The Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society (known affectionately as ‘the Poly’) has been encouraging innovation and culture for over 175 years. The original Society was founded by two daughters of the Falmouth based Fox family in 1833. It drew together people who were keen to see development and economic growth in Cornwall through eliciting ‘the inventive powers of the young through advancement of the useful arts’. The Society received Royal Patronage from King William IV in 1835, the year in which its Centre now known as the ‘Poly’ at 24 Church Street was built. The Society successfully encouraged innovation through financial awards, medals and exhibitions. It played a key role in the development of numerous important inventions including pneumatic drills, the Cornish Man Engine, microscopes and uses of nitro‐glycerine. The Society’s 1843 exhibition featured an early and influential demonstration of the new art of photography. The RCPS soon grew, both in size and reputation, becoming a key player in the Industrial Revolution in Cornwall. New outposts opened throughout the County, with members including prominent scientists, engineers and artists. The Society’s annual report was an important journal of its day. The Society attracted some significant demonstrations. These included Alfred Nobel who demonstrated nitro‐glycerine for the first time anywhere in the world at our exhibition in 1865, earning the Society a mention on the Nobel Prize website.