European Inventor Award Presented to Outstanding Inventors from Germany, France, Denmark and Australia

Professor Josef Bille received a Lifetime Achievement Award

Copenhagen, 14th June 2012 – The European Patent Office (EPO) today honoured outstanding inventors for their contribution to social, economic and technological progress with the presentation of the European Inventor Award (EIA) – Europe’s most prestigious prize for innovation. The Danish Crown Prince and Princess, around 350 economic and political decision makers, researchers, scientists and intellectual property specialists attended the award ceremony at the Royal Danish Playhouse in Copenhagen.

The EIA is presented in five categories: “Industry”, “Research”, “Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs)”, “Non-European countries”, and “Lifetime achievement”. The five winners of the European Inventor Award 2012 come from Germany (2), France, Denmark and Australia, and represent the fields of ophthalmology, fuel cell technology, medical research, medical technology and telecommunications.

“With their brilliant inventions, this year’s laureates have created great economic value and thousands of jobs. Above all, they have improved people’s lives”, said EPO President Benoît Battistelli. “The EIA pays tribute to these creative and entrepreneurial minds for their significant contribution to technological progress, social development and economic growth.”

Winners of the European Inventor Award 2012

In the “Lifetime achievement” category, the award went to Prof. Josef Bille from the University of Heidelberg in Germany, who has filed almost 100 patents in the field of ophthalmology and paved the way in the field of laser eye corrections. Prof. Bille’s ground-breaking invention of wavefront technology for laser eye surgery enables the mapping of aberrations in the iris and thus helps correct short-sightedness, long-sightedness, and astigmatism for millions of people worldwide.

In the “Industry” category, the EPO honoured the Danish team Jan Tøpholm, Søren Westermann and Svend Vitting Andersen of Widex for developing a computer-aided method to manufacture individually-fitted, comfortable hearing-aid devices. The unique stereo-lithographic manufacturing method CAMISHA (Computer-Aided Manufacturing of Individual Shells for Hearing Aids) has revolutionised hearing aids since its introduction. The majority of all hearing aid devices worldwide now use this technology.

The award in the “Research” category went to Dr. Gilles Gosselin and Prof. Jean-Louis Imbach at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and Dr. Marti L. Bryant who developed an effective drug for the treatment of hepatitis B that has now been successfully commercialised. One hundred times more infectious than HIV, hepatitis B is a particularly persistent disease that chronically affects 350 million people worldwide.

Dr. Manfred Stefener (Germany), founder of Smart Fuel Cell AG (SFC), Oliver Freitag and Dr. Jens Müller received the award in the “SMEs” category for the development of the first fuel cell for portable use, the so-called direct methanol fuel cell or DMFC. Today, these fuel cells are used in a vast array of applications, including traffic management, security and surveillance systems as well as to power isolated environmental data stations. They are also recognised for their environmental friendliness.

In the “Non European Countries” category the EPO honoured Dr. John O’ Sullivan, Graham Daniels, Dr. Terence Percival, Diethelm Ostry and John Deane from Australia who laid the foundation for today’s wireless networking technology (Wi-Fi). The researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) created a technology that made the wireless LAN fast and robust so it would be as powerful as the cabled solutions of the time. Their technology forms the standard today of almost all wireless networks.

About the European Inventor Award (EIA)

Launched in 2006, the European Inventor Award is presented annually by the EPO, in co-operation with the European Commission, the country which holds the EU Council Presidency at the time of the award ceremony, which this year is Denmark, and the respective national Patent Office, this year the Danish Patent and Trademark Office. The award honours inventive individuals and teams whose pioneering work provides answers to the challenges of our age and thereby contributes to progress and prosperity.

Inventors of any nationality in any technological field who have been granted at least one valid European patent for their invention are eligible for consideration, with nominations submitted by the public and patent specialists from all over the world. An international jury comprised of leading personalities from industry, science, politics and media selects three finalists from hundreds of applicants, from which one winner is chosen. The criteria for evaluation include the invention’s overall benefit to society, the economic success of the invention in terms of job creation and development as well as its impact on technology.

About the European Patent Office (EPO)

With almost 7,000 employees, the European Patent Office (EPO) is one of the largest European institutions. Its headquarters are in Munich and it has offices in Berlin, Brussels, The Hague and Vienna. The EPO was founded with the aim of strengthening co-operation between the European states in the field of invention protection. Through the EPO’s centralised patent granting procedure, inventors are able to obtain patent protection in the 38 member states of the European Patent Organisation. The EPO is recognised by its users for delivering high quality patents for an economic region comprising some 600 million inhabitants. It is the world’s leading authority in patent information and patent searching. In 2011, the EPO received a record number of 244,000 patent filings and granted 62,115 European patents.

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