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Brussels, 28 April 2009

European Inventors of the year: Gifted guardians of life and the environment

Two major concerns of citizens – health and environment - were the big winners when the European Commission and the European Patent Office (EPO) presented the 2009 European Inventor of the Year awards, today in Prague. Honoured were 4 inventions: a drug to combat chronic myelogenous leukaemia, a malaria drug based on a herbal agent, enabling the commercial use of solar energy and a highly efficient heat exchanger. In the presence of Czech President Václav Klaus and over 400 guests in Prague Castle, EPO President Alison Brimelow today signed inventors.

European Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for Enterprise and Industry said: "The prize winners are a testament to the richness of the human imagination and the significance of technological innovation. Their inventions save lives all over the world and protect the environment; yet their innovatory spirit also helps to create jobs in Europe and strengthen its competitiveness. I hope these inventors encourage others to follow their paths".

In the words of EPO President Alison Brimelow: "The award celebrates the creativity of all inventors who, in applying their technical, scientific and intellectual skills, make a major contribution to technical progress, growth and employment in Europe. Such skills are particularly important in economically difficult times.“

An international jury selected the winners 2009:

Lifetime achievement: Adolf Goetzberger (Germany) for his work on the commercial use of solar energy, helping to make solar cells a viable alternative to fossil fuels

Industry: Brian Druker (USA) and Jürg Zimmermann (Switzerland) for the invention of an effective drug to combat chronic myelogenous leukaemia, providing unprecedented rates of recovery.

Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs)/research: Joseph LeMer (France) for inventing a heat exchanger of such a brilliantly simple design that it makes heating systems both inexpensive and energy-efficient.

Non-European countries: Zhou Yiqing (China) for his anti-malaria drug based on a herbal agent, which has been instrumental in saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

For more information, see the portraits of the winners and the description of their inventions in MEMO/09/207.

The independent international jury included this year Jonathan Liebenau of the London School of Economics; Jürgen Dormann, former CEO of ABB; Emma Marcegaglia, entrepreneur and head of Confindustria, the Confederation of Italian Industry; and Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, Secretary General of the European Research Council.

The European Inventor of the Year stands out among the many prizes for innovation on account of its geographical scope and unique selection procedure. In its nominations the jury considered candidates from an open competition and was also able to call upon the expertise of examiners at the national patent offices and the EPO. It chose from among commercially successful inventions patented by the EPO before 1 January 2004. The awards are purely symbolic and do not include a cash prize or other material reward.

The awards are a joint initiative of the European Commission and the European Patent Office, launched in 2006. They honour inventors and inventions that have made a significant and lasting contribution to technological progress in Europe and so to strengthening the European economy. They are presented once a year in four categories: Lifetime achievement, Industry, SMEs/research and Non-European countries.

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