This event has now ended, you can watch it back in the video player above.
The world would be a very different place if Germany hadn't given us the printing press, Italy hadn't given us the radio and Ukraine given us the X-ray.
History is shaped by such inventions and it is no exaggeration to say that the future of the planet may depend on them.
The European Patent Office (EPO) celebrates the best and most innovative breakthroughs in its annual European Inventor Award, which took place in a virtual ceremony on 21 June.
New to 2022 is the Young Inventors prize, which pays tribute to the creativity and genius of international innovators aged 30 or under. Entry into this category isn’t dependent on a granted European patent, but honours those who are working towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by offering technological solutions, helping to shape a better future for mankind.
“Their ingenuity and perseverance are an inspiration for all of us, and underline the vital role that the next generation of innovators will play in building a more sustainable world,” says EPO President António Campinos.
After several rounds of jury voting produced no clear winner, the judges took the exceptional step of declaring two winners: Victor Dewulf from Belgium and Peter Hedley from the UK, with an AI-driven waste recognition and sorting system; and American student Erin Smith, who has developed an app that uses video footage to detect the early signs of Parkinson’s disease. Both received a cash prize of €20,000.
Runner up was Brazilian Rafaella de Bona Gonçalves, who has developed biodegradable menstruation products to combat period poverty.
A virtual ceremony accessible to all
The online event opened with a pre-show including an informal discussion between science influencers Teresa Arnandis (@ladyscienceoffical) and Martin Skadal (@skadal); António Campinos; jury member and former finalist Carmen Hijosa; and Baptiste Borowczak, an intern from the EPO’s Pan-European Seal programme. They took a closer look at emerging technologies, sustainability, innovation and the role of younger generations in these areas.
There was also an overview of this year’s European Inventor Award finalists, competing for prizes in four categories: Industry, Research, Non-EPO countries and SMEs. The “Lifetime achievement” Award, which is given to an inventor with an extraordinary career, went to Katalin Karikó. A Hungarian-American biochemist, Karikó developed a way to modify mRNA so that it can be safely used in the human body. This proved crucial for the development of COVID-19 and other vaccines, along with prospective therapies for cancer and heart disease.
The “Industry” Award went to Jaan Leis, Mati Arulepp and Anti Perkson from Estonia, for their work developing an electrode for ultracapacitors that provides quick-charging, long-lasting energy sources for industry and electric cars.
Claude Grison from France picked up the “Research” Award, for his method of using plants to extract metal from polluted soil around mining sites, and Canadian-American Donald Sadoway was given the award for “Non-EPO countries” with his liquid metal battery that stores solar and wind energy at large scale.
The “SMEs” Award went to Madiha Derouazi, Elodie Belnoue and their team from Switzerland/France, who have developed a new medical platform to make therapeutic cancer vaccines.
The work of this year’s finalists spanned the fields of sustainability, health, climate, energy and manufacturing, with initiatives ranging from a robotic exoskeleton for children who use wheelchairs, to a type of concrete that creates a habitat for marine life.
They included profoundly important health breakthroughs, such as superior X-ray imaging to detect breast cancer, and tools to make everyday life easier, such as the easy-open fastener dreamt up by a cellist seeking a one-handed solution to unclipping his bow.
An independent, international jury made up of former finalists selected this year’s finalists from a long list of candidates put forward by EPO staff, national patent offices across Europe, and members of the public.