Winners of the 2021 European Inventor Award revealed

17 June 2021

Winners of the 2021 European Inventor Award

The EPO today announced the winners of the European Inventor Award 2021, its prestigious annual innovation prize. This year's Award ceremony, held for the first time as a digital event, was entirely open to the public, who tuned in from around the world as the winners were announced. The Office also revealed that it has established the Young Inventors prize for innovators aged 30 and under.

"In these challenging times, it is inspiring to see the creativity and dedication shown by these inventors in bringing innovative solutions to the world," said EPO President António Campinos. "Their achievements remind us that obstacles can be overcome by applying imagination, knowledge, and ingenuity. The ability to take a new idea to market also demands perseverance and a supportive environment for innovation, and the finalists and winners of the European Inventor Award 2021 are all testament to this."

The laureates of the European Inventor Award 2021 are:


Per Gisle Djupesland (Norway)
Better nasal drug delivery

The Norwegian inventor's medical device uses the nose's natural form and the patient's breath to improve nasal drug delivery and provide relief for various conditions. The invention helped grow a company that is now stock-exchange listed and develops innovative medical solutions - a breath of fresh air for patients.


Robert N. Grass and Wendelin Stark (Austria/Switzerland)
DNA-based data storage

The Austrian and Swiss inventors developed a novel method of preserving data converted into genetic code using artificial fossilisation in tiny glass spheres. They created a storage format with the potential to protect valuable data for millennia, as well as a robust DNA barcode: when their miniscule particles are applied to products, they ensure that specific indicators - such as the origin or working conditions - are traceable throughout the supply chain.

Non-EPO countries

Sumita Mitra (India/USA)
Restoring smiles with nanomaterials

This researcher found that nanoclusters could be used in dentistry, resulting in robust, durable, and aesthetically pleasing fillings. Her material overcomes many limitations of previous dental composites, which were either too weak to be used on biting surfaces or quickly lost their polish. These tiny clusters have been used in one billion dental restorations worldwide.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

Henrik Lindström and Giovanni Fili (Sweden)
Flexible solar cells for portable devices

From their plant in Stockholm, the inventors produce a dye-sensitised solar cell using a new electrode material with very high conductivity that can be custom-printed in almost any shape or colour and can even generate electricity indoors. Thanks to this versatility, the cells are being integrated into various electronics to create self-charging devices.

Lifetime achievement

Karl Leo (Germany)
Advances in organic semiconductors

The German physicist advanced organic semiconductors by improving their conductivity through a technique called doping, ushering in a new generation of highly efficient organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays. His OLEDs provide enhanced image brightness, colour resolution, and power efficiency in electronic devices. Currently, half of the world's smartphones and many types of ultralight organic solar cells incorporate his technology. He has also founded several companies in a career spanning over 30 years.

Popular Prize

Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic (Serbia/USA)
Advances in tissue engineering

The Popular Prize, awarded to one of the 15 finalists through an online public vote, this year went to Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic for her advances in tissue engineering.  The Popular Prize is designed to honour the inventor or team of inventors that have inspired and impressed the general public with their creativity and genius. The Office received around 27 000 votes for 15 finalists at this year's Award.

New prize for young inventors

To inspire the next generation of inventors, the EPO has established the Young Inventors prize. From students to entrepreneurs, the global prize is open to various innovators aged 30 and under and will recognise sustainability-driven initiatives across all technical fields. Unlike the current categories, a granted European patent is not a pre-requisite, and is not limited to individuals with EPO Member State nationality, enabling young innovators around the globe to participate.

Nominations for the 2022 edition of the European Inventor Award are now open.


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