Inventions for disaster risk reduction

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
Egyptian inventor Mahmoud Galal Yehia explains his "hanged-building" technology, which helps offset the impact of earthquakes. (Photo: UNISDR)
Egyptian inventor Mahmoud Galal Yehia explains his "hanged-building" technology, which helps offset the impact of earthquakes. (Photo: UNISDR)

GENEVA, 20 April 2015 – Inventors aiming to reduce the risk of disasters have flocked to Geneva to pitch a whole range of cutting-edge ideas, from earthquake-resistant buildings to lamps that make evacuations easier.

Tucked in among hundreds of fellow exhibitors from 48 countries at the annual International Exhibition of Inventions, innovators with an eye on disaster risk reduction see the show as a key opportunity to get their message across.

“Everything I invent is about making people and their environment safe,” said Mahmoud Galal Yehia, as he ran through the principles of his “hanged-building” skyscraper technology, using the scale model in his exhibition booth.

“Basically, most buildings are constructed on their foundations, meaning that there’s a risk involved. So I came up with the idea of hanging buildings based on a system of multipoint suspension. It’s all about additional provision, additional protection and flexible safety,” he said.

Yehia has already patented his invention in his homeland, Egypt, and is close to completing the process in Japan, a country whose vulnerability to earthquakes has put it in the technological vanguard when it comes to disaster risk reduction.

The Geneva fair, now into its 43rd year, draws inventors from around the globe, many of them seeking investors and licensees among the 60,000 visitors. Over recent years, the proportion of exhibitors from Asia and the Middle East has risen, reflecting shifting economic and research trends, and now accounts for almost half of those taking part.

Further down the exhibition alleyways were a host of other inventions that aim to reduce the risk of disasters: a system for shutting off gas supplies to avoid leaks during earthquakes, which earned one of the four dozen prizes up for grabs at the 15-19 April fair; “viscoelastic” ball bearings that absorb tremors; a guided robot for use in life-threatening situations; ultra-light nano concrete that can withstand earthquakes; a super-stable water craft to be used in tsunami and flood situations; and a table lamp that can be transformed into an emergency exit guide and flashlight.

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