Coast inventor trades millions to aid refugees
WHEN a camping franchise offered Coolum inventor Simon Doble a multi-million-dollar deal for his illuminated tent pole, he turned it down.
While emboldened by the clear endorsement and humbled by the jaw-dropping offer, his sights were set on a much higher purpose - one that would change lives, not just light them up.
Mr Doble took his BrightBeam poles to the United Nations, boldly making an unorthodox cold-call approach to the High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva and demanding an audience.
It worked as the UNHCR will soon pilot-test the poles in tents housing refugees in Mauritania as well as many more countries across Africa this year.
The LED lights within the poles, which run off a solar panel and contain charging points for mobile phones, radios and tablets, can replace dangerous kerosene lamps which can poison and kill.
Mr Doble's invention has the potential to change the lives of 23 million refugees living in camps around the world.
He has also partnered with a tent-maker in Nairobi to bolster local business and produce shelters better suited to African conditions.
These tents are set to replace the European-made ones previously used by the UN, which are costly to freight, hot in summer and cold in winter.
"A lot of people have tried to redesign kerosene lamps but I looked at it from a different perspective," he said.
"Tents are held up by tent poles, and in the western world, we understand lighting is fixed to the ceiling.
"It is structural and built into our homes.
"Well, the poles are the structure of the tent so I put the lights in the poles."
Mr Doble and his team have taken almost three years to bring his idea to market. "I learned about intellectual property and met a good lawyer, and now we own the worldwide patent for the illuminated structural element for a temporary structure," he said.
"We have a database of nearly 450 potential products we intend to work on that can spin out of that one IP."
Mr Doble and his team have an innovation company in Coolum mainly focused on creating well-designed solutions to humanitarian problems.
The poles will be launched on to the retail camping market in Australia by the end of this year, with the poles selling for between $99 and $139.
And what about those millions of dollars?
"I said, 'Thanks, but I have to decline'," he said.
"Sometimes paths are laid for some people for a reason, and you have to walk those paths.
"This is what I'm meant to do and I am very happy doing it."
Simon Doble and Steve Huff from Doble Telescopic Lighting will feature as part of World Intellectual Property (IP) Day at TAFE next Wednesday.
Information seminars are being delivered from 12:30pm to 5pm.
Learn about brand protection, trade marks, copyright, protecting your ideas and working with other forms of intellectual property to gain a competitive edge. Cost is $15. worldipday2013.com.au