The European Inventor Award 2017

Word Cloud © FIZ Karlsruhe

“There is nothing new. Everything that can be invented, has been invented”, stated Charles H. Duell, United States Commissioner of Patents, in 1899. If Duell had been right, this would basically have made his workplace, the US patent office, obsolete. Luckily, he was wrong. People have remained innovative; their will to do research and strive for technical improvements is still unbroken.  This innovative power is reflected by the number of patents filed each year all around the globe. They continuously provide the patent offices with fresh work, as the chart of patents filed with the European Patent Office (EPO) (fig. 1 below) impressively shows.1

My house, my idea, my data – how can we protect our property?

Figure: studiostoks/
Figure: studiostoks/

April 26 is the World Intellectual Property Day. This commemoration day, suggested by the UNESCO and proclaimed for the first time in 2000 by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), is supposed to create a public awareness for the value of inventions. Intellectual property has special importance for FIZ Karlsruhe who, among other things, offers worldwide patent information through STN International and operates RADAR, an innovative service for research data management and publication. The new issues related to the whole area of intellectual property have induced FIZ Karlsruhe to establish its own research department for IP-rights in information infrastructures.

More than just peanuts

Photo: Andrii Gorulko/
Photo: Andrii Gorulko/

2016 – The International Year of Pulses

Pulses and legumes, i.e., beans, peas, peanuts, chickpeas, lentils, soy beans, lupines, etc., have quite a tough time with us. Our language in itself expresses a certain disdain for these plants: An annoying pedant is colloquially called a bean counter. Bankers disparagingly refer to “small, negligible” million dollar amounts as “peanuts“. The bible uses a pottage of lentils as an example of something worthless: Esau showed his contempt for his birthright by selling it for a pottage of lentils.1 And, what is more, legumes have the bad reputation of causing severe indigestion.

Keep your hands off the wheel

Kaiser Wilhelm II
Foto: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/

“I believe in horses. The automobile is a transitory phenomenon”, argued the last German monarch, Emperor Wilhelm II.1 Nevertheless, cars started to conquer the world and have by now become the individual mobility device par excellence. At the time of Emperor Wilhelm II, the transition from the horse to the car revolutionized mobility. Today, a new fundamental change seems to be imminent: from the passenger-driven car to the autonomous car. Many passionate drivers still find it hard to imagine that soon their car will drive, steer, brake, and park all on its own. The drivers and their driving skills lose in importance. The large automobile manufacturers have long since started the era of autonomous driving. But companies from sectors other than the automotive industry, too, sense new market opportunities. A search in the Derwent World Patent Index (DWPI) on STN impressively shows that R&D activities in this field have been strongly increasing throughout the last five years.2

The art of plastics recycling

shark sculpture made entirely of plastic pollution fished from the oceans ©
shark sculpture made entirely of plastic pollution fished from the oceans

Plastics have many positive and unique properties: Depending on their type, they can be extremely flexible, elastic or rigid, water-insoluble, sticky, thermoplastic, lighter than water, impact-resistant, sometimes birefringend, transparent or opaque, non-conducting, stronger than steel, and they seem to be ever-lasting. But despite their broad range of properties, all plastics share the same basic molecular structure. They all consist of long chains of repeating molecular units that are aligned like pearls on a string. The German chemist Hermann Staudinger is considered the discoverer of this substance class of macromolecules. In 1953 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work on the structure of plastics.