I recently moved to the Surbiton, Surrey area, and to my delight found that I was just 5 minutes' walk from an inventors' club, the Kingston Round Table of Inventors.
When I worked for the British Library I went several times to clubs in the London area giving talks on patent searching. Besides Kingston, these were the Croydon Round Table of Inventors and the East London Inventors Club. I recall them fondly as lively meetings, and it was just plain fun talking about the problems involved in looking for inventions on the Web, and feeling the creative vibes. Outside of London, I've also spoken at similar groups at the main public libraries at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Leeds and Sheffield.
When I attended the monthly meeting recently it was the first time that I'd attended a club just to sit back and enjoy the presentation and discussions (and to make a few comments). Many think of creativity as being limited to writing, music and art, but it also includes identifying and assessing possible solutions for a technical problem. The solutions should ideally be simple and economical manner -- and should have fewer problems than previous solutions. Unlike, say, Thomas Midgely, who thought he had solved two problems by inventing leaded fuel and CFCs. Yes, the same man invented what turned out to be heavily polluting answers to problems.
We heard about a project to design an electric motorcycle and about an app to help young people coming out of care to communicate with their social workers. There was a lot of expertise in the room, and comments, questions and suggestions quickly flowed. I found it incredibly stimulating.
Anyone involved with inventing would find the atmosphere in such a club stimulating and enjoyable, but it is especially valuable for those who feel isolated because they are not working on inventions in a corporate environment. Lone inventors should, I suggest, join a club if they are lucky enough to live or work near one.
It certainly helps to have an experienced engineer leading the group. Bob Lindsey is the Kingston leader, and has plenty of experience as a consultant engineer. He also runs one-to-one product development clinics at the British Library.
I look forward to the next meeting, in January.