Concluding a very exciting run-up which started earlier this year, the European Patent Office (EPO) just announced the winners for the 2015 European inventor of the year award. The award ceremony was held on June 11, 2015 in Paris, and was attended by some 400 guests from the fields of business, science, culture and politics.

Every year, the EPO grants various awards for outstanding inventorship achievements. These awards are granted to various categories of inventors, namely large European companies, SMEs, research at university and research institutes. The EPO also awards a prize for long-term contribution of individual European inventors by way of the “Lifetime Achievement” award. Last but not least, inventions by entities which are not European nationals but who hold a European patent are awarded a prize as well.

This year’s industry winner are Franz Amtmann (Austria), Philippe Maugars (France) and their teams at Dutch company NXP Semiconductors, which were awarded the prize for their efforts in developing Near Field Communication (NFC), i.e. a contact-free, secure technology for data transfer between mobile devices. In fact, NFC has advanced security on the basis of minimum transmission distances and data encryption.

As regards SMEs, this year’s winner is Laura van’t Veer of The Netherlands Cancer Institute. The prize is for her invention of a gene-based tissue test allowing to offer targeted treatment for breast cancer. This test has already helped over 40 000 women with treatment for cancer.

In the area of research institutes, this year’s winner is Ludwik Leibler of the French National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS). The winning invention is vitrimers, i.e. a novel class of plastics which has the potential to stem the mountains of plastic waste. In fact, Vitrimers can be repaired easily and are completely recyclable, and can be molded into complex products.

The non-European winners are Sumio Iijima, Akira Koshio and Masako Yudasaka of the Japan Science and Technology Agency and NEC Corp (Japan). They received the prize for their discovery of carbon nanotubes, i.e. a previously unknown structural form of carbon, and for having developed a sustainable process to produce them. Carbon nanotubes can be used in computers, cars and aircrafts, solar modules, and even for cancer treatment in bio-medicine.

Finally, the winner in the area of lifetime achievement is Andreas Manz (Switzerland). He developed microlab chip technology, through which it is now possible to conduct complex medical, biological or chemical analyses faster and more efficiently, by using microchips as small as just a few millimetres in size. This technology paved the way for point-of-care diagnostics now used worldwide.

When giving out the inventor of the year award, the EPO considers the importance of each invention from various points of view, including the social and economic benefit of the invention. In fact, through this award the EPO tries to identify inventors whose contribution is both technical and scientific as well as significant in the broader sense. It seems that in 2015 too the EPO was able to find inventors whose groundbreaking research and innovations have changed science, industry and life in general for the better.


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