Fear Not, Slow Sushi Rollers -- the French Are Here!

At Sushi-Sho, the rice is meticulously matched to the fish. Photograph: Jeff Mermelstein/Bloomberg Pursuits Close

At Sushi-Sho, the rice is meticulously matched to the fish. Photograph: Jeff... Read More

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At Sushi-Sho, the rice is meticulously matched to the fish. Photograph: Jeff Mermelstein/Bloomberg Pursuits

Are you frustrated by your slow sushi-rolling skills? Angry you can't fill two coffee mugs at once with your single-nozzle Nespresso machine? Irritated when your electric wires get tangled? Don't you worry -- the French have you covered.

For more than a century, Paris has hosted the Concours Lepine, an inventions fair that each year draws hundreds of crafty French men and women looking to win the grand prize for ingenuity. In a country with top-ranking engineering schools and the biggest number of math, science and technology graduates in the European Union, the event encourages creative innovation and has become famous for spawning quirky gadgets to do everything from scratch your own back to pick up dog poop.

It has also generated early versions of the flatiron, the ballpoint pen and the artificial heart in the past, and gets attention today from companies looking for breakthroughs in everything from solar panels to electric cars.

The winner this year built an upgrade to prevent spit build-up that can deform saxophones and clarinets. A sushi-rolling mechanical device, a coffee-nozzle splitter and a cardboard electric-cable holder got attention from the public.

The contest took place just as President Francois Hollande's government considers ways to squeeze more out of French innovations. The latest effort to end Europe's second-largest economy's recession and reverse record joblessness is a state-commissioned report dubbed “Brand France” that will lay out by the end of June how to capitalize better on research, patents and other intangible assets.

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