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Inventing our future: European Inventor Award 2024 winners revealed

European Inventor Award 2024.
European Inventor Award 2024. Copyright EPO
Copyright EPO
By Rory Elliott Armstrong with European Patent Office
Published on Updated
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This year especially celebrated the work of women scientists and inventors throughout history, with the lifetime achievement award going to chemist Dame Carol Robinson for her work with mass spectrometry.

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"Many of these projects have already shaped out lives," were the opening words to this year's European Inventor Award, as the contestants got ready to find out which of their projects most impacted the judges and, consequently, the world of science.

The European Patent Office (EPO) revealed the winners during a live ceremony streamed from Malta. An independent jury selected the winners for their contributions that span sectors such as automotive manufacturing, computer vision, magnet technology and renewable energy.

In addition to celebrating world-class inventions and their fascinating creators, the EPO announced an exciting new twist in the Young Inventors Prize and revealed the winner of the Popular prize, voted by the public.

The EPO is the European governing body that grants patents to new inventions and the European Inventor Award is a coveted symbol of innovation across technical fields in Europe and beyond.

You can watch a replay of the final awards ceremony in the video player at the top of this article.

Carol Robinson (UK), winner of the European Inventor Award 2024 in the category Lifetime Achievement
Carol Robinson (UK), winner of the European Inventor Award 2024 in the category Lifetime AchievementEPO

The four main categories of the event included Industry, Research, Non-EPO Countries, and SMEs. From healthcare breakthroughs to eco-friendly manufacturing, the innovations of the contenders transcend boundaries, tackling pressing global issues head-on.

There is also the Young Inventors Prize, which celebrates inventors under 30 working towards sustainability solutions. Unlike the traditional award categories, the Young Inventors Prize finalists do not need a granted European patent to be considered for the award.

This year, the Lifetime Achievement award was handed out to Carol Vivien Robinson for her innovative approach to mass spectrometry, which has transformed our understanding of proteins within their native environments and paved the way for advancements in drug discovery and personalised medicine.

Here are the EPO winners and their projects:

Industry

Fiorenzo Dioni (IT) and Richard Oberle (DE), nominated for the European Inventor Award 2024 in the category Industry.
Fiorenzo Dioni (IT) and Richard Oberle (DE), nominated for the European Inventor Award 2024 in the category Industry.EPO

Fiorenzo Dioni from Italy and Richard Oberle from Germany for their advancements in aluminium casting technology that reduces carbon emissions in automotive manufacturing.

Traditional methods of vehicle production require assembling large car underbodies from dozens of individual castings. The Giga Press, the world's largest high-pressure aluminium die-casting machine, a paradigm shift in production capability and speed, streamlines the complex process by producing just two to three large castings that make up the underbody of a car, making the process more sustainable.

The runners-up included:

- Icelander Fertram Sigurjonsson and his team for developing a biotech-derived wound-healing product using fish skin.

- Ulf Landegren and Simon Fredriksson from Sweden for their work in molecular diagnostics enhancing disease detection and management.

Research

Cordelia Schmid (DE), winner for the European Inventor Award 2024 in the category Research.
Cordelia Schmid (DE), winner for the European Inventor Award 2024 in the category Research.EPO

German Cordelia Schmid for her AI solutions that enable advanced machine perception that closely mimics human visual interpretation.

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The development of technologies enabling AI to ‘see’ and interpret complex visual data opens up new possibilities for human-computer interaction across various commercial and research sectors. Cordelia Schmid’s work is significant for guiding artificial intelligence beyond basic object recognition to greater sophistication, such as understanding the context of visual scenes, interpreting human actions, and even predicting future events within a video.

A key feature of Schmid’s work is its efficiency. Visual data is processed and analysed in real-time, which is essential for applications requiring an immediate response, such as self-driving vehicles and interactive robotics.

The runners-up included:

Maltese duo Tonio Sant and Daniel Buhagiar and their team for their sustainable offshore energy storage solution.

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The French team led by David Devos and Caroline Moreau for their innovative treatments for Parkinson’s disease that offer better management of the disease with fewer side effects.

Non-EPO Countries

Masato Sagawa, winner of the European Inventor Award 2024 in the category Research
Masato Sagawa, winner of the European Inventor Award 2024 in the category ResearchKOSUKE ARAKAWA/EPO

Masato Sagawa from Japan for his contributions to developing superior permanent magnets used in various high-tech applications.

Before the 1980s, the preferred material for high-performance permanent magnets was an expensive combination of samarium and cobalt. Motivated by the lower cost of iron and its magnetic properties, Sagawa experimented with various elements to develop a new type of magnet.

Using a sintering process that bonds the powdered components through a combination of heat and pressure, while keeping the fine microstructure, he eventually found the key by inserting boron into a neodymium and iron crystal lattice.

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Since the miniaturisation of the hard drive in the 1980s, which led to the rise of the personal computer, permanent magnets have found use in almost every field of modern technology.

The runners-up included:

A Brazilian team led by Fernando Catalano and Micael Carmo for their innovations that reduce noise and carbon emissions in air travel.

American-based David Fattal for his advancements in display optics and software to create glasses-free 3D imaging.

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SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises)

Olga Malinkiewicz and team (PL), winners of the European Inventor Award 2024 in the category SMEs.
Olga Malinkiewicz and team (PL), winners of the European Inventor Award 2024 in the category SMEs.EPO

A Polish team led by Olga Malinkiewicz for their innovative thin-film perovskite solar cell printing technology.

As the world’s most rapidly expanding renewable energy source, increasing solar power capacity is central to the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive, where renewable energy sources should comprise 45% of the EU’s total energy consumption by 2030.

Perovskite solar cells, an alternative to traditional silicon-based solar panels, can absorb a wider range of the sun’s wavelengths, making them more efficient at converting light into electricity.

Olga and her team were also this year's winner of the Popular Prize.

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The runners-up included:

Finnish inventors Sirpa Jalkanen and Markku Jalkanen for their work on a targeted immunotherapy to treat cancer.

French inventors Bruno Mottet, Lydéric Bocquet for the award for their osmotic power generation technology utilising nanostructured materials.

Young Inventors prize

Celebrating its third year, the Young Inventors Prize spotlights the ingenuity of individuals aged 30 and under whose technical innovations hold promise in advancing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. This platform underscores the pivotal role of the youth in propelling global inventions forward.

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This year's winner was Rochelle Niemeijer, a 29-year-old Dutch scientist, won first place for her portable AI-driven chemistry kit that quickly identifies bacteria causing infections like urinary tract infections. This invention allows for faster and more accurate medical treatment decisions. 

Rochelle Niemeijer (Netherlands), winnder of the Young Inventors Prize 2024.
Rochelle Niemeijer (Netherlands), winnder of the Young Inventors Prize 2024.Jan Reinier van der Vliet/EPO

The second prize went to Ukrainian Valentyn Frechka with new-generation technology that addresses deforestation and carbon emissions by transforming leaves into eco-friendly paper.

And the third prize went to the Turkish team of Khaoula Ben Ahmed, Ghofrane Ayari, Souleima Ben Temime and Sirine Ayari with ​​MOOVOBRAIN, an all-in-one smart wheelchair-control solution that enables individuals with severe disabilities to navigate independently.

Special thanks to women in science

While all winners took it upon themselves to congratulate their teams, whom they said without science would not exist, there was a special final remembrance of women inventors throughout history.

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Their work was remembered in such inventions as the coffee filter, the GPS, security systems, windshield wipers, Wi-Fi, the dishwasher and, some suspect, beer!

New direction for the Young Inventors Prize

Starting next year, the Young Inventors Prize will have its own ceremony held separately from the European Inventor Award. The EPO will host the Prize and the Award on an alternating basis, starting with the Young Inventors Prize in Iceland in 2025. This means the next European Inventor Award will take place in 2026. Nominations are now open for next year.

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