48 Hours at the European Inventor Award

20 June 2017

For this latest edition of the President’s blog, Benoît Battistelli gives a unique behind-the-scenes look at the European Inventor Award Ceremony and what it means for innovation in Europe.

15:00, 13 June: Rehearsal at L’Arsenale di Venezia

Every year the EPO holds its European Inventor Award ceremony in a different European city. This year, Venice was chosen as the location for our twelfth event, after the last successful Award in Lisbon in 2016. Each year we have to give careful consideration to making sure we have the right venue for holding the ceremony as a result of its rapidly increasing popularity. This year we had to find a venue that could seat around 600 people, for the largest Award ceremony in the history of the Award.

The sheer scale of that undertaking is apparent as I walk into the Arsenal of Venice for a site inspection and rehearsal. A former naval industrial complex, the empty exhibition halls have once again become a hive of industrious activity and are being transformed beyond recognition. Lighting rigs are being put in place. Screens, cameras and microphones are being installed. While the scale of the logistical challenges are great, the European Inventor Award is Europe’s chance to really focus upon the inventors and give them the recognition they deserve. Looking at their inventions it’s clear that their work has brought huge benefits for our society, in terms of employment, economic growth and advances in our technical knowledge. It is Europe’s opportunity to honour all the finalists for their achievements.

15:30, 13 June – Meeting with the show moderator

This year the format of the European Inventor Award ceremony is evolving to make it a more interactive show for our audience as it grows year on year. The moderator tells me that he therefore plans to ask the finalists questions during the live show about the role of patents in the inventive process. It’s a great idea as it should be able to help give the public a first-hand account of how patents have been able to help inventors by providing robust intellectual property rights that help recoup their investments, as well as spreading technical knowledge.

18:00, 13 June – Press conference

On Tuesday evening I’m delighted to welcome a large group of journalists to the European Inventor Award. With the engagement of the media, we’re able to give the finalists the attention they deserve, but also to provide journalists and reporters with a deeper understanding of patenting in Europe. For example, we give more information on the steady rise in applications over recent years, and how Europe has an innovation sector that continually exports more patent applications around the world than it receives.

Every year the attendance of press grows at our events and this year is no exception with around 50 journalists present from across Europe and even beyond. It’s even been referred to in the past as ‘the Nobel prize for innovation’, as it gains more and more attention. Even before the event, the media has been deeply interested in the inventors and the Award, producing over 1 100 articles in mainstream and specialist media. There has also been a great engagement from the public with the award: videos on the finalists were viewed over two million times on social media.

09:00, 14 June– One-on-one press interviews

As well as holding a press conference, the Award is also a chance to speak directly in one-on-one interviews with many journalists and press agencies who are keen to know about the fifteen finalists this year. It’s back-to-back all morning but it’s a great opportunity to make sure that we can talk about innovation on a country-by-country basis with the journalists concerned.  In my interviews there are also many questions on the unitary patent. It’s no surprise given the recent declaration by the UPC on an updated timetable, meaning that early 2018 would be the anticipated start date. But it is also clear that there is great public interest in this new patent that will reduce bureaucracy, cut costs and potentially fuel greater innovation.

Meanwhile, interviews between the finalists and journalists are also in high demand and a total of 200 interviews are taking place during the course of this event.

14:30, 14 June Meeting with AIPLA

User feedback is one of our most important tools for gathering input from our users. With so many of the EPO’s users present at the European Inventor Award, it’s a perfect opportunity to meet with some of them to address some of the latest issues in patenting. I’m therefore pleased to meet a delegation from the American Intellectual Property law Association (AIPLA) led by Executive Director, Ms Lisa Jorgenson. In addition to discussing subjects such as developments in the IP5 and international co-operation, it’s interesting to receive their positive feedback for our Early Certainty initiative, which is increasing the timeliness of the patent granting procedure and giving our applicants greater certainty at an early stage. It’s particularly important feedback given that the American user community accounts for 25% of our patent applications, making it by far the largest user group.

19:00, 14 June – VIP Reception

In the evening I’m delighted to welcome guests to our VIP reception at the Scuola di San Rocco for an evening catching up with acquaintances from IP, politics, media, research and business. Many of the Heads of the National Patent Offices are present, demonstrating how the event can help to put greater attention on innovation in all of the EPO’s 38 member states, as well as on the individual inventors who have been selected as finalists.

10:00, 15 June – Meeting with Minister Calenda

Italian Minister of Economic Development Carlo Calenda is attending the award and there is an opportunity for us to discuss issues related to patents and innovation just before the start of the ceremony. It’s evident that he and his government place great importance on IPR, and indeed the number of applications from Italy to the EPO has increased over the last two years (+4.5% in 2016). His attendance at the event and the attendance of many other high level Italian representatives from the National Patent office and business community is a sign of the importance that is attached to innovations, patents and the EIA by those in Italy. It continues a trend that we’ve seen over the years with each host country allocating high-level representatives to the event.

11:00, 15 June – European Inventor Award Ceremony

It’s show time. After many months of preparation it’s finally time for European Inventor Award 2017 to get underway. Timing for the event is tight given the TV scheduling but the show starts punctually.

In my speech I talk about the importance of patents in supporting innovation and their capacity to maintain a competitive European economy (Around two trillion euros are added to Europe’s GDP each year by industries making intensive use of patents). But it’s also a chance to publicly thank the members of our jury who have given a great deal of their time to decide the winners.

Minister Calenda talks about the importance of highlighting the role that patents can play for SMEs and how the event is helping increase wider awareness.

At the end of the show, the last prize to be awarded is the prestigious Lifetime achievement Award. The winner this year is Rino Rappolui (IT), whose work developing vaccines has potentially saved millions of lives. Collecting the Award, he leaves the audience in no doubt as to the full impact that patents can have. ‘Without patents, I would never have made it’, he says.


Benoît Battistelli



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