Innovation: The myth of the lone inventor

Roger Morton is a logistician whose work for MSF in Iraq inspired him to design and develop a personal decontamination kit. In this blog he looks at the origin of his drive to innovate. 

Family tradition

When I was a kid, I was inspired by my granddad. He was born in 1904 before the First World War. He was surrounded by Victorian engineering and dreamt of being an engineer and inventor when he grew up. However, when he left school he followed the family tradition of dentistry. But he never forgot his dream to invent, creating a toothpaste which could reverse tooth decay, and a soap that could absorb gold from the sea!  


The myth of invention

Unfortunately, he spent the family fortune on the patent and never made a penny. Much like great British Inventors who invented from sheds with a strong brew in hand, such as Frank Whittle the father of the jet engine. 

But it’s all a myth. The days of having a spark of genius in a shed are gone. Now invention and innovation are all about teamwork. 

This is a book I would recommend any innovator to read, particularly if they think they can do everything themselves.


A book that helped me innovate
A book that helped me innovate


I can say without doubt that collaboration and teamwork made my innovation become a reality. 


Team work

Being part of a team is so important for creating ideas and ensuring a design is actually a viable solution. As the saying goes: "many hands make light work". 

When I began my project, I was working alone. This was tough. There were many doubters who questioned whether I could pull the project off. Thankfully there were also people who believed. It became clear to me that to drive this innovation forward I needed a team.  

As soon as got funding I began to assemble a group of specialists in different areas to collaborate with. Pete from the Manson Unit put me in touch with a graphic designer based in Glasgow. I also utilised the skills of a toxicologist based in Wiltshire and a fashion designer from London to complete the project. Alongside these specialists I also had the support of the MSF London and Amsterdam offices.  

I can say without doubt that collaboration and teamwork made my innovation become a reality.