry are too high or because they simply can’t get seen by the right people in the right companies.
“This is why ToyNews introduced the Inventors Workshop three years ago – to give toy designers a chance to pitch their ideas face to face to mega manufacturers like Hasbro. In just three years, we’ve helped numerous designers get a foot in the door. Skinny Sketcher was an idea pitched in year one and is now on sale on Amazon. Last year, Ciaran Larkin auditioned his amazing movie-inspired designs to Hasbro and was signed up and flown to Rhode Island.
"With the right support, designers can get the break they deserve and the toy industry can continue to thrive. We hope that industry and Government take note and offer their support.”
This year’s Inventors Workshop will be at held at Whittlebury Hall in Northampton on Tuesday, September 20th, 2016. The event is set to bring together leading inventors, distributors, retailers, investors and design students, all of whom are looking to discover new ideas, make new connections and stay at the forefront of innovation in toys.
To book tickets to this year’s event, click here. For sponsorship opportunities, and to be pitched to by inventors at the Workshop, email SFreeman@nbmedia.com or BNormile@nbmedia.com. For general information on the event, email BLangsworthy@nbmedia.com or call 01992 515305.