Press release | 7.6.2018
Paris, Saint-Germain-en-Laye/Munich, 7 June 2018 - The European Patent Office (EPO) honoured Irish product designer and inventor Jane ní Dhulchaointigh with the European Inventor Award 2018 in the "Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)" category, one of five award categories, at a ceremony held today in Paris, Saint-Germain-en-Laye.
The Irish inventor created a malleable glue with both the adhesive properties of super glue and the pliability, when hardened, of rubber. Named Sugru, after the Irish word for ‘play', her adhesive has enhanced our ability to successfully repair and personalise everyday items like never before.
"By enabling us to more easily fix and improve the things we own, Jane ní Dhulchaointigh encourages us to take a more sustainable approach to our possessions and reduce waste as a consequence," said EPO President Benoît Battistelli. "Her success in establishing a unique, sustainable consumer product underscores both the innovative strength of Europe's SMEs and the benefits of patents in reaching such goals."
The European Inventor Award ceremony at the Théâtre Alexandre Dumas was attended by some 600 guests from the areas of politics, business, intellectual property and science. The Award is presented annually by the EPO to distinguish outstanding inventors from Europe and around the world who have made an exceptional contribution to social development, technological progress and economic growth. The winners were chosen by an independent international jury from a nomination list of more than 500 individuals and teams of inventors put forward for this year's award.
Jane ní Dhulchaointigh is one of four women inventors being honoured with the 2018 Award, the highest number ever since it was launched in 2006.
While studying product design at the Royal College of Art in London in 2003, Jane ní Dhulchaointigh realised that as a product designer she was potentially contributing to the world's waste problems rather than solving them: "So, I asked myself: could I create something that would help people fix and improve and reimagine the stuff they already had?"
One day, while playing with a mixture of silicone and wood dust, she discovered that the material not only bounced when rolled into a ball, but it had strong adhesive properties. "I started thinking maybe that this is this magical material that didn't really exist yet," she says. She decided to develop it further.
Teaming up with husband James Carrigan and UK entrepreneur Roger Ashby, ní Dhulchaointigh worked with a pair of retired silicone scientists and materials specialist Tom Dowden to develop Sugru. In 2009, after more than 8 000 lab hours and a patent from the EPO, the new glue was launched. Today there are Sugru users in 175 countries, and they have fixed more than 15 million things. "Sugru is not only a product, it's a business on a mission," the inventor says. "I believe that this little glob of glue can change the world for the better."
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