21 April 2015
Their inventions make day-to-day life easier, create economic value and generate employment. They sometimes even save lives. The EPO today announced the 15 finalists for the European Inventor Award 2015. With this prestigious annual award, the EPO honours scientists and engineers in five categories whose inventions have been patented by the EPO and have contributed to technological progress, social development and economic growth. The 10th edition of the award will be held in Paris on 11 June, when the winners will be announced at a ceremony attended by prominent representatives of the worlds of politics, business, research and industry. Once again the public will select the winner of the Popular Prize, which will be decided by online voting in the run-up to the ceremony.
More than 300 individuals and teams of inventors were proposed for this year's award, 15 of whom have been selected as finalists by the independent international jury. The 2015 finalists are from 11 countries: Austria, Australia, China, France, Japan, Latvia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US. Their inventions cover a wide range of technological fields including biochemistry, civil engineering, energy, electronics, industrial chemistry, material science, medical technology, nutrition and physics.
"These ground-breaking inventions showcase Europe's role as a prime technology region and a hub of innovation for inventors from all over the world," said EPO President Benoît Battistelli. "The European patent system not only provides appropriate conditions to inventors from around the world for realising their creativity but also incentivises investors and entrepreneurs to strengthen their R&D activities and thus contribute to the economic prosperity of a region of 600 million people. These inventions once again show that the development of the European economy lies in its innovative capacity."
Jean-Christophe Giron (France): Reduction of
energy costs for building, heating and cooling systems of up to 20 percent
thanks to "intelligent" window glass. Electrochrome glazing takes advantage of
the power of the sun in winter in order to warm interiors and becomes darker in
the summer in order to block heat radiation and protect interiors from
overheating. Giron's technological innovation controls solar irradiation
without blinds or roller shutters that block views or cast shadows and is a
milestone in ecological building construction.
Gunnar Asplund (Sweden): Loss-free
transmission of electricity over thousands of kilometres. Asplund invented a
revolutionary technology with HVDC light, a method for high-voltage direct
current transmission. The electricity is transported directly to the consumer
via underground or undersea cable. The transmission itself is not only more
efficient and less expensive; it is also more environmentally-friendly and does
not require overhead power lines. With HVDC light, it is possible to integrate
renewable energies into the power grid without any problems.
Franz Amtmann, Philippe Maugars
(Austria, France): Easy connections, quick transactions and simple data
sharing. Amtmann and Maugars and their teams developed NFC (Near Field
Communication), a secure method of data transfer between mobile devices. The
technology is based on encrypted radio transmission and is an advancement of
previous RFID technology. From the Internet of Things to Industry 4.0, NFC
makes it possible for people to interact with the world around them in new and
exciting ways. Fast and easy payments, access to secure areas, warehouse logistics
- the possibilities are almost endless.
Laura van 't Veer
(Netherlands): Her ground-breaking invention, a gene-based tissue
test, provides women in the early stage of breast cancer with a reliable
prognosis as to whether they have a high risk of a relapse or whether their
recovery will continue to progress even without chemotherapy. Nowadays 20 to 30
percent fewer women have to undergo lengthy chemotherapy with all its side
effects thanks to the invention of this targeted treatment option.
Michel Lescanne (France): Peanut paste
against famines. Worldwide there are 51 million children under five who suffer
from acute malnutrition - roughly one million a year die as a consequence. In
order to alleviate this situation, Lescanne developed the first ready-to-use
therapeutic food (RUTF) based on oil: Plumpy̕Nut. The rich peanut paste can be eaten without mixing
it with water and it has therefore significantly improved chances of survival
of children in crisis regions.
Plumpy'Nut has helped to save 25 million children.
John Elvesjö and Mårten Skogö (Sweden): Controlling a computer with your eyes - the eye
tracking system of Elvesjö and Skogö is revolutionising contact-free
communication between user and computer. It makes that possible with the aid of
an infrared sensor in the screen that registers eye movements and the viewing
direction of the user. Eye tracking makes it possible for individuals with
movement restrictions to communicate with their environment - as the example of
physicist Stephen Hawking proves. Other potential applications include
marketing, medicine, gaming or the automotive industry.
Luke Alphey (United Kingdom): Dengue fever is
spreading - according to the WHO almost half of the world's population is at
risk of contracting the potentially fatal virus. The invasive Aedes aegypti
mosquito is the main cause of the spread of the disease. The British scientist
Luke Alphey invented the basis for successfully combating the disease carrier
with the aid of genetics - and entirely without the harmful side effects of
insecticides. His method controls populations of the disease-transmitting
mosquitoes by eliminating their fertility.
Hendrik Marius Jonkers
(Netherlands): 70 percent of Europe's infrastructure is made of
concrete. The biological concrete of the future will repair stress-related
cracks within the material by itself. It contains bacteria that can survive for
up to 200 years within a concrete structure. In case of damage, they "wake up"
and produce limestone with "curative" properties. Self-healing concrete reduces
the cost of producing and maintaining concrete as well as resulting emissions
of carbon dioxide.
Ludwik Leibler (France): Less plastic
waste: this physicist developed vitrimers, the first environmentally-friendly
class of plastics. The new material combines the robustness of thermosetting
plastics with the thermoformability of heated glass. Leibler has made a
break-through in the area of polymer research. Numerous branches of industry
are interested: the new glass-like plastic can be repaired easily using heat,
and is recyclable. Vitrimers can also be welded by heating just like metals,
which makes it possible to create complex shapes that would be impossible or
too expensive to produce using mould technology.
Ian Frazer, Jian Zhou (Australia,
China): An effective vaccine against cervical cancer. This
dangerous disease affecting women can be avoided thanks to the world's first
vaccination against the HPV (Papilloma) virus. The vaccine has already saved
the lives of large numbers of women, particularly in developing countries that
do not have preventive healthcare measures. In the meantime, the vaccination
has become standard for young women between the ages of nine and 25 in western
countries. Further information can be
Sumio Iijima, Akira Koshio, Masako
Yudasaka (Japan): They make computers faster, solar modules more
efficient and aircraft parts more stable: carbon nanotubes have tremendous
industrial potential. Technical application of the miniscule particles is still
in its infancy. The Japanese team of researchers working with Iijima, who
discovered this previously unknown structural form of carbon, has developed a
manufacturing process that makes it possible to use the nanoparticles even for
Elizabeth Holmes (USA): The revolution
of blood tests: a simple finger prick is sufficient to produce enough blood for
extensive testing. A wide range of analyses can then be performed with this
tiny quantity of blood - in just a few hours. It is virtually painless and
costs much less than conventional methods. In the meantime, Holmes has made the
method suitable for the mass market via her company Theranos. The 31-year-old
inventor dropped out of university at the age of 19 in order to devote herself
to her invention completely. With success: according to Forbes, Holmes is the
youngest billionaire in the US.
Ivars Kalvins (Latvia): With roughly
260 inventions and over 900 patents and patent applications, Ivars Kalvins is
one of the most successful scientists and inventors in the area of medical
biochemistry. Convinced of the idea that tiny organic molecules play a decisive
role in preventing and curing diseases, Kalvins developed a new generation of
active components based on natural organic compounds that can be used
successfully to treat cancer, heart disease, stroke, tinnitus, Alzheimer's, as
well as inflammation and chronic pain.
Kornelis A. Schouhamer Immink
(Netherlands): The key to the digital revolution - Kornelis "Kees"
Schouhamer Immink is regarded as the father of the CD, DVD and Blu-ray Disc,
for which he developed the coding standard that is still used today. Thanks to
him, compact discs store considerably larger quantities of data and achieve
better sound quality, durability and user friendliness in comparison with
conventional records. Over 1 000 patents in this field can be attributed to
Andreas Manz (Switzerland): An entire
laboratory on a microchip. Andreas Manz is a pioneer in research on
microfluidics and the spiritual father of lab-on-a-chip technology, which makes
it possible to realise laboratory processes in miniature on a tiny carrier in
such a way that they deliver results within seconds. Today the subsequent
developments of the technology, for which Manz created the foundations, are
used throughout the world - whether in research facilities where they are
widely used in genetic and cell analysis or in modern glucose measurement units
that make day-to-day life easier for diabetics. Utilisation of the technology
for rapid testing via USB stick in order to prevent hereditary diseases has had
an impact that is just as ground-breaking.
The European Inventor Award is one of Europe's most prestigious innovation prizes. This year marks the 10th edition of the annual award. Launched by the EPO in 2006, it honours individual inventors and teams of inventors whose pioneering inventions provide answers to some of the biggest challenges of our times. The winners are selected by an independent jury consisting of international authorities in the fields of business, science, academia and research, who examine the proposals in terms of their contribution towards technical progress, social development, wealth and job creation in Europe. The 2015 award ceremony will take place on 11 June in Paris. The general public is also invited to take part in conferring the award: the winner of the Popular Prize is chosen from among the 15 finalists by online voting in the run-up to the ceremony.