Emily Cummins

Emily Cummins

Emily Jayne Cummins is an English inventor and entrepreneur and at the tender age of 22 she is already an ambassador for The Women of Achievement and the Girls! Make Your Mark campaign, all whilst developing an evaporative refrigerator that does not require electricity!

Having bagged herself the prize of Female Innovator of the Year for 2007 from the British Female Inventors and Innovators Network as well as a £12,000 sponsorship from NESTA, i caught up with this amazing woman to find out what I need to do to follow in her footsteps.

How did you get involved with inventing?

I had a really inspirational granddad who gave me a hammer when I was four years old! We used to spend hours together in his shed at the bottom of the garden, taking things apart and putting them back together again. By the time I started at high school it meant I already understood the properties of different materials and how certain machinery worked. I’d always had a creative spark and because it was encouraged from an early age I suppose I had the confidence to take it forward and start inventing for myself.

Who is your green inspiration?

Trevor Baylis, and in particular his wind-up radio, should be seen as a benchmark of inspiration and an example of what innovation can produce. Here is a product that’s the same quality as its electrically-run counterpart but without the harmful carbon emissions. This concept – to maintain the quality while neutralising the damage to the environment – must be extended to all the other appliances we can’t seem to function without such as TVs, cookers, dishwashers, computers, even cars.

What do you think is the most important invention of the 21st Century?

The internet is undoubtedly the most useful, and most used, recent invention. We rely on the internet for all sorts, from communicating with friends and family to looking up travel arrangements, jobs, entertainment – just about everything! When I’m inventing I always go online to do preliminary research, as do many other inventors, so in that sense the internet is invaluable because it has contributed to so many other great ideas.

Why is it important that new inventions are green?

Global warming is a very real threat and it’s important we all do our bit to sustain the planet for future generations. No matter what, people will carry on using luxury items which make their lives easier and more enjoyable – therefore, it’s the responsibility of individual designers and whole companies to produce new products which are green but importantly still fulfil people’s expectations. Just like Trevor Baylis’s wind-up radio, the key is to creating quality green alternatives to the items which people have come to rely on.

Where can people go if they want to get involved in green inventing?

Right now, I’d recommend people check out npower’s Bright Ideas competition – it’s a search for new energy saving ideas and inventions which could make a real difference to the way we live our lives. The website is full of tips on how to get started and how to protect your ideas.

What’s your top green tip for saving energy?


Most people know what they can do to save energy – for example, we should switch lights off when we leave a room and take our computers off stand-by. However, we can all be guilty of forgetting these tips from time to time. At the moment I’m looking into ways we can generate renewable energy in our own homes – hopefully I’ll come up with some innovative methods which will make energy saving a force of habit for most people.

How do you juggle Uni with your inventing? How do you squeeze in time to relax?


With great difficulty! I’m studying at the University of Leeds who have been incredibly supportive. I study two days a week, with the rest of the time dedicated to inventing and in particular inspiring young people to have a go at it. That said, I do believe it’s important to find time to relax too – people often come up with their most creative ideas when they’re truly relaxed, so I make sure I factor in some downtime each week.

What opportunities have opened up for you since your inventions have taken off?

Loads! As a relatively young inventor – and a female one at that – I’ve received a lot of attention for my ideas. As a result I’ve had some amazing experiences over the last few years, like visiting 10 Downing Street and going to the TED conference in California. I know I’ve had lots of opportunities because I don’t fit the profile of a typical inventor – and there’s still room for more young, female inventors so I’d encourage other women to give it a go.

Tell us about the work you have been doing in third world countries with your inventions…


I spent several months in Africa during my gap year in 2006 – I went with the aim of volunteering but also testing my refrigerator in the conditions, and with the people, it was intended for. Once I had completed the design I gave away the concept for free and started teaching people in Africa how to use it. This helped communities to develop new skills and then, once they had mastered it, to pass this on to others. So as well as having an important environmental impact, I hope the fridge has made a difference to communities in Africa on social and economic levels as well.

What is the next project you are working on?

I’m currently working on a second generation version of my sustainable fridge. The first fridge uses the evaporation process to keep food and drinks cool but dry and is ideal for use in developing countries in Africa. I actually gave away that invention for use by people there. However, this fridge will be based on a different theory and will be for commercial use.

Also, a lot of my time is spent not just coming up with my own ideas but actually inspiring others – especially young people – to think creatively and sustainably.

What are your views on climate change?


We need to educate young people – and their parents – about the truth behind climate change. Even when I was at school – not that long ago! – we thought global warming meant we’d all enjoy great beach holidays in the UK, so no one was really that concerned. However, the reality is a lot more frightening and people in developing countries are already experiencing climate change’s negative affects. Ed Gillespie is an incredibly inspiring speaker on this topic – I heard him say that to make a real difference to the future of the planet we must start sharing kettles between neighbours and TV’s between streets.

As a woman, what one thing do you wish we could invent, regardless of whether or not it's possible, to make out lives easier?

I don’t have children myself but I know lots of women find it hard to juggle the demands of parenting with maintaining a fulfilling career. So my ultimate female invention would be a virtual child-minder, where you could be looking after your kids in one reality and getting on with work in an alternate one. The ‘best of both worlds’ approach with a futuristic twist!

Do you ever find it hard to convince people that things you have invented are viable?

Like all inventors, I’ve come up against all sorts of barriers when trying to push through new ideas. However, I’m incredibly passionate about what I do and with enough determination I believe people can overcome these kinds of hurdles. I’d urge people not to be put off and simply keep trying new ways to get heard. In many ways, my age and the fact and I’m a woman has worked in my favour – whereas men might come up with a business plan and follow it up with an invention, women tend to come up with a solution to a problem that really works and then back it up with the business side of things.

What do you think has been the worst invention of the past 20 years?

Anything which uses up loads of energy without actually being useful. For example, I’ve seen fridges with built-in television screens – something like that would consume a huge amount of electricity and yet no one can really claim to needing one!

FemaleFirst - Ruth Harrison

Emily Jayne Cummins is an English inventor and entrepreneur and at the tender age of 22 she is already an ambassador for The Women of Achievement and the Girls! Make Your Mark campaign, all whilst developing an evaporative refrigerator that does not require electricity!

Having bagged herself the prize of Female Innovator of the Year for 2007 from the British Female Inventors and Innovators Network as well as a £12,000 sponsorship from NESTA, i caught up with this amazing woman to find out what I need to do to follow in her footsteps.

How did you get involved with inventing?

I had a really inspirational granddad who gave me a hammer when I was four years old! We used to spend hours together in his shed at the bottom of the garden, taking things apart and putting them back together again. By the time I started at high school it meant I already understood the properties of different materials and how certain machinery worked. I’d always had a creative spark and because it was encouraged from an early age I suppose I had the confidence to take it forward and start inventing for myself.

Who is your green inspiration?

Trevor Baylis, and in particular his wind-up radio, should be seen as a benchmark of inspiration and an example of what innovation can produce. Here is a product that’s the same quality as its electrically-run counterpart but without the harmful carbon emissions. This concept – to maintain the quality while neutralising the damage to the environment – must be extended to all the other appliances we can’t seem to function without such as TVs, cookers, dishwashers, computers, even cars.

What do you think is the most important invention of the 21st Century?

The internet is undoubtedly the most useful, and most used, recent invention. We rely on the internet for all sorts, from communicating with friends and family to looking up travel arrangements, jobs, entertainment – just about everything! When I’m inventing I always go online to do preliminary research, as do many other inventors, so in that sense the internet is invaluable because it has contributed to so many other great ideas.

Why is it important that new inventions are green?

Global warming is a very real threat and it’s important we all do our bit to sustain the planet for future generations. No matter what, people will carry on using luxury items which make their lives easier and more enjoyable – therefore, it’s the responsibility of individual designers and whole companies to produce new products which are green but importantly still fulfil people’s expectations. Just like Trevor Baylis’s wind-up radio, the key is to creating quality green alternatives to the items which people have come to rely on.

Where can people go if they want to get involved in green inventing?

Right now, I’d recommend people check out npower’s Bright Ideas competition – it’s a search for new energy saving ideas and inventions which could make a real difference to the way we live our lives. The website is full of tips on how to get started and how to protect your ideas.

What’s your top green tip for saving energy?

Most people know what they can do to save energy – for example, we should switch lights off when we leave a room and take our computers off stand-by. However, we can all be guilty of forgetting these tips from time to time. At the moment I’m looking into ways we can generate renewable energy in our own homes – hopefully I’ll come up with some innovative methods which will make energy saving a force of habit for most people.

How do you juggle Uni with your inventing? How do you squeeze in time to relax?

With great difficulty! I’m studying at the University of Leeds who have been incredibly supportive. I study two days a week, with the rest of the time dedicated to inventing and in particular inspiring young people to have a go at it. That said, I do believe it’s important to find time to relax too – people often come up with their most creative ideas when they’re truly relaxed, so I make sure I factor in some downtime each week.

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