Meet the finalists
The European Inventor Award honours the individuals whose inventions impact our lives. Thanks to these pioneers, our world is becoming safer, smarter and more sustainable.
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Traditional plastics are dirty to produce, they use up oil, and they don't decompose naturally. So are we stuck with them? No, because in the 1990s a group of Italian scientists led by Catia Bastioli found a way out of the vicious cycle and developed bio-degradable plastics. Bio-plastics can be processed just like regular plastics, but when thrown onto a regular compost heap they fall apart in weeks - not in the hundreds of years it takes traditional plastics to decompose. Made from crops, bio-plastics reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the consumption of non-renewable resources.
In 1995, a patent was published by Dutch inventors Malcolm Begemann, Willem Boute and Marijn Van Gemert that had a dramatic effect on the quality of life experienced by pacemaker users. It was while working at Netherlands-based Vitatron that the innovators created a pacemaker with dynamic, non-linear rate responsiveness - a product which was able to adapt from patient to patient and adapt to patient history. In the years that followed, countless products utilised this technology, which still features today in key Vitatron pacemakers.
In this 1993 patent, American scientist Joseph Vacca and his team at Merck Inc. created the compound which would become Crixivan, a revolutionary treatment for patients with HIV. The release of the drug into the market in 1996 brought almost instantaneous results, changing the disease from a death sentence to a manageable condition.
With autoimmune diseases, the body's immune system is essentially fighting a losing battle against itself. A major breakthrough in stopping this battle came when Professor Marc Feldmann from Great Britain identified in the 1990s the process at work on a molecular level. In so doing, he came up with a cure that is helping millions of patients around the world.
Human beings have always fancied themselves as unique individuals. Scientific proof of this notion arrived with the discovery of the DNA fingerprint by Sir Alex Jeffreys. On a practical level, the invention revolutionised the field of forensics, archaeology and biology - to name but a few.
Hakan Lans, a 60-year-old Swede with a bushy moustache and a brain full of ideas, can point to a long list of prominent inventions. Besides developing an early computer mouse and computer colour graphics, Lans revolutionised the maritime and aviation industries with his invention of the STDMA data link. A massive upgrade over radar, it introduces new levels of precision - and ultimately greater safety.
When German inventors Dr. Franz Lärmer and Andrea Urban created the Bosch Process by adapting micro-process techniques, they opened up a new world of affordable car safety devices.
Not all patients are perfectly comfortable with a surgical robot performing surgery on them. That said, robotic systems that leave full control of the operation with the surgeon while providing important digital data have helped thousands of patients. Professor Tim Lüth from Germany is one of the most innovative minds in the field. One of his landmark inventions is a surgical robot nicknamed "Otto on the Ceiling."
Hans Meixner and Randolf Mock of Siemens demonstrated how piezo direct injection technology for car engines saves significant amounts of fuel while reducing emissions. Nominated in the Industry category for European Inventor of the Year, the patent revolutionised the automobile market and is now industry standard for all modern diesel engines.
During the 1990s, developments by scientists at the Nichia Corporation in Japan helped pave the way for the creation of blue Light Emitting Diodes. This series of breakthroughs essentially enabled the production of LEDs in any colour and also led to the creation of numerous environmentally-friendly lighting products.
In 1997, Japanese inventors Shigeo Nakanishi and Iwao Yamanaka patented the intravenous injection of Tacrolimus, a breakthrough in immuno-suppressant therapy for organ transplant recipients. Marketed as Prograf in more than 70 countries, the drug is used in kidney and liver transplants, helping hundreds of thousands of patients around the globe. The special solution the inventors developed for administering the drug helps bridge the crucial hours after a transplant is performed.
German inventor Karlheinz Schmidt has developed a substance that sparks organ or bone growth when injected into the body. The production of biological parts and organs by using living stem cells as engineering materials, also called "tissue engineering," may one day render transplantations obsolete.