Inventor or innovation awards are primarily intended to give recognition to people who have ideas and the courage to create forward-looking solutions in the technical field. At the same time, these awards encourage inventiveness, innovative spirit and progress.
The prizes awarded to individuals or teams also impressively demonstrate how important it is to protect these innovations, for example in order to support further research or create new jobs.
This is why the German Patent and Trade Mark Office (DPMA) is supporting prestigious inventor and innovation awards. President Cornelia Rudloff-Schäffer and other senior executives of the DPMA are members of the juries or boards of trustees. In addition, our patent examiners regularly propose outstanding innovations for nomination.
In 2020, the DPMA was again involved in the following innovation awards:
The Deutscher Zukunftspreis award is the badge for excellent inventions and comes with prize money of 250,000 euros. With this award, the Federal President personally recognises the level of scientific and technical innovation, successful marketing and the creation of sustainable jobs.
President Cornelia Rudloff-Schäffer, who is a member of the board of trustees, which determines the direction of selection decisions, stated on the occasion of the award ceremony, which was broadcast via live stream: “With their development, the prize winners achieve what distinguishes good inventors: They expand the limits of what is technically possible.”
The winning team in 2020 is Carl Zeiss SMT GmbH, Oberkochen, together with TRUMPF Lasersystems for Semiconductors Manufacturing GmbH, Ditzingen, and the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF, Jena. Their development of EUV lithography allows more powerful, more energy-efficient and more cost-efficient microchips to be produced. These microchips are necessary to run digital networks that require the exchange of large amounts of data (e.g. smart home and smart factory applications, adaptive robots and autonomous driving).
The team of Carl Zeiss Meditec AG, Oberkochen, and the university hospital Inselspital Bern, which had been proposed by the German Patent and Trade Mark Office, was nominated as a finalist for the Deutscher Zukunftspreis award for its robotic surgery system KINEVO 900. Thanks to robotics, digital imaging and microinspection, the system is a big help to surgeons in long, complex brain or spine operations and leads to better surgery results.
The building material producer Franken Maxit Mauermörtel GmbH & Co, Kasendorf, Dyneon GmbH, Burgkirchen, and Keylab Glass Technology at the University of Bayreuth were also nominated. They have developed a new, sprayable insulating material for facades to provide energy-efficient building insulation. Tiny glass bubbles enhance the insulation capacity of buildings and thus considerably contribute to the fight against climate change.
The DPMA is entitled to propose projects for the Deutscher Zukunftspreis award to the jury:
Please draw our attention to your projects! Proposals for nominations for the 2022 Deutscher Zukunftspreis award can be submitted at any time until the beginning of November 2021. For more information, visit our website.
The Innovation Award of Bavaria is awarded for excellent innovations every two years by the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy, the Federation of Bavarian Chambers of Industry and Commerce (Bayerischer Industrie- und Handelskammertag) and the Federation of Bavarian Chambers of Crafts (Arbeitsgemeinschaft der bayerischen Handwerkskammern). At the time the application for their nomination for the award is submitted, the nominated products, processes or services should not have been on the market for more than four years.
On the occasion of the virtual award ceremony, President Cornelia Rudloff-Schäffer said: “The range of intelligent technical solutions is impressive. The prize winners show that, in Bavaria, innovative and marketable products are developed not only by big corporations in Munich, but also by many SMEs in all regions of Bavaria. There is creativity and inventive talent all over Bavaria.”
From the 189 applications submitted, the selection committee, including Ms Rudloff-Schäffer, selected the following prize winners:
- The multi-organ support system of ADVITOS GmbH, Munich, won the first main prize. It combines liver, kidney and lung support and extracorporeal blood pH correction in one device. The device is also used to treat COVID-19 patients with promising results.
- The second main prize was awarded to pro-micron GmbH, Kaufbeuren, for its sensing spindle, which is equipped with a special sensor technology that indicates the cutting forces of the individual cutting edges, so intelligent machine tools can be offered.
- The third main prize was awarded to LEONHARD KURZ Stiftung & Co. KG, Fürth, for its IMD Varioform® process, a sensor system integrated into 3D-deformed plastic components.
- The “Companies with fewer than 50 employees” special prize was awarded to Solukon Maschinenbau GmbH, Augsburg, for its system for sustainable powder recuperation in 3D printing.
- The “Start-ups up to 5 years of age” special prize went to presize GmbH, Munich. Its virtual body scan process to find out the exact size of clothes helps avoid wrong size orders.
- The winner in the “Business-science cooperation” category was STABILO International GmbH, Heroldsberg. The intelligent ballpoint pen can measure data such as pressure, speed, rhythm and readability and use them to make suggestions for the individual improvement of the motor writing skills.
- The Special Prize of the Selection Committee went to Müller Mechanik GmbH & Co. KG, Lichtenfels, which has developed recyclable, easily cleanable coffee capsules for capsule coffee machines. This helps avoid waste.
On 25 November 2020, the four categories of the “XXIII Thuringia Innovation Award 2020” and three special awards with a total of 100,000 euros in prize money were presented at a ceremony in Weimar by the Thuringian Minister of Economic Affairs, Science and the Digital Society, Wolfgang Tiefensee, the Foundation for Technology, Innovation and Research of Thuringia (STIFT), TÜV Thüringen and the Ernst Abbe Foundation.
Markus Ortlieb, head of the Jena suboffice, once again represented the DPMA in the 18-member jury; he also dealt with questions relating to the state of the art and intellectual property rights across all categories.
The following innovations were honoured with the 2020 Thuringia Innovation Award
- in the “TRADITION & FUTURE” category: the high-precision star sensor ASTRO XP of Jena-Optronik GmbH for the autonomous attitude and orbit control of satellites and probes – smaller, less costly and ten times more precise than the currently usual technology,
- in the “INDUSTRY & MATERIAL” category: the comprehensive solution NOVION of VACOM Vakuum Komponenten und Messtechnik GmbH for vacuum monitoring and vacuum control. It combines two different measuring technologies and is easy to operate,
- in the “DIGITAL & MEDIA” category: the EXPO-X platform of rooom AG for virtual and hybrid events, especially for trade fairs,
- in the “LIGHT & LIFE” category: the low-cost and space-saving freeform metal optical component of SPACEOPTIX GmbH for new space applications. The solution offered by SPACEOPTIX GmbH allows conventional object lenses in satellites to be replaced by a single metallic material.
- The “SPECIAL AWARD FOR YOUNG ENTERPRISES” went to WTA TECHNOLOGIES GmbH (Gotha) for its water filter “Hybrid Ultrafiltration Module”, which uses a new non-woven fabric to filter even the tiniest insoluble substances out of water.
- The “ERNST ABBE AWARD FOR INNOVATIVE ENTREPRENEURSHIP 2020” was awarded to Cathrin Wilhelm, the managing director of BINZ Ambulance- und Umwelttechnik GmbH, in recognition of her merits for Thuringia as a centre of scientific and technological innovation.
The European Patent Office (EPO) has postponed the European Inventor Award ceremony by one year. As a consequence, an award for 2021 alone will not be bestowed.
It will thus remain open for some time whether the four proposals submitted by the DPMA for 2020 will be among the winners in the categories “Industry”, “Research”, “Non-EPO countries”, “Small and medium-sized enterprises” or “Lifetime achievement”.
Like many other things, the “Jugend forscht” contests were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Only the regional contests and the contest in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania were held in early March; the award ceremony of the contest in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania was already non-public. A total of 5,262 scientists with 2,984 projects had applied for the respective regional contests. This shows the great interest of young scientists in the contest as a platform for their great creativity, their continued commitment and their intention to achieve improvements and progress.
In 2020, they were unfortunately prevented from advancing in the contest and thus from receiving an increasing recognition of their work. We are looking forward to the 2021 contest with the theme “LASS ZUKUNFT DA.”, encouraging young people to shape a sustainable future.
Since 2017, women&work, Europe’s leading career fair for women, has been honouring female inventors. The prize was not awarded in 2020.