A Hong Kong inventor has found a way of keeping things cold without electricity, and buyers are queueing up already You might find one in your hotel room, by the pool or wrapped around your champagne. Or it might be what is keeping your medication cool. With more than 50 models, many of which are already available, there will soon be no escaping the Fridge-to-go. They may look like normal portable insulated cooler bags or tubes, but there the similarity ends, says Kado Industrial's chairman, chief executive and inventor Jackson Chan Chik-sum, 57. These compact, lightweight, collapsible, reusable and environmentally safe bags represent a revolution in refrigeration, Mr Chan says emphatically. Necessity apparently still being the mother of invention, the Fridge-to-go idea was born when an airline approached Mr Chan, who is renowned for his clever innovations, to stop their drinks trolley ice from melting in flight. For Mr Chan, who had been developing products since 1979, particularly for airlines and the hospitality industry, it was just another problem to solve. But inspiration struck instantly. 'I got a brilliant idea within 15 minutes. I went back to my factory and just 30 days later I had a prototype ready for testing.' The improvement was impressive. Ice which released 500ml of water in a normal bucket gave off only 30ml in the Fridge-to-go over the same period. 'Jackson has invented the next generation of portable cooling and we own the global patent on the technology and the name,' says Brent Simon, Kado's Canadian vice-president of worldwide sales and marketing. The firm has spent $2 million acquiring worldwide patents and has one of the best trademark lawyers on speed-dial, Mr Simon jokes. Mr Chan is understandably vague about the technical details of his brainchild. 'It's a kind of temperature conduction, a surround chilling technology. It is not a cooler, but an extension of home refrigeration technology,' he explains. 'We have bridged the gap between a regular cooler bag and a 12-volt plug-in refrigerator, but this requires no electricity. You just put it in your freezer overnight and it will chill ice cold and last all day, unlike a cool bag, which only lasts three hours,' adds Mr Simon. Mr Chan has designed 40 styles and sizes of Fridge-to-go for chilling items as diverse as food and drink, baby provisions, medical and veterinary supplies and even cosmetics. A cautious launch on the local retail market in 2003, with a test run of just 670 pieces, was a runaway success. 'Right away, everyone was amazed and wanted to buy them,' says Mr Chan. Since then, word has spread, and a roll-call of major companies now uses different versions of Fridge-to-go - including Coca-Cola, Chevron, Samsung, the airline Emirates, drugs company Eli Lilly and, soon, Heineken. A month ago at the International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva - the biggest show of its kind in the world - Kado picked up several awards. The company repeated its success at Inpex, the biggest invention exhibition in the US, winning a second-best-in-show for Fridge-to go from a field of 1,000 entries and a special award from the Taiwan Inventors Association - Best Invention of Creativity to Improve Quality of Family Life. 'We take common everyday problems and solve them,' says Mr Chan. 'We're now getting worldwide recognition for that.' And beyond the ambit of his own business, Mr Chan is a leading light in the Hong Kong Invention Association and an ambassador for SAR inventors. 'We are for the inventor, the little guy,' he adds. 'Hong Kong is all about big business, but we support SMEs [small and medium-sized businesses]. We can advise and help with the business side of taking a product to market.' Following on from Fridge-to-go, Kado is also offering the Cool Coaster, another Inpex prize winner. Standing on a Cool Coaster, beer stays at fridge temperature for up to an hour, explains Mr Simon. 'It's very good for premiums and advertising because you can read the message through the glass.' And still in the pipeline is the Cocktail Caddy, a product that allows drink and food to be held using one hand, leaving the other free for hand-shaking. Many inventors are thwarted by lack of capital, but Mr Chan is in a strong position. 'Kado is 100 per cent owned by me, self-funded and cash-rich, which gives us the opportunity to carry out the entire production process and take products to market ourselves.' Aiming for mass-market appeal, Mr Chan has kept Kado's retail prices low. A mini Fridge-to-go sells in Hong Kong for $180, and the two-can size is priced at just $95. The company has already launched a range in Germany and plans big pushes into the Australian and US markets next year. Its promotional products are now selling in 15 countries. There is expansion at home, too, with the grand opening of a showroom in Fo Tan, New Territories, earlier this week. Fridge-to-go even features in school textbooks as an example of a product created in Hong Kong. 'We want everyone to know that Hong Kong has world-class inventors,' says Mr Chan. In five years Mr Simon is hoping the company can achieve total annual sales of $700 million. 'We see Fridge-to-go accounting for one-third of that [from just $40 million currently],' he explains. The future poses numerous possibilities - from an initial public offering, to outsourcing production to cope with major orders, to developing products for other inventors. Mr Chan says: 'Being privately owned, we can move quickly and we don't have outside investors telling us what to do.'