For hundreds of years, European inventors have created new products, services and business models, improving the way people around the world live and work. The #HiddenInventors campaign aims to celebrate European inventors - past, present and future—putting the spotlight on inventors few of us have heard of, but whose inventions we all know and use.
The campaign will also highlight the importance of Intellectual Property policies at the European level to encourage creative potential in pursuit of Europe’s technological competitiveness. We want to inspire young Europeans from all backgrounds to harness their imaginations for the benefit of society, while ensuring that the individuals behind those innovations are not only admired, but that their rights are protected.
Give our great inventors the recognition they deserve and help us inspire the next generation to shape the future of Europe. Join our celebration of The Hidden Inventors!
Select a Hidden Inventor to know more!
Education: Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Barcelona-Tech (UPC), University of Illinois (UIUC)
Sector: Telecommunications Company/Affiliation: UPC, Fractus Antennas
Aiming to shrink mobile phone antennas while increasing broadcast capabilities to new 3G frequency bands,. In 1995, Puente and his team (including co-inventors Carmen Borja, Jaume Anguera, Jordi Soler, Rafael Pous and others) invented the fractal antenna and its derivatives. A major achievement at the time: thanks to fractal technologies, antennas were able to disappear from the surface of the phone. The name of the technology comes from fractal patterns, which defy common geometry rules and often include multiple small copies of themselves. This allows for coiling long antennas into the phones. Despite its size reduction, the fractal-based antenna is extremely efficient and broadcasts radio waves on varying frequencies. This way, a single antenna can be used for multiple standards all together, starting with 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G and Wifi, Bluetooth and GPS.
Carles’ invention paved the way for the “Internet anywhere” revolution, which relies on integrated and multipurpose antennas. When comparing the size and capacity of phones in the 1990s with 21st century devices, the impact of fractal antennas is unquestionable. Thanks to fractal antennas, a sleek, seamless appearance of mobile phones is compatible with a long-range connectivity at a high-speed.
Education: New University of Lisbon
Sector: Electronics/Material Research Company/Affiliation: Materials Research Center (CENIMAT/i3N), New University of Lisbon, YDreams
Paper-based microchips and transistors
Producing normal microchips uses electronics-grade silicon. This is both a very expensive material to use and has a negative impact on the environment due to greenhouse gas emissions. Elvira's invention, therefore, was a ‘blue-sky’ moment – opening up new markets for disposable objects with microchip intelligence, allowing smart devices to be discarded and recycled after use. While the general idea was not to completely replace silicon transistors, this could become a solution for many applications.
It is widely noted that the future potential for paper-based microchips is huge. From bringing ‘smart’ computer technology to new areas of daily life, to pushing forward a new generation of inexpensive and recyclable devices, these will likely play a big role in future digital technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT). The technology also paved the way for devices not invented at the time, including animated newspapers and billboards, self-updating food labels, business cards, radio–frequency identification (RFID) tags, and much more. Elvira is now one of the top pioneers in microelectronics and pushes for linking research with the market. Looking forward it is estimated that paper-based transistors in the smart electronic packaging market could reach a value of €1.51 billion by 2022, while paper-based microelectronics could be worth €10.56 billion by 2021. For her pioneering work, Elvira won the Horizon Impact Award 2020, which celebrates and recognises EU- funded projects with a positive societal impact.
Education: Delft University of Technology
Sector: Electrical Engineering/Communications Company/Affiliation: Ericsson, Haartsen New Ventures B.V.
Bluetooth Wireless Technology
Jaap came up with the idea of using frequency hopping in 1994. This laid the foundations for Bluetooth, a revolutionary technology connecting electronic gadgets at short range with no cables. In 1995 he was joined at the Ericsson division in Lund by Sven Mattisson, an expert in radio implementations, joined the Ericsson division in Lund, working on the hardware development. The Bluetooth solution meant that two devices could communicate with one another by switching radio frequencies, in sync, over 1600 times per second. With 79 frequencies available, this meant the likelihood of other devices using the frequency and disrupting the communication between the two devices was extremely low. In 1997, Örjan Johansson helped drive the business around the concept, creating an ecosystem with other companies which became the Bluetooth Special Interest Group. In 1999, the first specifications were released, and in 2000 Ericsson launched its first Bluetooth product: a wireless voice headset.
Bluetooth has revolutionised not only the way electronic devices connect with one another, but also how individuals share files, connect, and communicate. If you use wireless headphones or speakers, pair gaming controllers, or use an external keyboard, you are using the technology Jaap introduced to the world.
Education: University of Cambridge
Sector: Computer Science/Technology Company/Affiliation: Acorn Computers Ltd.
Acorn System 1
Acorn RISC Machine
Between 1980 and 1981, Sophie designed the BBC Microcomputer. The idea was to develop an affordable personal computer for the BBC’s Computer Literacy Project. After the BBC Micro’s success, Acorn took a bold approach. Sophie and Steve Furber set out to create their own Central Processing Unit (CPU). They wanted it to be smaller, faster, and better than the commonly used 6502 processor. From this, the development of the Acorn RISC Machine (ARM) instruction set was started in 1983, and the processor was finalised and working in April 1985. A milestone in computing, it drastically reduced the number of instructions needed to finish tasks using Reduced Instruction Set Computing (RISC). This meant ARM1 was a tiny, low-power, and efficient CPU using 25,000 transistors.
Today, Sophie’s inventions are used in thousands of day-to-day products including mobile phones, tablets, digital televisions, and even video and computer games. Their benefit has been huge – reducing the power needed to operate these devices while maximising their performance. To date, over 160 billion ARM-powered chips have been shipped, while the average yearly shipments of ARM-based chips over the past three years is over 20 billion per year.
Sector: Optical Engineering Company/Affiliation: Minox GmbH
Minox Riga/Minox A1
Minox Sub-Miniature Camera
In the 1930s, Zapp came up with the idea of a camera that was both small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, while also able to take high-quality photographs. Because of its revolutionary size, the camera became highly sought after by generations of spies and intelligence agencies – a development that Zapp himself is known to have been unhappy with. During World War II the camera became so popular, intelligence agencies couldn’t get hold of enough of them. The close-focusing lens of the camera meant it was perfect for covert uses like surveillance and document copying. This association with espionage continued throughout the Cold War.
Since its creation, more than 1 million of the miniature cameras have been sold. Minox, the company founded by Zapp, continues to revolutionise the camera, producing a wide range of 8 by 11mm subminiature cameras. Walter Zapp’s ideas and innovations in photography and optical instruments have meant he is widely seen as one of the great visionaries of the industry.
Join us in celebrating European inventors who changed our world for the better. During the month of October, we are meeting with masterminds behind some of Europe’s key technologies for exclusive live conversations.
29 October 2020
LIVE CONVERSATION - 10:00-10:30 CET
European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture,
Education and Youth
Senior Vice President and Head of Business Area Managed Services, Ericsson
Europe has always been the home of innovation. For hundreds of years, European inventors have created new products, services and business models, improving the way people around the world live and work. The strong heritage of inventiveness continues in Europe to this day. Harnessing this legacy is key to creating a more competitive and resilient Europe. As the EU embarks on a transition to a greener and more digital economy and seeks to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, unleashing the potential of innovation is more important than ever.
The ambitious agenda set out by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen a year ago and recently reiterated in the State of the European Union address requires a policy environment that incentivises current and future inventors alike, enabling them to flourish and succeed. In line with this, one of the
key priorities of Commissioner Gabriel is to set up a new European Innovation Area. This would be
geared towards the needs of innovators, helping to make sure no one is left behind.
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ThinkYoung is the first think tank focusing on young people. It was founded in 2009 in Brussels and has expanded to Geneva, Hong Kong and Nairobi. It is a not-for-profit organisation, with the aim of making the world a better place for young people, by involving them in decision making processes and by providing decision makers with high-quality research on key issues affecting young people.
Ericsson enables communications service providers to capture the full value of connectivity. The company’s portfolio spans Networks, Digital Services, Managed Services, and Emerging Business. It is designed to help our customers go digital, increase efficiency and find new revenue streams. Ericsson’s investments in innovation have delivered the benefits of telephony and mobile broadband to billions of people around the world. Ericsson stock is listed on Nasdaq Stockholm and on Nasdaq New York.