If gold medals were orders, UK packaging inventor Mark Sheahan should quite deservedly be a tax exile by now. Scarcely a month goes by without his pioneering work in developing the perfect closure failing to pick up an award.

He collected top prize at the 31st International Exhibitions of Inventions in Geneva a few weeks ago, subsequently capped by the Grand Prix at the US-staged INPEX in May ahead of competition from over 1000 new inventions drawn from all over the world.

Sheahan’s company CompGen has been head and shoulders above the rest of the pack in redefining openability for the past five years. Yet regardless of the international acclaim, his work has been largely ignored by brand owners and packaging manufacturers in the UK, with the notable exclusion of RPC Containers whose licence in six different product application areas has a further 18 months to run.

Most of the investment of around £750K in developing the ‘Simply Squeeze to Open’ technology has been almost wholly self-funded. Needless to say, and despite the accolades, the DTI showed no interest in supporting his participation at INPEX.

Having been shown that the technology would achieve a 1500-tonne cut in material and production costs every year, one high-profile cosmetics manufacturer rewarded the idea by insisting upon a year’s exclusivity plus free consultancy. Only then would they be prepared to enter into a commercial negotiation. Does corporate cynicism know no limits.

It comes as good news then to report that Sheahan has found more receptive ears in the US via new licensee Silgan Plastics, which has initiated an on-going development pro-

gramme to bring a number of different versions and packaging application prototypes on stream later this year.

A feature of the design is that it combines an extrusion blow-moulded base with a curved wall injection-moulded cap, something beyond the scope of conventional threaded closures. “This opening action will work up to the normal adult span of a hand and down to a lipstick size,” says Mark Sheahan.

“Apart from its manageability, this must also be one of the cheapest packs to produce because there is no need to worry about splits any more.

“To be honest I’ve given up on England. I got Silgan within five weeks of going to the States, whereas I’ve been knocking on the doors in England for about two years. I think there are some forward-thinking progressive companies out there. Unfortunately, Brits want proven history and don’t want to jeopardise their safe job by taking risks. It’s a shame.”