With more than 400 proposals received, the competition for the best European Inventors in 2018, organised annually by the European Patent Office’ (EPO), proved to be very successful and challenging. This was both in terms of the number of participants and the submitted entries.
Thus, it was not an easy task for the international jury to make a decision and nominate the final 15 inventions in the five categories: Industry, Research, Non EPO countries, Small and Medium enterprises and Lifetime achievement.
Apart from these 15 nominees, additionally a Popular prize is given by internet votes from the public on the EPO’s dedicated site. The winners in each category were announced at the award ceremony on 7 June 2018 in Paris, Saint Germain en Laye.
The annual European Inventor Award has distinguished outstanding European and international inventors for their breakthrough contributions to innovation in Europe since 2006 with a ceremony held in several locations of EPO member states.
History of EPWS involvement
European Platform of Women Scientists (EPWS) members attended some of the past editions (2012 in Berlin, 2013 in Amsterdam, and 2015 in Lisbon). In 2015 the EPWS president sent an open letter remarking on the low number of both female candidates and jury members.
The EPWS president received a response from the EPO president encouraging the association to be proactive and propose candidates for the coming editions. EPWS did so as of the 2015 edition as well as promoting participation in the popular voting on the internet to raise awareness among its members.
The EIA 2018 award ceremony was attended by Dora Groo as jury member and EPWS Board member alternate and Nieves González Ramón as an independent EPWS member. They congratulated 3 out of the 4 female winners in person for their prize as well as for their speeches describing their experience as women in science and technology. They underlined their commitment to encourage young women to go into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers and pointed out their high interest in supporting the activities developed by EPWS in this respect.
Female jury members in 2018 (4 out of 12)
Eleni Antoniadou (regenerative medicine and bioastronautics researcher), Dora Groó (EPWS board member), Pirkko Härkönen (professor of medical cell biology and finalist of EU Prize for Women Innovators in 2016) and Helen Lee (winner of the EPO inventor award popular price in 2016)
Female winners in 2018 (4)
This year three individual female winners (Esther Sans Takeuchi in the Non EPO countries, Jane ni Dhulchaointigh in the SMEs, Ursula Keller in the Lifetime achievement) and one as part of a team (Agnes Poulbot in the Industry Category):
1) Agnes Poulbot (France) as part of the team for the “auto regenerating tyre tread”
2) Esther Sans Takeuchi (USA) for the “batteries to reset the heart” stated in the video presentation of the invention: “I am happy to report that half of our students are women students and I like being a role model for them demonstrating that it is possible to succeed as a scientist” and later on reinforced her statement while receiving the price: “As a faculty member I can interact with many young professional women scientist, students and post-docs. I try to convey to them that it is possible and if they have the talent and the interest they should not shy away from a scientific career. They should pursue it enthusiastically as they all have a powerful contribution to make. Unless they make this contribution they don’t know what the world is going to be missing without their talents”
3) Jane ni Dhulchaointigh (Ireland) for the “multipurpose modelable glue” in the SME category stated when receiving the prize: “ Everybody is unique. We can see from the 15 finalists how diverse and different everybody’s journey is. I encourage young entrepreneurs to be curious, follow their interest and find a thing that is really meaningful for them. The invention process is fantastic but it is so difficult. I hope any young people can see just how rewarding it can be to solve problems that might just start from a little idea and grow and grow and grow step by step to make a big difference”.
4) Ursula Keller (Switzerland) for “ultrafast pulsed lasers” in the Lifetime achievement category presented her career highlights: “ I was gifted in maths and physics and that allowed me as a girl to go to that direction. When I started at ITH I was only 33 years old and the first woman in any hard core science as a professor and we could make many inventions. When you build a laser that is better than any other laser it does not matter if you are a woman, if you are blue, if you are green or whatever, it is simply a better laser” and discussed further her involvement while receiving the price: “As a girl from a working class family I was growing in the middle of Switzerland where people said you are going to have to stop for family and you are not going to keep going into your education. But in the 70s I believed that women can do anything. I hope so many young girls will watch these women inventors as they need to see their role models. The challenge is that there are many women and they are good in everything, but the society pushes them away from science. Then you miss out, you really miss out, I had the greatest life”
Agnes Poulbot (France) at 0 h 36 min of the ceremony video recording
Esther Sans Takeuchi (USA) at 1 h 1 min and 1h 8 min of the ceremony video recording
Jane ni Dhulchaointigh (Ireland) at 1 h 20 min of the ceremony video recording
Ursula Keller (Switzerland) at 1h 37 min and 1 h 44 min of the ceremony video recording