Some of the world’s sharpest and most creative thinkers in their chosen fields have been recognised at the European Inventor Award.
They were all gathered together in Amsterdam last week for the prize-giving ceremony. An award given out annually since 2006 by the European Patent Office, in co-operation with the European Commission.
There was tough competition among the hundreds of entrants. The fruits of many of their labours have a big impact on our daily lives. In the end, the winners were divided into six categories, including for the first time a Popular Price.
Benoit Battistelli, President of the European Patent Office believes the buzz around the European Inventor Award is getting bigger every year.
“I think this prize illustrates what inventors bring to society in general and to the economy in particular, and I think its importance will grow each year. Our ambition is for it to become as famous as the Nobel prize, sort of like a Nobel Prize for Innovation,” Battistelli told hi-tech.
Some 500 guests attended the award ceremony, including the former Queen of the Netherlands.
Patrick Couvreur and his team from the University Paris-Sud in France received the prize for the “Research” category for their invention of nano-capsules. 70 times smaller than red blood cells and protected by a biodegradable coating, they destroy cancer cells without harming healthy tissue.
For over a century, scientists have dreamed of a so-called “magic bullet” to eliminate diseased cells inside the human body. That dream became a reality in 2005, when Couvreur invented these nano-capsules. The nano-particles are between only 10 to 1,000 nanometers in size.
“When we administer anti-cancer drugs, they practically attack the whole organism, different tissues, different organs, not only cancerous cells or cancerous tissues. So, the aim of these nano-particles is to encapsulate the anti-cancerous molecule and deliver it directly only to cancerous cells or tissues,” explained Patrick Couvreur.
The Swedish inventor Pål Nyrén won the award in the “Small and Medium-sized enterprises” section for inventing a far faster, less complicated and cheaper method of sequencing DNA strands.
Its combination of lower costs and greater speeds has revolutionised the study of the building blocks of life, and opened up new avenues for research into personalised treatments and cures for life-threatening diseases such as cancer.
“DNA is the molecule of life, and if you can understand the code in DNA, then we can understand many diseases, like cancer. And probably we can help to cure those diseases. But also in other things, like energy production, food production, we can understand the connection between human and environment. I think these are really big issues: if you can just read the DNA and the details,” said Nyren.
For the Lifetime Achievement, Swiss inventor Martin Schadt received the award for inventing the world’s first flat-panel liquid crystal display, better known as LCD. Schadt’s technology has paved the way for the low-energy devices, such as flat screens, tablet computers and mobile phones, now used by millions of people worldwide.
The next appointment with the European Inventor Award will be in Berlin.