20 June 2012
The seventh European Inventor Award ceremony was held last week in Copenhagen, in close partnership with the EU Presidency and the European Commission. At these occasions, it is always a real pleasure for me to meet and talk to the inventors. The ceremony is a rare opportunity to hear first-hand about the experience of hatching and developing an innovative idea, and about the extent to which the inventors were supported by the patent system. I am always impressed by the simplicity, and the passion, of these immensely talented people, sharing the story of their long and often arduous journey to success.
I was also pleased that so many prominent persons (including the Crown Prince and Princess of Denmark, representatives of European governments in charge of intellectual property, ambassadors, and heads of patent offices) took the time to attend the ceremony. This points, I am sure, to a growing awareness, at the highest political level, of the importance of the patent system, as the backbone of the innovation process. Decision-makers in Europe are increasingly conscious of the need to continue improving the patent system, so that Europe can face up to global competition and emerge from the crisis in better shape.
As in the past, it cannot have been easy for our independent jury to select the nominees and, eventually, the winners, from such an exceptional field. To take one example, the prize for “Lifetime Achievement” (one of the five award categories, with “Research”, “SMEs”, “Industry” and “Non-European”) went to Joseph Bille, from Heidelberg University, who has been a pioneer in the use of laser technology to treat eye diseases. This illustrates the innovative potential of European universities, which remains partly untapped. Universities and industry are often seen – mistakenly, I believe – as separate worlds with little scope for interaction. The two other nominees in this category were Josef Theurer, who established the Plasser & Theurer company as a world market leader for railway track-maintenance machines, and Mario Moretti Polegato, who created a breathable shoe, now known under the global brand name GEOX, which lets air in but keeps water out.
I do not intend to present all the 15 outstanding inventors who participated in the event. Each one of them certainly deserves individual mention, but instead, I would encourage you to visit our website and find out for yourself about their inventions, addressing important issues in areas such as health, green technologies and telecommunications:
The website presentation features a set of short films introducing the inventors and their work. This is one of the best ways to put a face on patent applicants and to understand the importance of the patent system in the innovation process.