European Inventor Awards 2019

Ben Muir | September 2019

The results of The European Inventor Award 2019 have been announced recognising the hard work and ingenuity of both European and international inventors. Running annually since 2006, nominations can be made by members of the public for anyone who has been granted a European patent. The nominations are evaluated by a jury awarding points based on technological progress, economic benefit, and enrichment of our society. Three finalists were announced for each of the following categories: Industry, Research, Non-EPO Country, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, and the Lifetime Achievement Award. Winners in each category are determined by the jury and the winners of the 2019 awards were announced 20 June 2019.

Watch highlights of the ceremony:

 

 

Industry Award

The industry award is presented to inventors of commercially successful technologies of European companies employing more than 250 people and with an annual turnover of more than 50 million Euros. The 2019 award went to Klaus Feichtinger and Manfred Hackl of Austria for their invention for improving the sorting and separating of plastics during recycling. The invention began life as a quick sketch but is now protected by multiple European patents and allows for faster plastic waste processing thanks to their Counter Current technology.

Research Award

Awarded to inventors working at universities or research institutions, the research award recognises inventions that have often led to major technical progress and enhanced the reputation of the inventor’s institution. The winner of the 2019 award is Frenchman Jérôme Galon for his invention Immunoscore®, a diagnostic tool for analysing the immune cell population of tumours. Immunoscore® uses a scanner to capture images of a surgically removed sample of the patient’s tumour. The number of cytotoxic T cells, an immune cell responsible for destroying cancerous cells, is quantified by a computer and patient is given an Immunoscore corresponding to the severity of the cancer and the likelihood of the patient relapsing. This diagnostic technique has been approved for use in colorectal cancer and has displayed 95% accuracy in predicting overall survival of cancer patients. Immunoscore® is being taken to market by HalioDx, a company cofounded by Jérôme Galon, is in partnership with medical distributors to extend the reach of this invention to more cancer patients.

Non-EPO Country Award

The Non-EPO Country Award is open to all inventors outside of the EPO member states regardless of the size or nature of their employer. This year’s winner was Akira Yoshino of Asahi Kasei, Japan. Dr Yoshino has been recognised for his lifelong work on lithium-ion battery technology, filing a patent application in 1983 for the now widely used batteries found in many smartphones and other portable electronics. His work has made these batteries safer, more efficient and more capacious. Dr Yoshino has worked for Asahi Kasei since the 1970s and has helped the company reach a 17% market share of the lithium-ion battery market in 2016. Whilst he still works at Asahi Kasei he is also the head of Japan's Lithium Ion Battery Technology and Evaluation Centre.

Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Award

The SME award recognises inventors from companies with fewer than 250 employees and an annual turnover of less than 50 million Euros. Rik Breur of the Netherlands is the winner of the 2019 award for his invention anti-fouling wrap for boat hulls. Working for Material Innovation Centre, Dr Breur has invented an alternative to the often toxic chemicals used in traditional antifouling paints. The invention is a self-adhesive film covered in nylon microfibers which prevent aquatic crustaceans from living on the surface. Extensive work has been performed to ensure that no micro-plastic waste is released into the water and the wrap can be used on both boats and stationary maritime structures. The sea urchin was a source of inspiration with Dr Breur, who is a keen diver, noticing that aquatic creatures with spikes were repellent to muscles, barnacles and other small crustaceans.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Finally, the lifetime achievement award went to Spanish Scientist Margarita Salas Falgueras for her work on fast, error free DNA amplification. Her work allowed improvement of the traditional polymerase chain reaction by the use of the phi29 viral DNA polymerase which can synthesise DNA strands quicker and with far fewer errors than earlier methods. The patents filed by Salas have been highly successful and accounted for half of the royalties earned by The Spanish National Research Council between 2003 and 2009. Salas is now an honorary professor at The Spanish National Research Council and still regularly contributes to the running of the lab.
Salas also received the popular prize, voted for by the public with all 15 finalists eligible to win.

Nominations are now open for the 2020 awards which can be made of the EPO website with the winners announced 18 June 2020 in Monaco.