The European Inventor Award honours innovators whose technical and scientific skill contribute to progress, economic growth and improving our lives. The Award first took place in 2006 and has since become Europe's biggest innovation prize. Recently, the EPO reconnected with former finalists and winners for their views on trends in innovation and intellectual property, and a rare glimpse at cutting edge new research and inventions.
What does it take to produce a vaccine that is safe and has few side effects, and do it quickly? Rino Rappuoli gives us a glimpse at vaccine production and tells us how his reverse vaccinology technique could help fight antibiotic resistant bacteria and the novel coronavirus.
The organoids invented by Hans Clevers are used to conduct safe and humane research in fields ranging from cancer treatments to anti‑venom production, and from personalised medicine to the novel coronavirus. Professor Clevers has advanced his technology even further and may soon use organoids in human transplants (listen to podcast). He has also collaborated with scientists across Europe to solve a pandemic-related riddle (watch video).
Ian Frazer co‑invented a world‑changing HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer. He received the European Inventor Award in the Non‑EPO countries category in 2015 and has since played a pivotal role in steering research. In separate interviews, he has helped dispel coronavirus misconceptions (watch video) and spoken on the plan to eradicate cervical cancer (listen to podcast).
When Steve Lindsey invented a new type of compressor that cuts energy usage by some 30%, he decided to license his technology to a network of partners. Following the European Inventor Award in 2017, he made a change to his intellectual property strategy and now manufactures his compressor. He also has an ambitious new plan: to revolutionise industry in the UK's first smart factory (listen to podcast).
From water‑saving technology to the famous Swatch, Elmar Mock has had a prolific career in which he was named as the inventor or co‑inventor in 178 patent families. But what makes a professional inventor tick? Now semi‑retired, Elmar Mock provides a glimpse into his inquisitive mind and shares the out‑of‑the‑box thinking that has helped him develop non‑conformist solutions over many decades. And, in a lively Talk innovation episode, he describes the journey that inventors go on (listen to podcast).
Helen Lee set herself a seemingly impossible task: develop an easy‑to‑use medical diagnostic device that operates in extreme conditions and gives accurate results in rapid time. Helen's SAMBA II has been deployed in several developing regions and is part of programmes to detect mother‑to‑child transmission of HIV. It can also deliver SARS‑CoV‑2 results in just 90 minutes, giving medical professionals an important weapon in fighting the spread of COVID‑19 (watch video). Dr Lee has also spoken about her career, role models and mentoring students in an episode of the EPO's Talk innovation (listen to podcast).
Thomas Tuschl is a world‑leading biochemist. He invented a gene‑silencing technique called RNA interference (RNAi) that has been used in medicine. With his invention successfully commercialised, Professor Tuschl decided to return to basic research and focus on a new area: the innate immune system. He has taken a novel approach to finding coronavirus solutions (watch video) and shared his mRNA expertise with us (listen to podcast).
While insecticides may help prevent the spread of mosquito‑borne diseases, Luke Alphey knows that better solutions lie in controlling mosquitoes at a genetic level. If you can stop the insects breeding or prevent them from contracting a disease in the first place, you can slow the transmission of yellow fever or Zika to humans. Professor Alphey joined us for an episode of Talk innovation, speaking about mosquito biology and how it drove his invention (listen to podcast).
Laurent Lestarquit, José Ángel Ávila Rodríguez, Günter Hein, Jean‑Luc Issler and Lionel Ries are waveform sculptors. This pan-European team developed the radio signals that make Galileo the most accurate satellite navigation system in the world. Currently, 1.5 billion users worldwide benefit from the 22 active satellites in orbit and the network is even helping navigate the current pandemic. pandemic. In separate interviews, José Ángel Ávila Rodríguez spoke about pandemic tracking (watch video) and he and Günter Hein explained the importance of the network in Europe (listen to podcasts: Rodríguez; Hein).
Blood tells a story, and if you were able to read it, you would know precisely what is happening in the body. Jan van den Boogaart and Oliver Hayden have dedicated their careers to technology that analyses blood. From malaria to cancer and the novel coronavirus, the inventors are developing cutting‑edge tools to enable accurate diagnoses and therefore optimal treatment. The inventors have also shared their expertise on analysing COVID-19 (watch video) and discussed world-leading research conducted in Munich (listen to podcast with Oliver Hayden).
Following a chance observation, John Elvesjö and Mårten Skogö invented eye‑tracking technology that is now used in a host of applications, from gaming to mobility support for people living with a disability. Their invention helped a garage start‑up become a listed company and today, these entrepreneurs are helping a new generation of companies grow. Having learned from early setbacks, the inventors now have excellent advice for young companies (listen to podcast).
A breast cancer diagnosis often leaves patients with two vital questions: will I need chemotherapy? Will the cancer return? Molecular biologist Laura van 't Veer provides answers with her gene‑based breast cancer test. An accurate diagnosis helps medical professionals offer better treatment and prevents patients from needlessly suffering the damaging effects of chemotherapy.The inventor wears many hats, and has shared her views on balancing research, running a business and mentoring young scientists (listen to podcast).