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Q&A: Deborah Meaden

Ahead of this year’s National Engineering Day, green Dragon, Deborah Meaden emerged from the Dragon’s Den to share her a few secrets of success with Ingenia. Why not absorb some of her entrepreneurial wisdom, and then enter the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Everyday Engineering competition with an idea that could make our daily lives more sustainable?

Could you tell me about the 'engineering habits of mind' that are often shown by successful business leaders such as yourself?

Engineers and entrepreneurs share many common traits. They don’t stop at obstacles, but look for a ways to overcome them – indeed, they seek out problems with existing products and processes to improve them using creative problem-solving. They have an eye to the future and are constantly seeking to adapt, reimagine and invent. They are prepared to try new things and ways of doing things, and take the risks that go with that…and the rewards.

What advice would you give to young inventors and entrepreneurs?

Always be clear on what problem you are solving, how big that problem is and can it be solved for a price people will be prepared to pay?

How do you think young people can help the planet?

Placing planetary impact at the heart of their decisions both in their personal and work life not only can they affect their immediate surroundings but also help influence those around them. Adapting lifestyle and workplace practices so that sustainability becomes embedded is a powerful way to drive the changes we need to make.

Quick-fire questions

Deborah's engineering icons, from ancient Egypt to the one in everyone's pencilcase...

Who's your most admired historical engineer or inventor? 

Rosalind Franklin

Do you have a favourite tool/tech gadget? 

Air fryer

Which engineering achievement couldn’t you do without? 


Most impressive bit of engineering to look at? 

Temple of Ramasses II at Abu Simbel

Overlooked engineering successes?


If you were an engineer, which type of engineer would you be?

I think the circular economy is going to offer up some real opportunities, but circularity needs to be designed into consumer products from the concept. Not the kind of circularity that relies on high-energy recycling, but the type that gives products real extended use and end of life options.

From your time on Dragons' Den, what are the engineering-related innovations that impressed you the most?

I love the story of Gripit, the world's strongest plasterboard fixing – invented by a 14-year-old and his grandad to solve a problem with fixing blinds to plasterboards. Or Marxman pens, invented in a shed in the back garden because Martin needed something that would properly mark drilling points on difficult surfaces! Both are now sold around the world.

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