Press release | 21.6.2022
Munich, 21 June 2022 - The European Patent Office (EPO) today announced the winners of the European Inventor Award 2022, its prestigious annual innovation prize, and the Young Inventors prize, which is being held for the first time this year. The individuals and teams were recognised for their innovative contributions in the fields of medical technology, cancer research, energy storage, green industry, biotechnology, menstrual hygiene and waste management.
"The breadth and depth of innovation honoured today is simply astounding! The European Inventor Award winners are shining a path forward to a more promising future. They have demonstrated tenacity, agility and perseverance as they have invested time, energy, resources and above all ingenuity and creativity to bring solutions to life. We applaud them for their groundbreaking work and the positive impact it bears on society," said EPO President António Campinos. "This year is also unique. We introduced the Young Inventors prize to celebrate and showcase the promising capabilities of today's youth to tackle important challenges. These young inventors are raising the bar on what's possible and I commend them wholeheartedly."
This year's winners were chosen from a pool of hundreds of inventors and teams of inventors put forward for the Award, and come from Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Estonia, France, Hungary, Spain, Switzerland, the UK and the US.
The laureates of the European Inventor Award 2022 are:
Mati Arulepp and Anti Perkson (Estonia):
Superior carbon-based materials for ultracapacitors
Estonian scientists Jaan Leis, Mati Arulepp and Anti Perkson optimised a material called curved graphene for use as an electrode in ultracapacitors, providing quick-charging, long-lasting energy sources for industry and electric cars.
Decontaminating polluted soils with metal-eating plants
French researcher Claude Grison developed a method of using plants to extract metal elements from polluted soil around mining sites and then uses these as ‘ecocatalysts' to make new molecules for the chemical, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries.
Liquid metal batteries for storing renewable energy
Chemist Donald Sadoway developed a liquid metal battery to store solar and wind energy. These liquid metal batteries retain 99% of their original capacity over 5 000 charging cycles. Comprised of locally sourced raw materials, his battery also provides a cost-effective long-term storage solution.
Derouazi, Elodie Belnoue and team (Switzerland/France):
Therapeutic vaccine platform to treat cancer
Together with their team, Swiss biotechnologist Madiha Derouazi and French immunologist Elodie Belnoue pioneered a new medical platform to make therapeutic cancer vaccines that help the immune system recognise and destroy cancer cells in the body of a patient.
Katalin Karikó (Hungary/United States):
Modified mRNA for lifesaving vaccines and therapies
Hungarian-American biochemist Katalin Karikó developed a way to modify messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) so it could be safely used in the human body, paving the way for its use in COVID-19 and other vaccines, as well as prospective therapies for cancer and heart disease.
After several rounds of jury voting no clear winner emerged, so the EPO took an exceptional measure and declared a first-place tie. Each of the first-place winners will receive a cash prize of EUR 20 000, while the runner-up will be awarded EUR 10 000.
Dewulf and Peter Hedley
- first place (Belgium/United Kingdom):
AI-driven waste management
From an initial prototype that operated with dumpster-dived trash and a treadmill bought off eBay, Victor Dewulf and Peter Hedley developed an AI-driven recognition and sorting system that waste facilities can use to quickly and accurately separate garbage, ensuring that more is recycled.
Erin Smith - first place (United States):
AI brings earlier care to new Parkinson's patients
Inspired by YouTube videos of actor and Parkinson's patient Michael J. Fox, American student Erin Smith developed an AI-powered app that uses video footage to enable early detection of Parkinson's disease which could lead to earlier intervention to slow development of the condition.
Rafaella de Bona Gonçalves - runner-up (Brazil):
Biodegradable pads and tampons to combat period poverty
To tackle the widespread problem of period poverty, Rafaella de Bona Gonçalves developed biodegradable menstruation products for disadvantaged groups in her country using biodegradable fibres, such as Brazil's readily available banana harvest waste.
García Armada (Spain):
World's first adaptable robotic exoskeleton for children
The Popular Prize, awarded to one of the 13 finalists through an online public vote, this year went to Spanish robotics engineer Elena García Armada. She invented the first adaptable exoskeleton for children who use wheelchairs, to help them walk during therapy and reduce muscle degradation. The Popular Prize is designed to honour the inventor or team of inventors that have impressed and inspired the general public with their invention. García received the most votes from more than 23 000 votes cast online between 17 May until 21 June 2022.
In addition, this year the EPO launched a Young Inventors prize for innovators aged 30 and under. The prize recognises technical solutions that contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and positively impact our lives.
This year's Award ceremony was a hybrid event attended by the finalists and their guests, with the audience watching online from around the world. Next year's event will be held in Valencia and public nominations for the European Inventor Award 2023 are now open.
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.
The European Patent Office established the Young Inventors prize in 2021 to inspire the next generation of inventors. Aimed at innovators aged 30 or below from all around the world, it recognises initiatives that use technology to contribute toward the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. This year, the tied first place winners will each receive EUR 20 000, with the runner up receiving EUR 10 000. An independent jury comprising former finalists of the European Inventor Award selects the finalists and winner. The EPO conferred the inaugural prize at the European Inventor Award virtual ceremony on 21 June. Unlike the traditional Award categories, the Young Inventors prize finalists do not need a granted European patent to be considered for the prize. Read more on the Young Inventors prize eligibility and selection criteria.
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