Meet the finalists
The European Inventor Award honours the individuals whose inventions impact our lives. Thanks to these pioneers, our world is becoming safer, smarter and more sustainable.
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In the early 1990s, a team of Scottish inventors developed a system that yields a complete and detailed picture of a patient's retina in a quarter of a second via a non-invasive laser scanning technology, making stressful eye exams a thing of the past.
Consumers now expect even the smallest electronic devices to come armed with the ability to play video clips. The catalyst for the age of digital video came with the MPEG codec for compressing audio and video information into digital format, a technology developed under the leadership of Italian engineer and media entrepreneur Dr Leonardo Chiariglione.
Until recently, physicians had extremely limited options available when treating viral infections. Viruses' ability to mutate and the difficulty of selectively targeting them left physicians to treat symptoms instead of attacking the infectious agents themselves. Today, clinicians have effective weapons in their arsenal thanks largely to four decades of virological research by Professor Erik De Clercq of the University of Leuven, Belgium.
The search for more fuel-efficient cars ultimately led to lighter frames built with new materials. Overcoming the old paradigm in car engineering that steel is the ultimate material of choice, Audi's team of inventors around Norbert Enning paved the way for the use of aluminium as a next-generation fabric which renders car frames not only lighter and slimmer, but also safer.
It's a rare individual who makes two lasting and commercially viable contributions to a single field - rarer still that such a person can make the claim to have bettered the lives of millions in the process. Biomedical engineer Philip S. Green of SRI International, the non-profit research institute formerly known as the Stanford Research Institute of Stanford University, is one such man.
In 2001, a new variety of slow-releasing insulin, invented by a team of Danish scientists around Sven Havelund and marketed by Novo Nordisk - dramatically increased the quality of life for patients suffering from one of the world's most widespread diseases: diabetes mellitus types 1 and 2.
Throughout history, medicine has benefited dramatically from groundbreaking technologies at seemingly regular intervals. One of the latest contributions to clinical microbiology came in 2001 with the revolutionary Stimulated Emission Depletion (STED) microscope, developed by Professor Stefan Hell of the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen, Germany.
In the 1980s, American inventor Van Phillips' Flex-Foot prosthetic leg brought new hope to amputees. For the first time, those who had lost limbs to accidents, disease or birth defects were able to take part in strenuous athletic endeavours. The breakthrough, born from Phillips' own experience of losing a limb, was updated with patents throughout the 1990s. Today, it is used in some form by 90 percent of all athletes in the Paralympics.
For years, inventions in the aerospace sector have focused largely on producing larger and faster aeroplanes, with the high noise levels of jet engines receiving little attention. That changed when Airbus inventors Alain Porte, André Robert, Hervé Batard developed a noise-absorbing inside layering for aeroplane engines which makes the A-380 super-jumbo by far the quietest long-range aircraft in the world.
Consumers around the world delight in printing high-resolution photos on inkjet printers in their own homes. Scientists are excited by DNA sequencers so small and efficient they fit on a single chip. And even the least science-minded among us cannot help but be thrilled by the prospect of directly manipulating a single molecule of DNA. These are all examples of microfluidics at work. Breakthroughs in this new field of nanotechnology are largely thanks to the sets of very, very tiny tools being developed by applied physicist Professor Stephen Quake.
A European pioneer of wind energy, Sönke Siegfriedsen developed a system that protects offshore wind units from corrosive sea air, making possible Germany's first offshore wind park.
A team of French scientists working at a European institute in the late 1990s developed a method to quickly and easily isolate and purify proteins. The development culminated in a patent for an invention that sparked the foundation of Cellzome, a highly successful start-up company in the proteomics and drug discovery sector.