The driving force behind the innovation process is people - people with a passion for discovery. Without their inquisitive minds, their quest for new ideas and their creativity, there would be no inventive spirit and no progress. As one of the most prestigious competitions of its kind, the European Inventor Award pays tribute to the creativity of inventors the world over, who use their technical, scientific and intellectual skills to make a real contribution to technological progress and economic growth and so improve people's daily lives.
Launched by the EPO in 2006, the award gives inventors the recognition they deserve. And, like every competition, it acts as an incentive for other potential winners. It helps to protect ideas and encourage innovation.
Winners of the European Inventor Award are presented with a trophy in the shape of a sail. An enduring symbol of exploration and human ingenuity, the sail recalls how an inventive idea can propel humankind to uncharted shores. The trophy was conceived by German industrial designer Miriam Irle and is crafted with new materials every year, highlighting the ever-changing nature of innovation.
For 2015 the trophy has been made using cutting-edge 3D printing technology. Invented by 2014 Award winner Chuck Hull, 3D printing has revolutionised rapid prototyping and small-volume production of specialised parts and products in many materials across all industries, including the automotive, aerospace and medical implants and devices sectors. Thanks to the limitless possibilities of 3D printing, this year's trophy takes its inspiration from the Eiffel Tower, itself a product of French entrepreneurial talent and innovation. Finished in bronze, the laser-sintered trophy features interwoven horizontal, diagonal and vertical beams, just like Paris's most distinctive landmark.
Any member of the public can nominate an inventor for the European Inventor Award. The selection process relies on the hard work of EPO experts and an independent international jury that evaluates innovations not only on their technological originality but also on their economic and social impact.
Proposals are invited from the public, national patent offices and the EPO staff.
A panel of EPO experts rigorously checks the proposals to ensure that they meet the procedural and legal requirements and that the relevant patents are still valid.
A shortlist consisting of about 40 pre-selected candidates across the five categories is prepared for the jury, including detailed reports on the merits of the inventions.
During a face-to-face meeting, the jury selects three finalists in each category by majority voting before finally selecting the winners.
The EPO officially announces the names of the finalists to the public.
The public votes for their favorite inventor.
The winners in the five categories are announced at the award ceremony.