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.
1. CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
Proposals are invited from the general public, national patent offices and EPO staff. Proposals from any technical field are eligible. The open call for proposals runs from April until October each year.
2. EVALUATION OF PROPOSALS
EPO staff rigorously evaluates the proposals to ensure they fulfil all legal requirements and represent significant inventions. A shortlist of 40-50 candidates is submitted to an independent jury, including detailed reports on the technical, societal and economic merits of the inventions and biographical information on each candidate.
3. JURY DECISION
At the jury meeting, each juror carefully reviews the shortlisted candidates and allocates points for their first, second and third choices in the five categories. After two rounds of voting and elimination, three finalists (including one winner) remain in each category.
4. FINALISTS ANNOUNCEMENT
The EPO officially announces the names of the fifteen finalists to the public in April. The opening of the public voting in the Popular Prize category is also announced.
5. POPULAR PRIZE VOTING
The general public is invited to vote for their favourite inventor. An additional prize is awarded to the European Inventor Award finalist who receives the most votes on the EPO website and social media in the run-up to ceremony.
6. WINNERS ANNOUNCEMENT
The winners in the five categories and the Popular Prize are announced at the Award ceremony in June.