Navigation path

Left navigation

Additional tools

Other available languages: FR DE


Brussels, 18th March 2009

European inventor 2009: Solutions to global challenges nominated

Breakthrough inventions such as the commercial use of solar energy, powerful long-life batteries for hybrid cars, a successful malaria drug, and the "fastskin" swimsuit inspired by shark skin are among the nominations for the Inventor of the Year 2009 award. The European Patent Office (EPO) and the European Commission today announced the twelve nominees for this year's European Inventor of the Year awards. Their inventions aim at addressing many of today's toughest challenges in the areas of energy, environment and health. The winners in the four categories of industry, Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs)/research, non-European countries and lifetime achievement will be announced in Prague on 28 April 2009.

European Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for Enterprise and Industry, stated: "This competition shows that Europe has the potential for truly groundbreaking inventions, which we urgently need today to solve global problems and to help our economy back on a growth path. All nominees are evidence of Europe’s innovative strength and competitiveness."

Alison Brimelow, President of the European Patent Office added: "In many areas of technology, patents play an essential role in helping innovation to flourish. This role must be strengthened by a consistent policy of quality in the European patent system. This is the only way to guarantee that appropriate and effective patent protection will still be available for important inventions in the future."

All of the nominated inventions are in keeping with the spirit of the European Inventor of the Year awards, which symbolise the force of human innovation as the basis for technical, economic and social progress. The nominees are:

  • John Daugman (United Kingdom) used the distinctiveness of the human eye to devise a fail-safe recognition procedure which has increased security across the globe.
  • Brian Druker (US) and Jürg Zimmermann (Switzerland) for a new drug to combat chronic myelogenous leukaemia;
  • Fiona Fairhurst (United Kingdom), revolutionised the sport of swimming with her "fastskin" swimsuit inspired by shark skin.
  • Adolf Goetzberger (Germany), widely regarded as the father of the commercial use of solar energy.
  • Maria-Regina Kula (Germany) for the use of an enzyme as a catalyst for more eco-friendly methods for producing drugs and chemicals;
  • Bartolomej Janek (Slovak Republic) for reduction-gear system that set new standards in robotics, and
  • Hendrikus Meijer and Huibert den Hartog (the Netherlands) for a new furnace that allows production of pig iron using very little energy;
  • Joseph LeMer (France) for a new kind of energy-efficient heat exchanger;
  • Raoul Parienti (France) for his “Top Braille” reading assistant for the blind.
  • Marion Rudy (category non-European, USA) for a shock-absorbing system for athletic footwear.
  • Without Shoichi Sasaki (category non-European, Japan), there would still be no hybrid vehicles with powerful long-life batteries on the market.
  • Yiquing Zhou (category non-European, China), whose herbal agent is considered the most successful drug in the fight against malaria, is the first Chinese scientist to be nominated.

The "European Inventor of the Year" stands out among the many prizes for innovation due to its geographical scope and unique selection procedure. The independent international jury can rely on the results of an open competition as well as on the expertise of examiners at the national patent offices and the EPO when selecting its nominees. The jury chose from among successful inventions patented by the EPO before January 2004. The award is purely symbolic and does not include a cash prize or other material reward.

The "European Inventor of the Year" is a joint initiative of the European Commission and the EPO and was launched in 2006. This year's awards ceremony will be held in Prague on 28 April 2009 in conjunction with the European Patent Forum/PATINNOVA 2009 Conference that will look under the title "IP in rapidly developing industries - does it stimulate innovation?" at challenges posed to Europe's intellectual property system to supports innovation in rapidly developing technologies.

Previous winners include Peter Grünberg (2006), who has since won the Nobel Prize for physics, and Eric de Clerq (2008), the developer of a life-saving anti-AIDS drug cocktail.

You can find out more at:

Side Bar