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By Roger Highfield on

European Inventor Award – vote for your favourite invention

Roger Highfield introduces this year’s European Inventor Award finalists.

Roger Highfield, Director of External Affairs, Science Museum Group and judge of the European Inventor Award introduces this year’s finalists.

The finalists for one of the world’s most prestigious innovation award schemes were unveiled today, along with an opportunity for you to vote for the one that you find the most inspiring (the public can vote here).

Launched by the European Patent Office in Munich just over a decade ago, the awards honour innovators, both individuals and teams, whose creativity and pioneering inventions have helped to provide the answers to some of the biggest challenges today.

As one of the international jury it was far from easy to weigh up the impact on innovation, society, economic prosperity and job creation of the initial crop of around 400 proposals put forward by the public, patent examiners and patent offices – such as the UK’s  Intellectual Property Office. After a day of discussions in Munich we came up with the following shortlist of 15 entries from a dozen countries – Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Morocco, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the United States.

European Inventor Awards 2017 Finalists
European Inventor Awards 2017 Finalists

Lars Liljeryd (Sweden), for digital audio compression, a technology that has helped drive the market for streaming, storing and playing audio files by making it possible to shrink the file size by up to half without sacrificing audio quality.

Giuseppe Remuzzi, Ariela Benigni, Carlamaria Zoja (Italy), for devising drug regimes that provide an alternative to dialysis for chronic kidney disease.

Jan van den Boogaart and Oliver Hayden (Netherlands/Austria), who developed the world’s first automated, computer-based blood test for malaria, using a combination of 30 blood parameters to create a tell-tale “data fingerprint”.


Small and medium-sized enterprises 

Gert-Jan Gruter (Netherlands), for inventing a new manufacturing method using plant starches to produce recyclable plastic bottles – for the first time making such bioplastics economically viable on a commercial scale.

Günter Hufschmid (Germany) created a super-sponge for oil spills, consisting of a novel wax able to adsorb close to seven times its own weight in hydrophobic liquids.

Steve Lindsey (UK), came up with an energy-saving rotary air compressor, marking an advance in the field of air compression that has seen relatively little innovation since the development of the piston compressor in the 1930s.


Hans Clevers (Netherlands), for growing lab grown human organs, or ‘organoids’ to test the specific effects of drugs safely.

Laurent Lestarquit, José Ángel Ávila Rodríguez and team (France, Spain, Germany and Belgium), who developed signalling technologies to ensure that Europe’s Galileo global navigation satellite system provides high positioning accuracy, within a few centimetres.

Sylviane Muller (France), who has devised a way to treat lupus by targeting immune cells known as T-cells, which she identified as the main trigger for the disease.


Non-EPO countries
James G. Fujimoto, Eric A. Swanson and Robert Huber (USA/Germany), for advances in optical coherence tomography which can study body tissue and blood vessels without invasive probing or surgical biopsies.

Waleed Hassanein (USA), for a means to sustain transplant organs known as the Organ Care System, which extends the duration in which donated organs can be transported and transplanted by replicating human body-like conditions.

Adnane Remmal (Morocco), who has increased the efficacy of antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections by using the medicinal properties of local plants.


Lifetime achievement
Elmar Mock (Switzerland), co-inventor of the world’s best-selling timepiece, the Swatch, for which he developed an ultrasonic plastic welding technique that not only helped streamline its production but also formed the basis of offshoot applications including “welding” wood, concrete and even human bone.

Rino Rappuoli (Italy), who pioneered so-called “conjugate vaccines” and “reverse vaccinology” to help launch a new generation of immunisations that have been administered to hundreds of millions worldwide.

Axel Ullrich (Germany), for developing a new generation of drugs, including breast-cancer drug Herceptin and “tumour starving” Sunitinib, that stop cancer by disrupting cellular communication processes.


The winners, including the results of the public vote, will be unveiled at the 2017 award ceremony, which will take place at the Arsenale in Venice on 15 June.

Benoît Battistelli, President of the European Patent Office, said the aim of the awards is to “honour the men and women who contribute to improving our daily lives. They are among the leading minds of science and research.”

“These innovations, that have improved and even saved the lives of millions, rely upon robust intellectual property protection and for the last forty years the EPO has been supporting inventors with the highest quality patents.”