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Eleven-nation line-up for European Inventor of the Year awards

Munich/Brussels, 7 April 2006

An international jury chaired by former Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok has nominated inventors from eleven nations for the title of "European Inventor of the Year". The nominees represent nine different countries in Europe, plus Australia and the USA. This new prize for innovation, the joint brainchild of the European Commission and the European Patent Office , is to be awarded on 3 May at a ceremony in the Autoworld Museum in Brussels. The winners will be honoured by Commission Vice-President and Enterprise and Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen and EPO President Alain Pompidou.

Commission Vice-President Verheugen stresses the distinctly European flavour of the nominations: "The jury's choice shows there is a good basis for leading-edge technology in Europe. With the partnership for growth and employment we aim to strengthen this potential and thereby bolster Europe's competitiveness."

As President Pompidou puts it: "The panel's selection is clear evidence that major R&D achievements, especially in marketable high-tech fields, are nowadays primarily the result of teamwork and co-operation. Obtaining patent protection for this research is a key to successful product marketing."

The background to the awards is the European Union's and the EPO's drive to strengthen Europe's position as a dynamic centre for science and innovation in the context of the EU's Lisbon Agenda.

The list the jury has drawn up covers inventions from all the fields of technology in which the EPO granted European patents between 1991 and 2000. It granted over 380 000 patents in that period, so in making their choice the jurors drew on the technical expertise of the Office's 3 500 patent examiners. Prizes are to be awarded in six categories, and three candidates have been nominated for each of them.

Most of the nominations were for progressive contributions and innovations in information technology, telecommunications and medicine. There are lifetime achievement nominations for Karlheinz Brandenburg (Germany), inventor of the MP3 format, for James Dyson (UK), developer of the vacuum cleaner principle that bears his name, and for Federico Faggin (Italy), "father" of the microchip.

In the majority of cases the nominations went to teams rather than to individuals.

The European Inventor of the Year jury is chaired by Wim Kok and also features Gilles Capart (Belgium), Chairman of PROTON Europe, Dimitri Dimitriou (Greece), CEO of DyoDelta Biosciences, Leif Edvinsson (Sweden), Professor for Intellectual Capital, Robert Peugeot (France), Executive Vice-President of PSA Peugeot-Citroën, Maive Rute (Estonia), the European Commission's SME Envoy, and Paul Rübig (Austria), Member of the European Parliament.

Further information on the candidates and the awards ceremony in the Autoworld Museum and notes on accreditation for media representatives wishing to attend the event can be found at www.european-inventor.org .

Annex


Nominations for European Inventor of the Year 2006


Detailed documentation and photos of the individual candidates and their inventions are available on request.

Lifetime achievement nominations:

Karlheinz Brandenburg (Ilmenau, Germany) revolutionised the music world by inventing the MP3 format, now the standard for music storage. There are 200 million people with MP3 software on their computers, and 50 million MP3 players were sold last year alone.

James Dyson (Malmesbury, UK) has had over 130 inventions patented, one of the best-known and most economically successful being the Dyson bagless vacuum cleaner.

Federico Faggin (Italy; Santa Clara, USA) developed the first microprocessor chip, allowing hugevolumes of data to be processed and unleashing a revolution in computer technology.


Nominations in the "Industry" category:

Zbigniew Janowicz and Cornelius Hollenberg (Rhein Biotech, Düsseldorf, Germany) developed a process for producing foreign proteins in Hansenula yeasts, a key component in the production of hepatitis B vaccines. The new technology is now an acknowledged standard, helping to combat the worldwide spread of hepatitis B, which according to WHO estimates infects around a third of the world's population. Over 450 million doses of the vaccine have now been sold in 90 countries.

Claude Berrou and Alain Glavieux (deceased) (France Telecom,Brest, France) were nominated for developing "turbo codes" for mobile phones. These codes enable transmitted data to be checked and corrected for transmission errors at the receiving end, allowing the transmission capacity and hence efficiency of a mobile phone network to be greatly increased. This coding technology is now used in around 500 million mobile phones, and turbo codes also have space research applications.

Joan Eleanor Tarbox, Paul Laurence Scrivener and Giorgio Grasso (Pirelli Laboratories, Milan, Italy) were nominated because their invention greatly simplified everyday communications and paved the way for today's internet. The optical amplifiers they developed arecapable of transmitting optical pulses hundreds of miles along optical fibres. Their work has meant a significant reduction in the complexity and cost of sending signals over long distances, for example in transatlantic communications.
Small and medium-sized enterprises:

Stephen P.A. Fodor, Michael C. Pirrung, J. Leighton Read and Lubert Stryer (Affymax Research Institute, Palo Alto, USA) while working for the Dutch company Affymax revolutionised biotechnology with their invention of the DNA chip. They succeeded in storing vast amounts of biological data on a small glass chip (polymer synthesis). Today, as a result, a great many experiments can be conducted at the same time ona single DNA chip. The invention is primarily used to detect genetically determined disease.

Magnus Malmqvist, Robert Karlsson and Inger Rönnberg (Biacore, Uppsala, Sweden) achieved a breakthrough in pharmaceutical research. Their surface plasmon resonance (SPR) technology simplified one of the fundamental tasks of medical diagnosis, the detection of pathogenic germs and their components by determining the concentration of relevant biomolecules. The process is now applied in various branches, including medicine and pharmaceutics and also environment and food analysis.

François Geronimi (Gemplus, Marseilles, France) made a major contribution to the security ofsmartcards. He developed a method by which an integrated microprocessor constantly automatically updates applications stored on it. Gemplus has sold over 5.5 billion smartcards with this technology for mobile phones, bank cards, travel tickets and ID cards, becoming the industry leader in 2005.


Universities and research institutes:

Richard Friend, Jeremy Burroughes and Donald Bradley (Cambridge Display Technology, UK) were nominated because they made plastics emit light, in the form of polymer organic light-emitting diodes (P-OLEDs). This fundamental luminescence principle has found industrial applications in colour displays for cars and mobile phones and in the development of ultraflat screens.

Michel Bruel (Commissariat Energie Atomique-Leti, Grenoble, France) was nominated for his Smart Cut process. Bruel developed a simplified method for producing semiconductors in ultra-thin silicon wafers. The microprocessors etched onto them are much faster and consume less power. Today the process is utilised in electronic products and in nanotech research.

Peter Grünberg (Jülich Research Centre, Germany) identified the giant magnetoresistance effect (GMR), which allows for a fifty-fold increase in the usable storage density of hard disks. The fruits of hisresearch in information technology are now to be found in nearly all commercially available PCs, digital cameras and MP3 play.

New EU member states:
Wojciech Stec (Polish Academy of Sciences, Łódź) of the Institute for Molecular and Macromolecular Studies invented a method for producing modified P-chiral nucleotide analogs that can be used to synthesise optimised oligonucleotides for therapeutic applications. What is even more important is that these compounds can be individually combined. Stec's team hopes in this way to produce an effective tool for use in various areas of medicine: diagnostics, therapy, forensic medicine and criminalistics.

Danijel Kikelj (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia) was head of a team of scientists at his university and the LEK pharmaceutical company when hediscovered what muramyl dipeptides are capable of. Originally isolated as the smallest immuno-active fragments of the bacterial cell wall, MDPs exhibit additional immuno-stimulatory effects. These tiny elements in our body's antibacterial defences are highly sensitive, becoming active even in the presence of minimal infection, and the crux of Kikelj's invention is that they are useful in relation to life-threatening diseases. Kikelj's research has led to the development of a series of drugs set to help HIV/AIDS and cancer patients.

John Edward Starrett, John Martin, David Tortulari, Joanne Bronson and Mutzamil Mansurin (Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague) at theInstitute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry succeeded in producing innovative prodrugs of phosphonates which do not unleash their full effect until transformed in the human body. They are due to be effectively deployed against viral infections and in tumour therapy.

Non-European countries:

Charles E. Perkins (IBM T.J. Watson Research Centre, Hawthorn, USA) made computers mobile and secure. His data encryption method typically allows you to log into your company's inhouse network remotely from your laptop and to use other information sources via the internet without revealing important data about yourself at the same time. It also makes communication between different networks more secure. Today, the "Father of Mobile IP Technology" works at the Nokia research centre in California.

Martin Andrew Green and Stuart Ross Wenham (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia) succeeded in converting solar energy directly into electrical power. Based on silicon technology, their solar cells are particularly efficient and also far more cost-effective than their predecessors. They powered the Olympic Village at the Sydney 2000 Games, and in Europe photovoltaic cells based on the Green principle are now the most frequently produced type. Professor Martin Green has already been awarded the Alternative Nobel Prize in Stockholm.

Larry Gold and Craig Tuerk (NeXstar Pharmaceuticals, Boulder, USA) with their SELEX technology invented an important screening process used in biochemistry to find unique oligonucleotides capable of binding to specific proteins that cause disease. This pioneering invention led to an aptamer or drug called Macugen which has eye treatment applications and is due to be approved in Europe in the coming weeks. It is hoped that SELEX technology will also result in drugs for cancer therapy and prove useful in the fight against AIDS.

New EU member states:
Wojciech Stec (Polish Academy of Sciences, Łódź) of the Institute for Molecular and Macromolecular Studies invented a method for producing modified P-chiral nucleotide analogs that can be used to synthesise optimised oligonucleotides for therapeutic applications. What is even more important is that these compounds can be individually combined. Stec's team hopes in this way to produce an effective tool for use in various areas of medicine: diagnostics, therapy, forensic medicine and criminalistics.

Danijel Kikelj (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia) was head of a team of scientists at his university and the LEK pharmaceutical company when hediscovered what muramyl dipeptides are capable of. Originally isolated as the smallest immuno-active fragments of the bacterial cell wall, MDPs exhibit additional immuno-stimulatory effects. These tiny elements in our body's antibacterial defences are highly sensitive, becoming active even in the presence of minimal infection, and the crux of Kikelj's invention is that they are useful in relation to life-threatening diseases. Kikelj's research has led to the development of a series of drugs set to help HIV/AIDS and cancer patients.

John Edward Starrett, John Martin, David Tortulari, Joanne Bronson and Mutzamil Mansurin (Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague) at theInstitute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry succeeded in producing innovative prodrugs of phosphonates which do not unleash their full effect until transformed in the human body. They are due to be effectively deployed against viral infections and in tumour therapy.

Non-European countries:

Charles E. Perkins (IBM T.J. Watson Research Centre, Hawthorn, USA) made computers mobile and secure. His data encryption method typically allows you to log into your company's inhouse network remotely from your laptop and to use other information sources via the internet without revealing important data about yourself at the same time. It also makes communication between different networks more secure. Today, the "Father of Mobile IP Technology" works at the Nokia research centre in California.

Martin Andrew Green and Stuart Ross Wenham (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia) succeeded in converting solar energy directly into electrical power. Based on silicon technology, their solar cells are particularly efficient and also far more cost-effective than their predecessors. They powered the Olympic Village at the Sydney 2000 Games, and in Europe photovoltaic cells based on the Green principle are now the most frequently produced type. Professor Martin Green has already been awarded the Alternative Nobel Prize in Stockholm.

Larry Gold and Craig Tuerk (NeXstar Pharmaceuticals, Boulder, USA) with their SELEX technology invented an important screening process used in biochemistry to find unique oligonucleotides capable of binding to specific proteins that cause disease. This pioneering invention led to an aptamer or drug called Macugen which has eye treatment applications and is due to be approved in Europe in the coming weeks. It is hoped that SELEX technology will also result in drugs for cancer therapy and prove useful in the fight against AIDS.

Item source: IP/06/480 Date: 07/04/2006

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