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The European Inventor Award 2016

UK scientist Helen Lee receives the Popular Prize of the European Inventor Award 2016 at the award ceremony in Lisbon on 9 June

The EPO showcased the best and brightest in innovation on June 9th at the European Inventor Award 2016 ceremony in Lisbon.

Now in its 11th year, the award is presented annually by the EPO to recognise outstanding inventors from Europe and around the world, who have made an exceptional contribution to social development, technological progress and economic growth.

“Today’s award ceremony is a tribute to the spirit of innovation and the work of dedicated individuals who through their inventions advance the state of the art for all of us,” said EPO President Benoît Battistelli. “The inventions recognised with this year’s award give new hope to people suffering from disease, increase diagnostic efficiency, protect the environment and save thousands of lives on the road. The significance and impact of the work of these inventors underlines the importance of the European patent system for the benefit of economic strength and technological progress in Europe,” said Mr Battistelli.

Nearly 600 guests from the areas of politics, business, intellectual property and science were in attendance at Lisbon’s MEO Arena as the EPO President, Portugal’s Prime Minister António Costa and European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Carlos Moedas opened the award ceremony.


Among the 2016 award winners were Bernhard Gleich and Jürgen Weizenecker from Germany in the category Industry, for laying the foundation for a new category of medical imaging solutions. Developed in the laboratory of Philips Research Hamburg, magnetic particle imaging (MPI) offers real-time images of body tissues in unprecedented quality. Their magnet-based imaging method, currently in pre-clinical evaluation, promises to enable doctors to obtain instant 3D images of tissue complications, including cancers and vascular diseases.


In the category Research the winner was Alim-Louis Benabid. French physicist and neurosurgeon Alim-Louis Benabid was honoured for revolutionising the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and other neurological conditions with the use of high-frequency deep brain stimulation. Based on controlled electric charges administered via a probe implanted into the patient’s skull – akin to a “brain pace-maker” –  Benabid’s method has become a standard treatment around the world, and has benefited over 150 000 people, who can now lead self-directed, independent lives thanks to the invention.


Robert Langer from the US won the Non-European category. The chemical engineer Robert Langer received the award for the ground-breaking invention of biodegradable plastics that encapsulate powerful anti-cancer drugs for a new level of targeted delivery. His bioplastics can be shaped into “wafers” filled with cancer-starving drugs, implanted right above the site of tumours where natural degradation releases the drug for maximum efficacy. Langer’s patented inventions have been licensed to more than 300 pharmaceutical companies and have already benefited more than one million people worldwide. The prolific inventor heads a team of over 100 researchers at MIT.

Popular Prize

Helen Lee (UK/France) won the Popular Prize. Cambridge University researcher Helen Lee was picked by an overwhelming majority of the public to receive the Popular Prize for her invention of diagnostic kits for resource-poor regions of the globe. Already used to test more than 40 000 people, her robust, instant blood diagnostic kits are cost-effective and easy-to-use for detection of infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B and chlamydia. Lee received more than 36 300 votes, or 64%, of the total record number of 56 700 votes cast online by the public in the five weeks leading up to the award ceremony (up from 46 800 total votes last year). This was by far the highest number of public votes ever received by any European Inventor Award finalist since the launch of the Popular Prize category in 2013.

The European Inventor Award

Launched by the EPO in 2006, the annual award distinguishes individual inventors and teams of inventors whose pioneering inventions provide answers to some of the biggest challenges of our times. The winners are selected by an independent jury consisting of international authorities in the fields of business, science, academia and research, who examine the proposals in terms of their contribution towards technical progress, social development, and wealth and job creation in Europe. The general public also takes part in conferring the award: the winner of the Popular Prize is chosen from among the 15 finalists by online voting.