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Inventing new treatments for AIDS, MPEG technology and greener cars
Twelve revolutionary inventors compete for Europe's top innovation prize
Today, the European Patent Office (EPO) and the European Commission announced the twelve nominees for the Inventor of the Year 2008 awards. An independent and high-profile international jury has nominated twelve outstanding researchers and their inventions which have had a significant impact on our everyday lives and were patented by the EPO between 1993 and 2002. The prizes will be awarded in four categories: industry, small- and medium-sized enterprises/research institutes, non-European countries and lifetime achievement. Past winners include German scientist Peter Grünberg, who won the Nobel Prize for physics in 2007 after receiving the European Inventor of the Year 2006 award. He discovered the giant magnetoresistance (GMR) effect, which considerably increased the storage capacity of hard drives.
This year's awards ceremony in Ljubljana brings together some of the foremost inventors of the past decade, such as Eric De Clerq, who developed the drug cocktail which has become standard in AIDS treatment; Leonardo Chiariglione, the creator of digital TV and MPEG technology; and Stefan Hell, the scientist who overcame the conventional physical limits in light microscopy. Other inventions considered for the prize have brought advances in car manufacturing to make driving safer and cleaner, or have addressed the problem of noise pollution from aeroplane engines.
The awards will be presented by the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Danilo Türk, and EPO President Alison Brimelow at a gala event in Ljubljana on 6 May, held in conjunction with the European Patent Forum 2008.
The twelve nominees are:
* Erik De Clercq (Belgium) for landmark contributions to antiviral treatment, including the development of the drug cocktail which has become today's gold standard for AIDS treatment
* Stefan Hell (Germany) for overcoming long-established paradigms in optical physics by developing the powerful STED light microscope which facilitates new breakthroughs in medical research
* Leonardo Chiariglione (Italy) for developing the video compression technology leading to the MPEG format for motion video and audio, and for his work in setting the technical standards for digital TV
* Svend Havelund, John Broberg Halstrom, Ib Jonassen, Asser Sloth Andersen and Jan Markussen (Denmark) for Novo Nordisk: for significantly improving the safety and quality of life of diabetes patients with a new insulin derivative for once-daily administration
* Alain Porte, André Robert and Hervé Batard (France) for Airbus: for filing the first patent effectively tackling noise pollution from aeroplane engines, enabling airlines to serve destinations around the world 24 hours a day
* Norbert Enning, Ulrich Klages, Heinrich Timm, Gundolf Kreis, Alois Feldschmid, Christian Dornberg, and Karl Reiter (Germany) for Audi: for revolutionising automotive manufacturing by making car frames lighter and safer through the use of aluminium
* Bertrand Séraphin and Guillaume Rigaut (France) for EMBL: for creating an advanced biotechnological method for purifying biomolecule complexes, for fast and efficient drug development and medical research
* Sönke Siegfriedsen (Germany) for Aerodyn: for contributing to the use of new renewable energy sources by developing crucial technologies for offshore wind parks
* Douglas Anderson, Robert Henderson and Roger Lucas (United Kingdom) for Optos: for developing a new ophthalmoscope laser scanning technology for the eye which allows for painless and powerful examination of the retina with a view to earlier detection of dangerous medical conditions such as eye cancers, diabetes and high blood pressure
* Philip S. Green (United States) for SRI International: for developing a robotic surgery system that allows surgeons to perform complex procedures with maximum precision
* Van L. Phillips (United States) for Flex Foot: for developing an exceptionally powerful and flexible prosthetic leg which improves the mobility of those who have lost a limb, even allowing them to excel in athletics
* Stephen R. Quake, Marc A. Unger, Hou-Pu Chu, Todd A. Thorsen, Axel Scherer (United States) for the California Institute of Technology: for providing a breakthrough in nanotechnology by developing an integrated fluidic circuit - a tool comparable to a computer microchip - which allows researchers to run experiments with quantities of liquids invisible to the eye
European Inventor of the Year: the background
Among the array of innovation awards, the European Inventor of the Year stands out not only because of the eminence of the winners and the quality of their work; it is also unique in its geographical span and selection procedure. In making its nominations, the independent international jury was able to draw on the expertise of patent examiners from national patent offices and the EPO. It looked at inventions that had been patented and successfully marketed between 1993 and 2002. The prize is purely symbolic and does not involve any pecuniary or other recompense.
The prize recognises inventors and innovations that have made a significant and lasting contribution to technical development in Europe and beyond and thus have strengthened Europe's economic position. The European Inventor of the Year Award has been jointly instituted by the European Commission and the European Patent Office (EPO).
This year's award ceremony will be held alongside the European Patent Forum 2008 "Inventing a cleaner future" in Ljubljana. With this conference, the EPO will provide a platform for internationally renowned experts to discuss the role which the intellectual property system could have in combating climate change. Film, photos, an Audio Podcast and further information are available under:
To find out more about the European Inventor of the Year 2008, see
For more information, please click here
Director Media Relations
European Patent Office
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