You might be aware that this year marks the 100th anniversary of Marconi’s game changing radio broadcast in Chelmsford, that it’s 200 years since Charles Darwin departed Essex shores on a voyage of discovery and that it’s 400 years since the Mayflower took the Pilgrims to the New World, with Harwich’s Captain Christopher Jones at the helm.

But there are some pretty amazing things you probably don’t know about our fair county, particularly that we are something of a science and invention hotspot.

Did you know the first hot and cold drinks dispenser in the entire world was invented in Saffron Walden? It was created in 1696 by inventor Henry Winstanley and was named the wonderful barrel. It was hugely popular.

The famous piece of farming equipment, the Goldhanger Plough, invented by William Bentall in 1795 is another coup for Essex. The list goes on.

Fibre optic communication was invented in 1966 inside laboratories in Harlow while the first digital colour photograph was published in 1972 with technology invented at what is today Teledyne e2v in Chelmsford.

Innovation continues to thrive in Essex today. In 2018, some 190 patents were filed by inventors in Essex including everything from anti-headlice bands inventions to ice warning signs.

Essex’s past successes and continued drive when it comes to science, art and innovation is now the focus of a year long initiative known as Essex 2020.

The aim of Essex 2020 is to create opportunities for every child in Essex to participate in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and maths) events.

It also aims to inspire residents to get involved, to generate pride in Essex as a place to live work and visit, to elevate the aspirations of young people and drive innovation and prosperity between businesses and organisations.

The scheme is being supported by a number of partners including councils, private and public organisations and educational leaders.

The idea for a special year of science and creativity was the vision of the Chelmsford Science and Engineering Society. The group supported Anglia Ruskin University’s successful bid to host the British Science Fair. The prestigious festival will be held in Essex in September for the first time in its 189 year history.

As BBC Essex DJ Dave Monk put it as he gave an impassioned speech at the launch of Essex 2020: “The eyes of the world will be upon Essex this year. And we are ready! We’ve got this.”

Also speaking at the launch event, Essex County Council chief executive Gavin Jones added: “As well as boasting a proud history of technology and innovation, Essex is a hugely creative county. That’s why we are putting the Arts into STEM.

“By experiencing our pioneering STEM industries and rich diversity of arts and culture first-hand, Essex 2020 will help residents of all ages feel proud of the county’s past achievements and believe in our exciting future.

“A new decade of opportunity for our county has begun and Essex 2020 is our window to the world.”

The launch event was hosted by world leading developer of cutting-edge technologies, Teledyne e2v in Chelmsford. brought together for the first time a flavour of the trail-blazing innovation and rich diversity of arts which together are helping to drive Essex forward.

Ground-breaking innovations showcased at the event created by Teledyne included a space exploration satellite and image sensors destined for NASA and the European Space Agency, a cold atom chamber demonstration, science and engineering projects from students at Anglia Ruskin University and exhibits from internationally acclaimed space artist Jackie Burns, who lived in Southend.

Rosie Millard, the chairwoman of Firstsite in Colchester, spoke about how arts have a great contribution to make to Essex 2020.

“Creativity is part of life,” she said, “as this very building demonstrates, creativity, imagination and visual exploration is absolutely connected with science.”

Adam Wood, vice-president of Chelmsford Science and Engineering Society delivered a fascinating speech to guests about 20 inspiring and surprising STEAM innovations which have come from Essex, including Henry Winstanley’s famous wonderful barrel.

He also described how Essex companies such as Crompton, Hoffman, Britvic, Crittall Windows and Marconi are just some of the many businesses that have helped turn Essex into what was fundamentally a farming county, into a place of longstanding and thriving industry.

l To find out more about Essex 2020, including the hundreds of events planned for the year and how you can get involved, visit and #Essex2020 on twitter.