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Motivation

Determining what compels an individual to invent is a complicated affair. After all, an inventor's motives can be as diverse as the inventions they create. From a broad perspective, all inventors and innovators are driven purely by curiosity and the need to create. However, examining inventions in Alberta over the past two centuries reveals that innovative activity is driven by a myriad of forces that range from practicality to the pursuit of recognition, fortune and academic excellence.

Practicality
Self-propelled threshing machineThe first settlers in Alberta were forced to create new equipment and processes in order to succeed in the harsh prairie environment. Inventing to make life easier is, therefore, a driving force that modern Albertans continue to share with their pioneer predecessors. Consider Calgary resident George Clynch, who, only as few short decades ago developed a motorized prosthetic limb that provided more realistic movement for above-the-knee amputees.

Competition and Recognition
Acknowledgement from peers and acceptance by an occupational or academic community is also a strong motivation for invention. Colleagues are triggered to invent by a competitive spirit and a desire for greater recognition or fame. The Nobel Prize is perhaps the most prestigious international award an inventor could hope to receive, and many other research councils and establishments recognize inventive achievement on a global and national level. The Canadian Ernest C. Manning Foundation has been awarding substantial cash prizes to innovative Canadians since 1982 and in 2002, David Martin and Nancy Knowlton of Calgary, Alberta and their company SMART Technologies, Inc. received the Innovation Award.

Financial Reward
In some cases, financial incentives bring out the inventive spirit. However, despite the "get rich quick" myth that surrounds the inventive experience, financial gain may be elusive for many independent inventors, as an inventor must also be a business entrepreneur who understands market conditions. Important to the independent inventor is the ability to take their invention beyond the planning stage and create a marketable product.

With greater access to both money and labour, larger firms are in a better position to maximize financially on an important invention. Likewise, certain industries with access to new technologies, like aeronautics and petrochemicals, have an advantage in their research and development departments due to the speed with which they can produce and distribute their products and services. Staying one step ahead of their competitors is a powerful motivation for many companies.

Unplanned Discoveries
Still, despite the millions of dollars pumped into careful research and experimentation, many inventions still occur simply by accident. Velcro™ and Post-It Notes™, for example, were the happy results of unplanned observations. The Swiss creator of Velcro did not set out to create a new type of fastener. He did, however, take advantage of the potential he observed in a natural mechanism (he examined burrs caught on his boots after a hike in the woods under a microscope).

Some discoveries, likewise, happen when an inventor is working on a different inventive project. While attempting to emulsify bituminous sands (bitumen is a thick oil substance), Alberta inventor Karl Clark stumbled across the even more valuable process for separating the sands.

Heritage Trail : Leduc Oil Discover: The discovery of oil in Leduc allowed for the creation of transcontinental pipelines and got the Alberta economy back online after World War Two.
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