European Inventor Awards 2014
- David Wardell
On June 17th, the annual European Inventor Awards were announced in Berlin. Stealing the show was the 94 year-old prolific inventor, Artur Fischer, who won the Lifetime achievement award...
The 'King of the Wall-Plug'
Artur Fischer has been dubbed the ‘Edison of his day’ for holding some 1,080 patents. Despite his age he still hopes to beat Edison’s record of 1,093. He is best known for, in 1958, introducing the ubiquitous plastic wall-plug that has revolutionised the construction industry (and helped many a DIYer to finally put up their own shelves). Today over 14 million wall-plugs are made daily.
He filed his first patent in 1949 for a synchronised photo flash. As with many inventors, he was spurred-on to solve his own problem when he was frustrated by a photographer refusing to take pictures for him – due to the fire risk associated with magnesium flashlights. He also invented Fischertechnik – a hugely popular children’s construction toy, which he wishes he had when younger. “As a child I always wanted to be an engineer” he said.
Despite his patents for these inventions – plus others including ventilation nozzles, cup holders, CD boxes, storage trays, etc. – it is the wall-plug and other fasteners that have made his company Fischerwerke, GmbH (founded in 1948) a world leader. The 2012 annual report shows a turnover of €618 million and a range of over 14,000 products. More than half of these products are still manufactured in Germany.
Accepting his award, to a standing ovation, he said it was “One of the greatest presents received in a long life.” He went on to urge parents to let their children play by saying “We have to keep the child within us if we want to be rich in invention.”
Artur Fischer is no stranger to awards, having amassed many during his prolific career, including the honorary title of ’engineer’ from the University of Stuttgart.
Five other awards were presented on the night in front of a prestigious audience from the fields of science, business, culture and politics.
The other category winners are:
Koen Andries (Belgium), Jérôme Guillemont (France) and team
The team was distinguished for its efforts in developing the first new effective tuberculosis (TB) drug in 40 years. Thanks to the research team led by Andries and Guillemont, the disease - including multi-drug resistant forms - can now be treated successfully. The innovative drug quickly cuts off the energy supply in TB bacteria, significantly reducing treatment times and enabling a full recovery.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
Peter Holme Jensen, Claus Hélix-Nielsen and Danielle Keller (Denmark)
The Danish team received the Award for their invention of a water-purifying membrane coated with aquaporins, which purifies water without consuming large amounts of energy. The innovation of this Danish team of chemists relies on the natural filtering function of so-called aquaporins. Unlike conventional methods, it does not require an elaborate filtration system based on energy- and cost-intensive hydrostatic pressure.
Christofer Toumazou (United Kingdom)
Christofer Toumazou won with his invention of a quick DNA test which can decipher the genetic makeup of individuals within minutes, without the need for lab work - a milestone along the path to innovative medical healthcare with a preventive focus. The innovation is based on a microchip that detects deviations in an individual human genome. The chip can be inserted into a USB stick, providing results that are viewable directly on a computer.
Charles W. Hull (United States)
Charles W. Hull received his European Inventor Award for the invention of 3D printing - a technology that is currently in use in numerous fields and that has triggered a veritable revolution in manufacturing. Although a multitude of different procedures for 3D printing now exist, they all build on Hull's original invention.
Popular Prize (by public vote)
Masahiro Hara, Takayuki Nagaya and team (Japan)
It is hard to imagine day-to-day life without the QR (Quick Response) code they invented. Among other things, it is used for managing inventory in factories, administering patient files, tracking biological samples and as a marketing tool. The QR code links the physical world with the virtual realm by means of a smartphone or tablet and the relevant app.
The awards were presented by EPO President, Benoît Battistelli, who said:
"Innovation is absolutely essential for Europe to generate growth and prosperity and secure its position among the leading industrial regions. All of the inventors we are honouring here today have introduced game-changing technological innovations in their respective fields. Their achievements improve people's everyday lives, and represent substantial contributions to tackling major global challenges such as climate change, access to clean drinking water and improving health. Their ingenuity and creativity are indicative of Europe's position as a leading technology region. And patents play a major role in protecting this status on a daily basis."
Calls for nominations for the 2015 awards…
The European Patent Office is seeking nominations for the 2015 awards. This is your chance to recommend the inventor or team who has most impressed you. Alternatively, you can nominate yourself! Entries are welcome from all over the world but entrants must hold a European Patent (not National or PCT).
Closing date: 10th October 2014.
For further information:
Artur Fischer - And no, that's not the trophy...just a massive plug!
Peter Holme Jensen
Charles W. Hull
Masahiro Hara, Takayuki Nagaya
EPO President, Benoît Battistelli