Ireland’s Sugru wizard wins prestigious European inventor prize

8 Jun 2018

Sugru inventor Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh holding her trophy at this year’s European Inventor Award ceremony in Paris on 7 June. Image: European Patent Office

Despite having to sell her company, Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh of Sugru fame has been named a winner at this year’s European Inventor Award ceremony.

Sugru’s mouldable glue has been praised as a wonder material by many international lists, seeing it stocked in more than 6,000 retail outlets, including in France, South Africa, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Sadly for those invested in the business, there was tough news to take after it was announced that the business was to be sold to the German adhesive manufacturer Tesa at a fraction of the amount it was originally valued at.

Future Human

However, inventor and former Inspirefest speaker Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh is still receiving some personal praise for her creation after winning this year’s European Inventor Award, presented by the European Patent Office.

‘Inventing is a hopeful and optimistic activity’

Attended by 600 guests from the areas of politics, business, intellectual property, science and academia, Ní Dhulchaointigh was named winner of the SMEs category, making her the first Irish winner since the event’s inaugural ceremony in 2006.

She was also one of four women presented with awards this year, the highest number since the event’s inception.

Speaking during her award presentation, Ní Dhulchaointigh said: “Inventing is a hopeful and optimistic activity. It’s about solving the world’s problems and I hope that any young people will see just how rewarding it is to solve problems that might start as an idea from one person and grow and grow and grow.”

Other award winners

Speaking at Inspirefest 2017, Ní Dhulchaointigh said that her road to being an inventor and entrepreneur wasn’t a predictable one.

In fact, a realisation that the world had too much stuff and that this was adding to the climate crisis created a moral dilemma in her mind.

“I went to London to study to be a product designer and realised that, actually, all I would do would be to contribute to something awful. Do we need more tables, chairs, lamps, phones? … What’s the point?

“I had an existential crisis in a city far from home.”

Other award winners at the European Inventor Award ceremony included: French inventors Agnès Poulbot and Jacques Barraud, for developing a 3D tyre-tread design that increases performance but also significantly decreases fuel consumption and CO2 emissions; biophysicist Jens Frahm, for his role in the development of real-time magnetic resonance imaging; and chemical engineer Esther Sans Takeuchi, for inventing the compact batteries that power most implantable cardiac defibrillators.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic