Press release | 21.6.2022
Munich, 21 June 2022 - The European Patent Office today honoured French scientist Claude Grison with the European Inventor Award 2022 in the "Research" category. The University professor and research director at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) has developed a method of using plants to extract metal elements from polluted soil, and then using these elements as "ecocatalysts" to make new molecules.
Grison's method helps decontaminate soil and provides a new source of catalysts, which could be used to produce biodegradable plastics, antimitotics (used in cancer treatment), capped DNA and RNA, cosmetics and key intermediates for fine chemistry.
"Our Award recognises inventors that have demonstrated a new way of thinking. By marrying botany and chemistry, Claude Grison has found an original way to solve two problems simultaneously. First, her solution could help the chemical industry reduce its environmental impact. Then, she has tapped into a new source of raw materials highly valued by several industries, " says António Campinos, President of the European Patent Office.
Grison was honoured at the European Inventor Award 2022 ceremony, a hybrid event watched online by a worldwide audience. The Award is one of Europe's most prestigious innovation prizes and is presented annually to outstanding inventors from Europe and beyond who have made an exceptional contribution to society, technological progress and economic growth.
Grison's invention was inspired by a question from her students as to whether metal-accumulating plants could be used to remediate old mining sites. She realised that if she could find a way to harvest the metal contained in the plants, it would open up a new source of materials such as zinc and nickel, which are used to make catalysts for the chemical industry. Few in the scientific community believed it was possible, but Grison was undeterred.
In 2011, she applied for a European patent for her method for extracting metals to produce catalysts, enabling her to commercialise her work. Grison and her team now use these "ecocatalysts" to produce new types of molecules for the chemical, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. So far, the team has synthesised 5000 such biomolecules, which they are starting to commercialise as well as a mosquito repellent with ingredients made by ecocatalysis.
Grison says that despite being a research scientist, she is motivated by the potential for her work to have an impact. "I do not want to be a mere researcher, I want to be a citizen researcher. I want my research to be useful, so that it can be transferred towards society, that it ends up contributing, even if just a little, to solving a big problem."
Claude Grison graduated with a PhD in Molecular Chemistry from the University of Lorraine, France in 1987. Between 1994 and 2003 she was a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Nancy and from 2008 to 2013 at the University of Montpellier before accepting her current position at the CNRS (also at Montpellier) in 2016. In her academic career she has published 211 academic papers (including 25 book chapters) and supervised 26 PhD students. Grison has won multiple awards, including the Medal of Innovation from "Montpellier Excellence University" 2020 and won the Suez Fondation's prize of « Agir pour la Ressource en eau » program in 2018. She was awarded France's Legion of Honour (Chevalier class) in 2015 and was elected as a Member of the European Academy of Sciences in 2021. She is also a member of France's National Academy of Pharmacy.
Claude Grison is named inventor of European patent EP2504096B1 (granted 2019), co-owned by the CNRS and the University of Montpellier.
The European Inventor Award is one of Europe's most prestigious innovation prizes. Launched by the EPO in 2006, the award honours individuals and teams' solutions to some of the biggest challenges of our times. The finalists and winners are selected by an independent jury comprising former Award finalists. Together, they examine the proposals for their contribution towards technical progress, social and sustainable development and economic prosperity. The EPO confers the Award in five categories (Industry, Research, SMEs, Non-EPO countries and Lifetime achievement). In addition, the public selects the Popular Prize winner from the 13 finalists by voting on the EPO website in the run-up to the ceremony.
This year, for the first time, the EPO is also awarding bright young minds with the Young Inventors prize. The new prize offers a monetary reward to the three finalists to further encourage them to find creative solutions to pressing sustainable development challenges.
With 6 400 staff, the European Patent Office (EPO) is one of the largest public service institutions in Europe. Headquartered in Munich with offices in Berlin, Brussels, The Hague and Vienna, the EPO was founded with the aim of strengthening co-operation on patents in Europe. Through the EPO's centralised patent granting procedure, inventors are able to obtain high-quality patent protection in up to 44 countries, covering a market of some 700 million people. The EPO is also the world's leading authority in patent information and patent searching.
Luis Berenguer Giménez
Principal Director Communication, Spokesperson
EPO Press Desk
Tel. +49 89 2399 1833