Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) across Europe are pushing boundaries in a variety of technical fields. Securing a European patent is a major step in building a thriving business around groundbreaking inventions, including this year’s three finalists.
Peter Holme Jensen and Team
Nature-inspired membrane for filtering ultra-pure water
This innovation can provide industries with a sustainable technology in order to meet their growing demand for ultrapure water.
Scientists with Aquaporin, the biotechnological water purification company
Nature was the inspiration for Peter Holme Jensen’s more energy-efficient membrane for filtering ultrapure water. With his colleagues Claus Hélix-Nielsen and Danielle Keller, the protein chemist drew inspiration from the flow of water between individual cells, and the characteristics of the protein facilitating this movement, to create water in its purest form. While the new membrane has vast industrial applications, an estimated 1.5 billion people worldwide have no access to clean drinking water. Current water purification methods are often high in energy consumption, requiring water to be pushed through complex filter systems. This new membrane takes a leaf from nature’s book by mimicking the purification process in living organisms, where proteins form channels to allow water to pass through cell walls, while still keeping out contaminants. The new membrane from the Danish team also has the potential to be developed for use in osmotic power plants, where it can aid the production of sustainable electricity.View the Make, Create, Innovate film about Peter Holme Jensen's innovation.
Terese Alstin, Anna Haupt
Keeping cyclists safe yet fashionable with an inflatable bike helmet
Students at our universities bring so much creativity to technological development. The invisible bicycle helmet shows an impressive combination of technology and design.
Industrial designers and founders of Hövding, the airbag helmet company
Protective headgear for cyclists that still looks good was the goal for the airbag bicycle helmet from Swedish designers Terese Alstin and Anna Haupt. While studying industrial design at Lund University, Alstin and Haupt’s research suggested that a more stylish, or even invisible, helmet, may encourage more people to wear protective headgear while cycling. The result is a device worn as a subtle collar around the neck, ready to deploy a head-hugging airbag should an accident occur. The helmet is now on the market after seven years of testing on dummies and live subjects, which resulted in an algorithm that can distinguish unusual or emergency body movements from normal cycling. Sensors collect and analyse motion data 200 times per second, and in a crash can deploy the airbag in one tenth of a second – faster than a cyclist can hit the ground. Independent tests suggest the airbag helmet absorbs shock three times better than standard helmets, and the device is also being considered for use with epilepsy patients.
Carles Puente, Carmen Borja & Team
Connecting people with a fractal-based antenna small enough to fit any mobile phone
As an entrepreneur, Carles Puente has proven that even start-ups with a clever patent strategy can hold their own against big corporations.
Scientists with Fractus, the fractal-based antenna specialist
Small enough to fit inside any mobile device, yet just as powerful as a big antenna - this was the goal for Carles Puente and his team. The Spanish scientists have developed an antenna the size of a grain of rice, yet still it is powerful enough to facilitate optimal reception even in the smallest mobile phone cases. The device draws inspiration from fractal patterns in mathematics, where so-called self-similar individual elements all have the same shape as the entire element. Because the patterns in fractals repeat themselves, the antenna from Puente’s group can receive signals on different frequency ranges. This means that even though the antenna is small, it can transmit very efficiently on numerous frequencies because each of the variants functions like an individual antenna. Constructed by the same processes and materials used to develop printed circuit boards, the antenna serves a range of technologies such as Bluetooth, WLAN, GSM and GPS.