Zippers. Garbage bags. Paint rollers. Some items are so ingrained in our lives we don't stop to consider life without them -- how we would do up a jacket, take out the trash or give a wall a fresh coat of paint.

But without the Canadians behind these inventions, all these tasks — and many more — would prove a little more difficult.

Without Joseph Leopold Coyle's "Eureka" moment more than 100 years ago, for example, carrying eggs home from the grocery store might be a whole lot messier.

"There were ways of shipping eggs before Mr. Coyle, but the modern, paper container begins with him," says Lorne Hammond, the curator of human history at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria.

Joseph Coyle in 1971. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Buckley Valley Museum

Coyle is among Canada's countless tinkerers, inventors, scientists and engineers whose creations have changed the modern world. But his tale is also a cautionary one at a time Canadian governments are trying to figure out how to foster innovation that will drive the 21st century economy. While his invention remains used to this day, it never earned him a big payout.

Many business leaders, academics and policy-makers say Canada must get better at converting the innovations and intellectual property that flow from its finest minds into successful global companies.

Canada has a proud history of innovation and has "truly punched above its weight," says Greg Dick, director of educational research at Perimeter Institute. The Waterloo, Ont., theoretical physics research hub is one of five organizations behind Innovation150, a year-long, cross-country tour designed to inspire youth to innovate.

Perimeter itself was launched in 2000 with funds from the founders of BlackBerry, the smartphone pioneer that grew into a global player, but later lost most of its market share to foreign competitors.

Dick rattles off a list of Canadian contributions to a wide variety of fields: time zones from Sir Sandford Fleming, dubbed the "Father of Standard Time;" basketball, courtesy of the imagination of Dr. James Naismith; more recently, a vaccine to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa that began in 2013 designed by scientists at Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.

"The sunglasses for snow blindness? Invented by the Inuit in the Canadian Arctic," he continues. "And, peanut butter? There's a fun one. First patented by a Canadian. … We just really have done an incredible amount of contributing to society."

That's backed up by the number of patents the Canadian Intellectual Property Office has granted since 1869, when it (then known as Consumer and Corporate Affairs) awarded Canada's first patent to William Hamilton for his eureka fluid meter.

Joseph Coyle age 28 in 1894. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Buckley Valley Museum

In 1976, the federal agency granted the one millionth patent for "photodegradable polymer masterbatches" and, as of last year, surpassed 1.6 million approved patents with about 37,000 applications received annually over the past decade.

But in a sign of how much innovation is going on elsewhere, only about 13 per cent of those applications come from Canadians, according to Agnes Lajoie, assistant commissioner of patents at CIPO. The organization would like that number to move higher.

The office is working to raise awareness about the patent system among small- and medium-sized businesses in the country, focusing on high-growth sectors that are intellectual property intensive, like clean technology and aerospace, says Darlene Carreau, director general of CIPO's business services branch.

"Canadians are very innovative," she says. "We don't tend to toot our own horn or highlight our successes like other jurisdictions may, but I think we need to get better at doing that."

One of those early, little-known inventions came from Coyle, who secured a grade school education before working his way up from cleaner and newspaper delivery boy to founding The Interior News in 1910 (it continues to publish today).

Back then, the paper's office stood in what was known as Aldemere in British Columbia's Bulkley Valley near a hotel that was the spot of frequent fighting between the hotelier and a farmer, Gabriel Lacroix. The owner hated that his regular order of eggs often arrived as a mess of runny yolks.

One day, Coyle overheard this argument and that - as legend has it - was his a-ha moment. He set out to create a container to keep the eggs intact from coop to customer. In a 1917 patent application to CIPO, he described a "simple, inexpensive and safe" way to carry a dozen eggs at once in an egg box that suspended and supported each one without letting it touch the others. Coyle later obtained patents for several other countries as demand for his egg box grew.

The "venture is going to beat the band and getting bigger and bigger every day," Coyle wrote in a letter to his former newsroom colleagues in the winter of 1919, according to an article the paper published that year. A year later, however, he admitted in another article that an obstacle stood in the way of expansion: the cost of production.

First egg box (patent granted in 1918). Coyle’s most famous invention is his egg box, which he received a Canadian patent for in 1918. He came up with the design for the carton after overhearing arguments between a hotelier and farmer over multiple deliveries of broken eggs. THE CANADIAN PRESS/European Patent Office

Coyle holed himself away for several weeks to fashion a machine that could manufacture his product less expensively and by the end of March 1920, it was operational.

The newspaperman-turned-inventor also received patents for an automobile lock that prevented a steering wheel from moving until the device was removed, a match safe that divvied out one match at a time and could trim the end of a cigar, and a cash till that could separate coins by amount and dispense them individually.

"He was just, sort of, an inventive soul," says Kira Westby, the curator at the Bulkley Valley Museum in Smithers, B.C.

7 made-in-Canada inventions

Heritage Minutes have helped immortalize some memorable Canadian innovations over the years, from the moment a young Joseph-Armand Bombardier brainstormed his first snowmobile to James Naismith's peach basket hoop-dream and the Montreal neurosurgeon who seized on a seizure treatment. But Canuck ingenuity has been behind many more ideas than those ads could ever cover: the Canadian Intellectual Property Office has issued more than two million patents. Here's a look at some quirky, surprising and iconic Canadian inventions:

Bloody Caesar cocktail


A Bloody Caesar cocktail, created in Calgary in 1969 by restaurateur Walter Chell, is seen in Halifax on Thursday, April 20, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Canadians may be famous for their love of beer, but there's at least one cocktail that was created in the Great White North.
In the late 1960s, Calgarian bar manager Walter Chell dreamt up the Caesar for a new Italian restaurant opening at the hotel where he worked. Chell riffed off an item from the restaurant's menu — spaghetti vongole, a pasta served with clams.
Chell's Caesar, named after the Roman Empire's Julius, included mashed clams mixed with tomato juice, oregano, Worcestershire sauce, vodka and a celery stick garnish.
Today's Ceasars can be a bit more outrageous and some serve them topped with a deep-fried pickle, a burger or even chicken and waffles.
Canadarm


The Canadarm 2 reaches out to capture the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft and prepare it to be pulled into its port on the International Space Station Friday April 17, 2015. (AP Photo/NASA)

The Canadarm is billed as the nation's "most famous robotic and technological achievement" by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
The remote-controlled mechanical arm, more formally known as the Shuttle Remote Manipulator System, resembled a human arm's composition with a wrist, elbow and shoulder, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia. It was 15-metres long and weighed 410 kilograms.
In November 1981, a pilot deployed the Canadarm on a space shuttle for the first time. That marked the beginning of its 30-year run in space — throughout which five Canadarms were used, including one destroyed during the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, according to the CSA.
During that time, it stayed busy working on satellites and other equipment, moving cargo and positioning astronauts, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia.
Paint roller


Painting contractor Andrew Lohr begins to use a roller to paint a room in Portland, Ore., Friday Dec. 5, 2008. (AP Photo/Greg Wahl-Stephens)

Without Norman Breakey's invention, it would take us a whole lot longer to spruce up a room with a fresh coat of paint.
In the 1940s, Breakey created something he thought would revolutionize how people painted — a contraption shaped like the number seven with a spinning cylinder on top covered with fabric to roll paint onto surfaces.
Unfortunately, he never really profited from his invention and died in relative obscurity. Several theories account for this, including that he failed to patent his idea and allowed others to tweak his design and patent it first or that he wasn't able to muster up enough investor interest to mass produce the paint rollers.
Chocolate bar


Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean (right) presents fourth-generation chocolatier David Ganong with the Order of Canada during an investiture ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa Friday, Nov. 18, 2005. (CP PHOTO/Jonathan Hayward)

A sweet part of Canada's history came from two friends who loved to fish and enjoyed eating chocolate.
Some time in the late 1800s or early 1900s, the son of a co-founder of the Ganong candy factory in St. Stephen, N.B., and the factory's candy maker started making chocolate mixed with nuts. Arthur Ganong and George Ensor took the treat along with them on a fishing trip by putting a wrapper on small pieces.
Soon after, in 1909, the factory started making and selling North America's first milk chocolate nut bar, according to the Chocolate Museum in St. Stephen, where the Ganong Chocolatier still operates. The chocolate bars cost five cents each, according to Library and Archives Canada.
Arthur, who had a penchant for consuming two to three pounds of chocolate daily, went on to become the company's president in 1917 and held the position for the next 40 years.
BlackBerry


Three people use their BlackBerry devices in New York's Times Square, Monday Dec. 5, 2005. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

The former tech-darling BlackBerry was founded by two engineering students, Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin, as Research in Motion in 1984.
RIM released its first phone, the BlackBerry 850, in 1999. The phone supported mobile email.
RIM continued to release BlackBerrys with more features, including voice calling capabilities, a colour screen and a digital camera, for a number of years and even boasted 10 million subscribers by 2007.
That same year, however, the company began to struggle after Apple released its first iPhone and quickly became a major player in the smartphone industry. Critics panned several of RIM's subsequent phone launches, as well as its tablet, the PlayBook.
The company changed its name to BlackBerry in 2013 and exited the hardware business in 2016, choosing instead to focus on security software for smartphones.
Garbage bag


(AP Photo/Richard Drew)

This kitchen staple doesn't have one creator, but three — all Canadian, all working independently of one another, according to Library and Archives Canada.
Harry Wasylyk made plastic bags with polyethylene in his Winnipeg kitchen for the local hospital's garbage cans after the Second World War. Larry Hanson made them for the Lindsay, Ont., Union Carbide plant where he worked. Meanwhile, Torontonian Frank Plomp also manufactured garbage bags in the 1950s, selling them to various businesses.
Wasylyk eventually moved the assembly line from his kitchen to a plant, while Hanson sold his business to Union Carbide.
Robertson screwdriver


A Robertson screwdriver and wood screws are seen in Halifax on Thursday, April 20, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

It took a bad injury for Peter Lymburner Robertson to revamp a basic material for every handyman.
Robertson was showing people how to use a spring-loaded screwdriver in Montreal when the blade slipped and cut his hand, according to Robertson Inc., the screw-maker company that still bears his name.
He created a new type of screw, a square-headed one, with an accompanying screwdriver to prevent similar injuries. Robertson's screw stayed in place better and turned smoother than a traditional one, according to Innovation Canada 150, and meant people could use it with just one hand.
Robertson Inc.'s main building, which he founded in Milton, Ont., in 1908, still stands there today.
The egg carton factory. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Buckley Valley Museum

Coyle worked with distributors and set up his own factories in Canada and America to make the cartons. But by the 1950s, Hammond says, Coyle faced major competition from others creating simpler egg cartons from plastic rather than moulded pulp.

Coyle simply couldn't keep up with the change in the industry, his daughter Ellen Myton, who died just before the new millennium at the age of 87, said when she spoke about her father's legacy with the British Columbia Historical News in 1982.

"Conversion of the plant to new machinery and methods would have involved huge expenditure," she said.

"As is so often the case with inventors, he was no match for the sharp practices of big business and their sharper lawyers," his daughter said. "The Coyle carton made several millionaires, but dad was not one of them."

Her father died at the age of 100 on April 18, 1972. His death certificate identified him the "inventor of paper boxes."

Joseph Coyle age 100. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Buckley Valley Museum

"It's quirky, and yet it's every day. Everyone's familiar with it," says Hammond. "We still buy eggs lined out in two rows in the same way that Coyle visualized it."

Dick believes Canadians, like Coyle, are creative, thoughtful and willing to take risks, but the Canadian psyche tends to not realize we can be world leaders.

"We're exactly at that right time in history where we can sort of shift that mind set," he says.

Research in Motion co-CEO Jim Balsillie speaks to the Canadian Press Annual Dinner in Toronto on May 8, 2008. THE CANADIAN PRESS/J.P. Moczulski

Among those pushing for change is former BlackBerry co-CEO Jim Balsillie, who said in a recent essay that Canada has the most superficial discourse around innovation policy in any of the 140 countries in which he has done business. He said a successful intellectual property (IP) sector relies on a tightly designed ecosystem of highly technical interlocking policies focused on scaling up companies.

The Canadian government also made innovation a focus of its March 22 budget, using the term more than 200 times. It said it would place "big bets" on sectors including clean technology, agri-food and advanced manufacturing.

One area where Canada is now leading is the quantum space, Dick says, saying the country's researchers in Waterloo, Ont., are believed to be about 15 months ahead of the rest of the world.

He compares the anticipated upcoming second quantum revolution to what happened in Silicon Valley during the digital revolution.

"Being ahead of the curve puts us in the ideal position to attract talent, to attract investors, to just be that hotbed of that innovation into a whole new way to see the world and to change the world."