The European Inventor Award is presented annually by the European Patent Office to inventors who have made a significant contribution to innovation, economy and society in Europe. Inventions from all technological fields are considered for this award.
The 2014 winners are:
- Lifetime achievement: Artur Fischer (Germany)
With over 1 100 applications for patents and utility models, Artur Fischer is one of the most prolific inventors of all time. His invention and namesake, the expansion plug (or “Fischer wall plug”) revolutionised the construction industry in 1958 and has been used billions of times around the world ever since. Other innovations which have earned him worldwide recognition include the first synchronised photo flash for cameras and his “fischertechnik” toy building sets.
- Industry: Koen Andries (Belgium), Jérôme Guillemont (France) and team
The team was distinguished for their efforts in developing the first new effective tuberculosis (TB) drug in 40 years. Thanks to the research team led by Andries and Guillemont, the disease – including multi-drug resistant forms – can now be treated successfully. The innovative drug quickly cuts off the energy supply in TB bacteria, significantly reducing treatment times and enabling a full recovery.
- Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs): Peter Holme Jensen, Claus Hélix-Nielsen and Danielle Keller (Denmark)
The Danish team received the Award for their invention of a water-purifying membrane coated with aquaporins, which purifies water without consuming large amounts of energy. The innovation of this Danish team of chemists relies on the natural filtering function of so-called aquaporins. Unlike conventional methods, it does not require an elaborate filtration system based on energy- and cost-intensive hydrostatic pressure.
- Research: Christofer Toumazou (United Kingdom)
Christofer Toumazou won with his invention of a quick DNA test which can decipher the genetic makeup of individuals within minutes, without the need for lab work – a milestone along the path to innovative medical healthcare with a preventive focus. The innovation is based on a microchip that detects deviations in an individual human genome. The chip can be inserted into a USB stick, providing results that are viewable directly on a computer.
- Non-European countries: Charles W. Hull (United States)
Charles W. Hull received his European Inventor Award for the invention of 3D printing – a technology that is currently in use in numerous fields and that has triggered a veritable revolution in manufacturing. Although a multitude of different procedures for 3D printing now exist, they all build on Hull’s original invention.
- Popular Prize: Masahiro Hara, Takayuki Nagaya and team (Japan)
It is hard to imagine day-to-day life without the QR (Quick Response) code they invented. Among other things, it is used for managing inventory in factories, administering patient files, tracking biological samples and as a marketing tool. The QR code links the physical world with the virtual realm by means of a smartphone or tablet and the relevant app.