International Year of Chemistry begins

1 February 2011

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Nobel Prize Winner Professor Jean-Marie Lehn addresses the audience

Chemists from around the world, including four Nobel Prize winners, gathered in Paris last week to mark the official launch of the International Year of Chemistry 2011. The EPO, which is joining the year-long celebrations, took part in the event, held at UNESCO's  headquarter.

Speaking at the launch, Professor Jean-Marie Lehn, who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1987, said: "The essence of chemistry is not just to discover but to create novel expressions of complex matters. The book of chemistry is not just to be read, it is to be written."

With its International Year of Chemistry, the United Nations aims to:

  • increase the public appreciation of chemistry in meeting world needs,
  • encourage interest in chemistry among young people,
  • generate enthusiasm for the creative future of chemistry, and
  • celebrate the achievements of Marie Curie (who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry exactly 100 years ago) and the contributions of women to chemistry.

Visitors gather at the EPO`s exhibition stand

The EPO and the International Year of Chemistry

Since the development of chemical products, such as new medicines or green technologies, often takes decades and requires a significant amount of capital, the protection of these inventions through patents is vital.

Speakers also highlighted the importance of patent information, with Dr Thomas T. Tritton, President of the Chemical Heritage Foundation calling patents "the biggest resources of human knowledge" and Nicole Notat, CEO of Vigeo, saying access to patent information is "vital".

Manning a stand in the accompanying exhibition, the EPO's team was on hand during breaks to answer questions about chemistry patents.

Meeting today's challenges

Many of the speakers addressed the important role that chemistry plays in solving today's challenges, including the need for new drugs, accessible drinking water, clean and safe energy and increased food production for the growing population.

Another chemistry Nobel Prize Winner, Professor Ada E. Yonath, said: "The worldwide increasing resistance to antibiotics causes an urgent need for additional effective drugs."

"Chemists and chemical engineers have a pivotal role to play in mitigating climate change," Dr Rajendra K. Pachauri, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, told the audience. "The challenge for chemistry is to stabilise the emission of greenhouse gases and then to reduce it."

"There has never been a more exciting time for chemistry" said Jérôme A. Peribere from Dow Advanced Materials.

Around 30% of all patent applications filed with the EPO are in the chemical fields and more than 1 000 chemical experts work for the Office. Throughout 2011 the EPO will co-organise training and patent awareness activities aimed at the chemistry and life science community, the public and IP stakeholders.

Further information

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