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.
1 - 15 of 15 search results
Professor Josef Bille of the University of Heidelberg in Germany has filed almost 100 patents in the field of ophthalmology and is a pioneer in the area of laser eye correction. He developed a method for mapping irregularities in the cornea with unprecedented precision and fine-tuning the lasers to repair them. This ground-breaking invention, and its continuous improvement, has corrected near-sightedness, far-sightedness, and astigmatism in millions of patients worldwide.
Led by Federico Capasso and Jérôme Faist at Bell Laboratories in the USA (Prof. Faist is currently with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich), a team of physicists invented so-called Quantum Cascade Lasers (QCLs), which are able to reach areas of the electromagnetic spectrum previously untouched by laser light. Today, the ability of QCLs to produce wide bandwidths, high brightness, and high power very efficiently from a compact source has resulted in a wide array of unique products, from hand-held sensors for the detection of explosives and other toxic chemicals to more powerful radar systems.
Biochemists Jason Chin and Oliver Rackham found a way to incorporate unnatural amino acids into proteins, enabling scientists to understand and control the functions of proteins in cells with unprecedented precision. Their groundbreaking invention has the potential to revolutionise the way patients are treated using protein-like therapeutics, such as insulin treatment, as well as to detect prostate, ovarian, and colon cancer.
A hundred times more infectious than HIV, hepatitis B is a particularly recalcitrant disease that affects 350 million people chronically worldwide and has proven resistant to most treatments. But French scientists Gilles Gosselin, Jean-Louis Imbach and Martin L. Bryant have developed a highly effective anti-viral drug against hepatitis B which shows less cross-resistance with other medications and can thus be used as a first line of treatment.
Working in the mobile phone division of Ericsson in the mid-1990s, Dutch engineer Jaap Haartsen found a revolutionary way to connect electronic gadgets to each other at short range without the use of cables, using a variety of low-power radio frequencies. Now used in more than two billion devices worldwide, Bluetooth has changed not only the way electronic devices connect with each other, but also how people connect and communicate.
Together with Dr Klaus Hallermayer at Roche Diagnostics, German cardiologist Hugo Katus and his team at the University of Heidelberg developed a new type of blood test in 1994 which revolutionised the diagnosis of heart attacks ─ currently the leading cause of death worldwide. Their Troponin T antibody test brought a new level of accuracy to the detection of heart disease and is now the gold standard for cardiologists worldwide.
German engineer Stefan Lehnert has pioneered the use of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene - a highly durable, light and adaptable plastic - in architecture. The roof and cladding system he invented, based on plastic cushions filled with air, is energy efficient and able to withstand high impact. It has been used all over the world in high-profile architectural projects, such as the Eden Project in England or the Beijing National Aquatics Centre in China.
Looking for a solution to a practical problem, Italian entrepreneur Mario Moretti Polegato set out to create the perfect breathable shoe which would let air in but keep water out. His invention, a waterproof, breathable sole for footgear, with a membrane of vapour-permeable and waterproof material, has revolutionised the footwear industry. And the company he founded in 1995, GEOX, is now one of the largest shoe manufacturers in the world.
In the 1990s an Australian research team made up of John O’Sullivan, Terence Percival, Graham Daniels, Diethelm Ostry and John Deane created a technology for the high-speed wireless delivery of data between devices like computers and mobile phones over a network. Their invention made the wireless LAN as fast and powerful as the cabled solutions of the time, and is the basis for the wireless networking technology (Wi-Fi) now used in billions of devices worldwide. O'Sullivan and his team thus ushered in the age of high-speed, always-on wireless connectivity we enjoy today.
The inventions of American scientist Stanford Ovshinsky have arguably put the "green" into auto technology, paving the way for the development of the world's first electric car and the popular hybrids of today. The NiMH battery he invented offers a clean-energy storage solution with record durability and double to triple the capacity of nickel-cadmium batteries of the same size. Besides being at the heart of the eco-tech revolution, this battery is also widely used in consumer electronics.
German chemical engineer Manfred Stefener, together with Oliver Freitag and Jens Müller, created the first fuel cell for portable use, known as the direct methanol fuel cell. These fuel cells deliver efficient, reliable and clean electricity in a much more compact form than a traditional battery-power supply, even in extreme temperatures. They are already used in a vast array of applications from traffic management, to security and surveillance systems, to powering isolated environmental-data stations.
Billions of lithium-ion based rechargeable batteries are produced every year to power our cell phones, laptops and MP3 players. Discarding them can add up to huge amounts of waste. French scientists Farouk Tedjar and Jean-Claude Foudraz developed a novel solution ─ which is fast, effective, inexpensive and uses less energy ─ to recycle these batteries and recover 98% of the valuable metals they contain.
Austrian inventor and entrepreneur Josef Theurer is a pioneer in the field of railway construction. He has more than 500 inventions to his name, and the company he established with a partner in 1953, Plasser & Theurer, is now the world market leader for railway track-maintenance machines. Among his countless inventions is an innovative track-borne machine for installing overhead lines, patented in 1988, which broke new ground and made railway construction considerably quicker and easier.
Aware of the drawbacks of traditional hearing-aid design, a team of Danish inventors from the company WIDEX created a new, computer-aided method to manufacture individually-fitted, comfortable hearing-aid devices. Their invention revolutionised the sector and is the design basis for nearly every in-the-canal hearing aid on the market today. It has increased quality of life for millions of people around the world.
Dutch scientists Mark van Loosdrecht, Merle Krista de Kreuk and Joseph Heijnen invented a cutting-edge sewage purification system which uses aerobic granular biomass. Bridging biotechnology and civil engineering, their solution drastically improves the quality of waste-water going back into the water cycle, without relying on extra chemicals. It can also make water treatment much more efficient and cost-effective.