#EuropeanInventorAwards honour 15 inventors

| June 20, 2019

The European Inventor Awards were held in Vienna, Austria on 20 June to honour 15 inventors from 12 different countries. The awards, hosted by the European Patent Office (EPO), were given to inventors in six different categories: Industry, Research, Non-EPO countries, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), Lifetime Achievement and Popular Prize, which is decided by public vote, writes David Kunz.


The finalists in the industry category were Austria’s Klaus Feichtinger and Manfred Hackl, Spain’s Antonio Corredor and Carlos Fermín Menéndez and the Netherland’s Alexander van der Lely and Karel van den Berg.

Feichtinger and Hackl won the award in this category for their innovation in plastic recycling. By rethinking the design of plastic recycling machines, the duo has increased the efficiency of plastic recycling and recycled plastic pellet production. These plastic pellets can then be used in the production of other products.

In 2013, all machines their company produced switched over to this new design. Since then, they have sold between 1,600 to 1,800 machines and produce over 14.5 million tonnes of plastic pellets annually.


The finalists in the research category were France’s Jérôme Galon, Germany’s Matthias Mann and Italy’s Patrizia Paterlini-Bréchot.

Galon won the award for this category for his research into the relationship between the immune system and cancer treatment. His diagnostic tool, Immunoscore®, quantifies the strength of cancer patients’ immune system. The Immunoscore is calculated by measuring the immune response in cancerous tumors.

Galon has dedicated his work as an immunologist to analyze the immune response in cancer. For many years, Galon said the medical technology field misunderstood cancer treatment, as tumor evaluation and treatment was only the widely accepted approach to fighting the disease. “It was truly novel, the field was not ready for it,” said Galon. “All the treatments were trying to kill tumor cells… not to reactivate our immune system. Now it’s a totally new paradigm.”


The finalists in the Non-EPO category were the United States’ Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre, Israel’s Amnon Shashua and the Mobileye team and Japan’s Akira Yoshino.

Yoshino won the award for inventing the lithium-ion battery, which is used to power over five billion phones among other devices. These rechargeable batteries revolutionized portable technology. The first lithium-ion battery was produced in 1983, and Yoshino filed a patent for his invention soon thereafter.

In 1991, Yoshino’s invention was commercialized after his patent was licensed to Sony. The basic patent for the original lithium-ion battery has expired, but Yoshino works continuously to create safer standards and increase efficiency of batteries.


The finalists in the SME category were Norway’s Esben Beck, the Netherlands’ Rik Breur and the United Kingdom’s Richard Palmer, Philip Green.

Breur won the award for his antifouling fiber, which prevents the growth of marine life on boat hulls and focuses on making the ocean cleaner. Typically, toxic paints which pollute the ocean are used to discourage marine life from settling on boats. When marine life makes a boat hull their homes, it creates drag and increases fuel consumption.

Breur’s fiber acts like a carpet, attached to the hulled of ships. One one side, it sticks to the ship while on the other, it has prickly nylon spikes which are an unattractive surface for marine life to call home.

Lifetime Achievement

The finalists in the Lifetime achievement award were Spain’s Margarita Salas Falgueras, Austria’s Maximilian Haider and Poland’s Marta Karczewicz.

Salas Falgueras won the award for her discovery of the use of phi29 DNA polymerase, a bacterial virus which, when isolated, can amplify DNA. To sequence and understand DNA, it needs to be amplified and replicated – before Salas Falgueras, this was not possible.

She first applied for a patent in the United States in 1989, and the patent was granted in 1991 in the US, and 1997 in Europe. She had been examining the polymerase since 1967. The polymerase can be used in forensics, the medical field and more. Salas Falgueras, age 80, continues to explore the capabilities of the polymerase to this day.

Popular Prize

The popular prize, as voted by the public, was also awarded to Margarita Salas Falgueras for her discovery and application of the phi29 DNA polymerase.


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