The winners of the EPO's European Inventor Award 2013 with Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands

Europe's top inventors honoured at awards

The European Patent Office has honoured the pioneering inventors of LCD technology, nano-capsules and USB.

The organisation today announced the winners of the European Inventor Award 2013, which honours outstanding inventors for their contribution to social, economic and technological progress.

The awards were presented in five categories: Industry, Research, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs), Non-European Countries, and Lifetime Achievement and this year, for the first time, the general public was invited to vote for the Popular Prize from among the 15 finalists.

"Innovation holds the key to safeguarding quality of life and economic prosperity in Europe," said EPO President Benoît Battistelli at the award ceremony.

"All of the inventors honoured here today have been truly exemplary, not only in coming up with ingenious solutions to challenges of our time, such as healthcare and climate change, but also in improving people's lives through the quality of the products and services that we are using every day, and by creating jobs to promote economic wealth.

“They demonstrate Europe's creative drive and inventive spirit, and the role played by patents in supporting this."

The Lifetime Achievement award went to Martin Schadt, of Switzerland, inventor of the world's first flat-panel liquid crystal display, better known as LCD, which 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 Industry award was won by Claus Hämmerle and Klaus Brüstle, from Austrian manufacturer Julius Blum, for their invention of a damper system for soft closing of furniture doors, drawers and wall cabinets called “Blumotion”.

Pål Nyrén, from Sweden, won the Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises award for inventing pyrosequencing ─ 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.

The Research award went to Patrick Couvreur, Barbara Stella, Véronique Rosilio, Luigi Cattel, a team at Paris-Sud University, for their invention of nano-capsules – 70 times smaller than red blood cells and protected by a biodegradable coating – which destroy cancer cells without harming healthy tissue.

The Non-European Countries award was won by Ajay V Bhatt, Bala Sudarshan Cadambi, Jeff Morriss, Shaun Knoll, Shelagh Callahan, from the US, for creating and developing the industry standard Universal Serial Bus (USB) technology.

And the winner of the Popular Prize was José Luis López Gómez, from Spain, whose invention to use a unique “independent guided” wheel design rather than a standard axle on high-speed passenger trains makes those trains some of the most comfortable and safe in the industry.

The new technology also helps to reduce energy consumption, premature wear and costs of maintenance.

An electronic system monitors the speed at which the wheels are rotating. Due to the wheels' slightly conical shape and the difference in length between the inner and outer tracks on a curved section of track, the system can determine the wheels' exact contact point. Pneumatic struts attached to the wheels then move the wheels to the best position.  

Launched in 2006, the European Inventor Award is presented annually by the European Patent Office.

Nomination proposals are submitted by the public, and by patent examiners at the EPO and Europe's national patent offices. Fifteen finalists and, subsequently, the winners are chosen from among the nominees by a high-profile international jury which includes experts from business, politics, media, academia and research.

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