As one of the most prestigious competitions of its kind, the European Inventor Award, launched by the European Patent Office in 2006, pays tribute to the creativity of inventors the world over, who use their technical, scientific and intellectual skills to make a real contribution to technological progress and economic growth and so improve people's daily lives.
Heinz Troll has been its official photographer since 2013, making the travel all over the world to create portraits of the finalists. Here you can find a selection of some of his finest.
Hugh Herr (US)
Finalist for the European Inventor Award 2016, photographed at MIT, Cambridge MA
Biomechatronic leg joints
Hugh Herr's "bionic knee" enables amputees to walk with a fluid, natural gait thanks to a combination of microprocessors and adaptive impact dampening based on posture and weight distribution.
As a teenager, Herr was a highly competitive mountain climber until he tragically lost both legs beneath the knees during a mountain expedition at the age of 17. Since then, he has pursued his lifelong dream of climbing mountains at an elite level - made possible by his pioneering, intelligent prostheses.
Giuseppe Remuzzi, Carlamaria Zoja and Ariela Benigni (Italy)
Finalists for the European Inventor Award 2017, photographed at the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research, Bergamo, Italy
ACE inhibitors to stop chronic kidney disease (CKD)
Treatment outcomes have greatly improved over the past decades thanks to the inventions of Italian nephrologist Giuseppe Remuzzi and fellow researchers Carlamaria Zoja and Ariela Benigni. The team's medications use angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors to treat chronic kidney disease and complications related to organ transplants.
Ursula Keller (Switzerland)
Winner of the European Inventor Award 2018, photos taken at ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Medical surgery, detailed manufacturing and scientific research took a quantum leap forward when Swiss scientist, inventor and professor Ursula Keller discovered how to turn continuous laser light into ultra-fast laser pulses. With light bursts lasting less than a trillionth of a second, Keller's inventions handed science, industry and the medical community an instrument of unprecedented precision.
Jane ní Dhulchaointigh (Ireland)
Winner of the European Inventor Award 2018, photos taken at FormFormForm Ltd, London UK
Sugru mouldable glue
The game-changing invention of Irish product designer Jane ní Dhulchaointigh and her team is designed to help unleash our creativity and change the world we live in. Called Sugru, it is the world's first mouldable glue and enables users to fix, improve and customise the things they own, thereby taking a more thoughtful and sustainable approach to their possessions.
Esther Sans Takeuchi (US)
Winner of the European Inventor Award 2018, photographed at Advanced Energy Center Stoney Brook University, New Jersey, US
Battery electrodes, batteries for implantable defibrillators
Millions of heart patients with implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs) have benefited from the battery technologies pioneered by US materials scientist and chemical engineer Esther Sans Takeuchi. Her lithium/silver vanadium oxide (Li/SVO) batteries paved the way for smaller ICDs with significantly longer battery life, resulting in less surgery for ICD replacements.
Rino Rappuoli (Italy)
Winner of the European Inventor Award 2017, photographed at GSK Vaccines Sienna, Italy
Next-generation vaccines against meningitis, whooping cough and other infections
Infectious diseases such as diphtheria, bacterial meningitis and whooping cough have been practically eradicated in the developed world, thanks to Rino Rappuoli. Over the course of a research career spanning more than four decades, the Italian microbiologist has pioneered "conjugate vaccines" that have launched a new generation of immunisations, now administered to millions of people worldwide.
Rappuoli is credited with being one of the founders of cellular microbiology, where cell biology and microbiology meet. His techniques, including a process known as "reverse vaccinology" used to create the world's first genome-derived vaccines in 1999, have revolutionised vaccine design.
Jacques Lewiner (France)
Finalist for the European Inventor Award 2018, photographed at ESPCI Paris, France
Optical sensors, ionisation-chamber smoke detector, coded lock devices and more
Few individuals are as prolific as French inventor, physicist and entrepreneur Jacques Lewiner. Only few inventors can match the scale of Lewiner's innovative output. Even fewer can match the diversity: with inventions in the fields of electronics, medical sensors, security and telecommunications, Lewiner also has a range of interests that is nearly as broad as his inventions are numerous.
Masahiro Hara, Motoaki Watabe (Japan)
Winners of the Popular Prize 2014, captured at Denso Corporation, Japan
The QR code
QR codes, the ubiquitous black-and-white squares found everywhere from billboards to product packaging, have completely changed our concept of what bar codes can do. Uniquely suited to the digital age, the QR code pervades virtually every facet of contemporary consumer life, and it increasingly connects the physical world to the virtual worlds in our pockets
Terese Alstin, Anna Haupt (Sweden)
Finalists for the European Inventor Award 2014, pictures taken at Hövding Sverige AB, Malmö, Sweden
Inflatable bike helmet
Protective headgear that is both functional and fashionable is in high demand as the fuel economy and environmental benefits push more and more citizens to commute by bicycle. The “invisible” bike helmet developed by Swedish designers Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin is the stylish and safe accessories cyclists have been waiting for.
Elmar Mock (Switzerland)
Finalist for the European Inventor Award 2017, photographed at Creaholic, Biel, Switzerland
Watchmaking, mechanics, welding, adhesives
What began as a hasty sketch of a simple, plastic wristwatch eventually became the world's best-selling timepiece. The Swatch, which first hit the market in 1983, helped rejuvenate Switzerland's beleaguered watchmaking industry.
Swatch's creation owes much to its co-inventor, Elmar Mock, who developed ultrasonic welding processes that were used inside the watch's case and to attach its acrylic crystal.
Laura van ‘t Veer (The Netherlands)
Winner of the European Inventor Award 2015, at the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI)
Gene-based breast cancer test
The invention from researcher Laura van ‘t Veer and her team at the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) empowers women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer to make informed decisions about whether or not to undergo chemotherapy after initial surgery.
Thanks to this invention, patients diagnosed with a low risk of tumour recurrence can forego chemotherapy entirely and still remain disease-free.
Steve Lindsey (United Kingdom)
Finalist for the European Inventor Award 2017, photographed at Londra UK
Energy-saving rotary air compressor
With his invention of the energy-saving Blade Compressor, Steve Lindsey just might revolutionise the multibillion-euro air compressor market. Also known as the "fourth utility", compressors can be found across industries, in everything from manufacturing equipment to air-conditioning units. Lindsey's highly efficient, oil-free design offers a greener solution to commonly used piston compressors, delivering energy savings of some 20%.
Joseph M. Jacobson (US)
Finalist for the European Inventor Award 2013, pictures taken at MIT Cambridge MA
Electronic ink: The industry standard for digital books
With their light weight and minimal power consumption, electronic ink displays allow consumers to carry thousands of e-books to be enjoyed anytime, anywhere.
Helen Lee (United Kingdom, France)
Winner of the European Inventor Award 2016 in the Popular Prize category, at Chesterford Research Park, UK
Diagnostic kits for developing countries
The invention from researcher Helen Lee at the University of Cambridge is an instant blood diagnostic kit developed for resource-poor regions of the globe, allowing for on-the-spot detection of infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B and chlamydia. Through fast, simply-to-read results, the kits are helping to track and better treat some of the world's deadliest diseases.
Henrik Stiesdal (Denmark)
Finalist for the European Inventor Award 2018, captured at Siemens Windpower, Aalborg, Denmark
The "Danish Concept", IntegralBlade and TetraSpar
Henrik Stiesdal has played a key role in creating the modern wind energy industry since the 1970s by contributing key innovations that have pushed the industry forward. He has significantly increased the status of wind energy as a major renewable energy source. In addition, he has helped create thousands of jobs.
Waleed Hassanein (USA)
Finalist of of the European Inventor Award 2017, photographed at TransMedics, Andover, Massachusetts, US
Sustaining transplant organs
Hundreds of thousands of people around the world are waiting for life-saving donor organs. Many organs fail to reach their recipients because technology limits preservation time outside the body. A major improvement, the Organ Care System (OCS) developed by US heart surgeon Waleed Hassanein, preserves organ function for longer periods and ensures higher transplant success rates.
Kornelis A. Schouhamer Immink (The Netherlands)
Finalist for the European Inventor Award 2015, photographed at Rotterdam, NL
Coding method for CD, DVD and Blu-ray
Kornelis Schouhamer Immink’s inventions jump-started a digital revolution.
In 1974, Immink and his team at Philips were tasked to come up with a digital alternative to vinyl records. But going from analogue to digital was not an easy process; the grooves and needle of the record were replaced by a laser that reads binary code of the CD surface without touching it. During the inventive process, Immink came up with an ingenious coding system, called Eight-to-Fourteen Modulation (EFM), turning the long grooves into short pits
Andreas Manz (Switzerland)
Winner of the European Inventor Award 2015, photographed at KIST Europe, Saarbrücken, Germany
Microchip-sized analysis system
Doctors once had to wait weeks for work on samples to return from a laboratory to diagnose patients. Thanks to Swiss analytic chemist and nanoscientist Andreas Manz today there is technology that takes all of the chemistry equipment of a lab and shrinks it onto a microchip-sized wafer – allowing for immediate, point-of-care diagnostics that could one day save millions of lives in impoverished or remote areas.
Finalist of the European Inventor Award 2013, with students at Edinburgh School of Informatics
Phrase-based computer translation
Thanks to Koehn and his team, computers no longer analyse sentences word by word but instead base their translations on whole sequences of words (phrases) to determine the most likely interpretation of a given text.