Honouring creative and inventive minds

17 May 2011

This week, in Budapest, our sixth successive annual European Inventor Award will be presented in recognition of 15 outstanding inventions nominated in five categories (“Industry”, “SMEs”, “Research”, “Non-European countries” and “Lifetime achievement”) and in honour of the individuals and teams behind them. On Thursday, it will be my very great pleasure to congratulate the five winners and help to give them the public recognition they deserve.

Some may question the need for such an event; does it really have that much impact, when various European countries already present several different awards linked to innovation? My first answer is that the EPO is the only organisation dealing with patents which has a European dimension – and indeed an international one, considering how many non-European users we have. The nominees, incidentally, were selected by an eminent international jury which looked in particular at the economic impact and benefits to society of the different patents put forward.

Secondly, patents are frequently presented in terms of facts and figures (numbers of applications, rates of grant, and so on), and I believe it is important to highlight the fact that behind the dry data are men and women who dedicate their professional energies and often their whole lives to developing new processes and products or to improving manufacturing methods. They may sometimes have started out with scant resources, but the end result can be thousands of new jobs, greater prosperity for millions of people, and huge improvements to our daily lives.

Thirdly, this event also gives the public at large the opportunity to engage with our rather technical field of work through living stories about real people. That, I feel, gives it special relevance.

Lastly, I think it is crucial to emphasise that one of Europe’s main assets in global competition is its creative capacity to innovate. This view now seems widely shared at European level, judging by the high-level representatives from the EU and its member states who are attending the award ceremony.

Meeting these inventors means a great deal to me, and I hope that you too will be able to follow our event in Budapest.

Benoît Battistelli

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