15 June 2017
Outstanding inventors from twelve countries took centre stage as the EPO unveiled the winners of its European Inventor Award 2017 at a ceremony today in Venice. Now in its 12th year, the award is presented annually by the EPO to recognise outstanding inventors from Europe and around the world who have made exceptional contributions to social development, technological progress and economic growth.
"These inventors have not only contributed to furthering technological development, their patented inventions have had a major social and economic impact, from life-saving medical advances and materials to protect our environment to satellite navigation technologies that bring us closer together," said EPO President Benoît Battistelli at the award ceremony. "It is especially fitting that this year's ceremony is held in Venice - a city with a special place in the history of patents and innovation. This legacy lives on today as witnessed in the group of winners selected from the fifteen finalists for this year's award."
Some 600 guests from the areas of politics, business, intellectual property, science and academia were in attendance at Venice's Arsenale di Venezia as the EPO President, and Carlo Calenda, Italy's Minister of Economic Development, opened the ceremony.
Jan van den Boogaart and Oliver Hayden, winners in the Industry category, said: "We are very proud and honoured." Asked about the invention, Jan van den Boogaart said: "It's low-cost with accurate results, thanks to having a lot of data," adding that "we hope to detect all diseases in future". His colleague Oliver Hayden said that innovation is "an ongoing journey" and encouraged young scientists to "never give up".
Research category winner Laurent Lestarquit, said he was "proud of the teamwork, proud of what we have achieved" and proud that "Europe has a better navigation system than the American one," while ensuring that Galileo is compatible with GPS. "When the nations of Europe work together, the whole world benefits," said co-inventor José Ángel Ávila Rodríguez.
James G. Fujimoto, Eric A. Swanson and Robert Huber said they were "very happy" and "extremely grateful" to be named as winners in the category "Non-EPO countries". Fujimoto praised the team, noting that many were graduate students or at the start of their scientific careers, a fact he hopes is "encouraging" for other young scientists. Swanson stressed the importance of patents, especially in medical fields, where innovations take "such a long time to develop and prove in medical trials". He also talked about the importance of inter-disciplinary research, saying that "a lot of innovation happens at the interface between fields."
Ernst Krendlinger, Head of R&D at Deurex, and Steffen Remdt, Product Manager at Deurex, accepted the SMEs award on behalf of winner Günter Hufschmid. "He always has very good ideas. Some are crazy, but some are very good," said Krendlinger, adding that luck also plays a role.
Accepting the Popular Prize, winner Adnane Remmal said that nature was his inspiration: "Sometimes in nature we have problems like infection. In nature we can also find solutions. Everything is in nature; you just have to find it." He used the opportunity to call for a ban on the use of antibiotics in animal feed "as natural alternatives exist".
Rino Rappuoli, winner in the category Lifetime achievement said that his idea was the result of frustration: "I wanted to do something, but the technology wouldn't allow me. I wanted to solve a problem... When the genome was published, I thought this is the revolutionary technology." He talked about the importance of his first patent - filed in the 1980s - for securing funding and innovation.
The European Inventor Award, now in its 12th year, is one of Europe's most prestigious innovation prizes. Launched by the European Patent Office (EPO) in 2006, the annual award distinguishes individual inventors and teams of inventors whose pioneering inventions provide answers to some of the biggest challenges of our times. To qualify for the award, proposals have to meet specific criteria, including that the inventor had to have been granted at least one European patent for their invention by the EPO.
The finalists and winners in five categories are selected by an independent jury consisting of international authorities in the fields of business, science, academia and research, who examine the proposals in terms of their contribution towards technical progress, social development, and wealth and job creation in Europe. This year's 15 finalists were selected from more than 450 proposals - the highest number ever put forward for the award. The winner of the Popular Prize is chosen from among the 15 finalists by online voting in the run-up to the ceremony.