31 May 2013
The European Inventor Award (EIA) ceremony held in Amsterdam on 28 May was a wonderful opportunity to pay tribute to some of our most creative and inspiring inventors. Many representatives of the worlds of politics, industry, academia and industrial property took part in this event, including Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, Michel Barnier, the EU Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, Sander Dekker, the Netherlands State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science, ambassadors, and members of the European Parliament. This shows in my view that the importance of innovation for our knowledge-based economies is increasingly widely understood.
Why Amsterdam? Because the Netherlands have played an historic role in the development of the European patent system, thanks in particular to the creation in 1947, together with other European states, of the International Patent Institute, which was set up in The Hague and later, on 1 January 1978, integrated into the newly established European Patent Office. Today, almost 3 000 staff work at our branch in The Hague, making the EPO the biggest international organisation in the Netherlands.
Communicating about patents, to raise awareness amongst a wide variety of target audiences in Europe, is no easy task. The virtuous circle which runs from R&D investment to jobs, via innovation, competitive advantage and economic success, may not always be obvious to the non-specialist. But there is no better illustration of it than the impressive achievements of our 15 nominees in five categories (industry, SMEs, research, non-European, and lifetime achievement). I would also like to congratulate the independent international jury that selected the five winners, whose inventions in the fields of cancer treatment, LCD and USB technology, soft closing systems for doors, and DNA sequencing – have without doubt provided answers to major societal issues or proved great economic successes. The patent system has shown that it provides the right kind of protection to helped such breakthrough technologies to develop.
The EIA 2013 also saw the launch of a new prize category: the popular prize, awarded to the nominee who receives the most votes from the public on our website. This first time, there were over 8 600 voters, and the winner was José Luis López Gómez from Spain, inventor of an independently guided wheel design for high-speed trains. There was a lot of emotion both on stage and in the audience as he received his award.
If you did not have the chance to watch the ceremony live, you can still view a podcast of it on our website. I also urge anyone whose job involves training or raising awareness in the fields of patents and innovation to make use of the documentation and film material we have produced to showcase each of the 15 nominees.