Karl Leo receives the European Inventor Award 2021 in the “Lifetime Achievement” category


Dresden physicist Prof. Karl Leo is honored with the European Inventor of the Year 2021 in the “Lifetime Achievement” category. This was announced by the European Patent Office yesterday evening, 17 June 2021, in a digital award ceremony. Leo receives the award for his trailblazing work in organic semiconductors, which is reflected in more than 20 European patents and numerous successful spin-offs. Leo is one of the 25 principal investigators of the Cluster of Excellence ct.qmat, where he primarily researches semiconductor-based topological photonics.


"Karl Leo explores and develops our future. In doing so, he is always a bit ahead of his time. On his desk are ideas for research projects that will really transform our everyday lives 10 years later. In his lab, he is working on materials that could open up completely new possibilities for electronics and information technology. What he tackles is not only exciting science, but also often ends up in industry. So he has more than all the qualities that make a world-class scientist. We are very happy for him" describes cluster spokesperson Prof. Matthias Vojta his colleague Prof. Karl Leo from the Faculty of Physics at TU Dresden. 


“Leo’s method for boosting organic semiconductors with electron producing substances (“doping”) has transformed the electronics industry and delivered improved products for millions of people. His highly efficient organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display technology, which provides greater image brightness, higher colour resolution and better power efficiency, can now be found in almost all newer smartphones and other electronic devices that we use every day,” states the European Patent Office in its press release.


"Karl Leo's life’s work has had a profound impact across multiple sectors, advancing technology which is environmentally friendly, and improving products that are used by millions of people worldwide,” said EPO President António Campinos. “Throughout his distinguished career he has also demonstrated an ability to identify commercial applications from cutting-edge fundamental research, putting technology to work to solve problems, and creating businesses and jobs in the process.”


"I am a big fan of Karl Leo's fundamental materials physics," adds cluster spokesperson Prof. Ralph Claessen. In the cross-federal state Cluster of Excellence ct.qmat – Complexity and Topology in Quantum Matter of the Universities of Würzburg and Dresden, the laureate plays a leading role in the research area "Topological Photonics". While digital information is commonly transmitted by sluggishly flowing electrons in semiconductors, this new research approach is devoted to the possibility of using photons, i.e., light, for this. In this case, photons and electrons have to be coupled. This promises a number of new and exciting features and functionalities.


The European Inventor Award is one of Europe's most prestigious innovation prizes. Launched by the EPO in 2006, it honors individual inventors and teams of inventors whose pioneering inventions provide answers to some of the biggest challenges of our times. The winners are selected by an independent jury consisting of international authorities in the fields of business, politics, science, academia and research, who examine the proposals in terms of their contribution towards technical progress, social development, economic prosperity and job creation in Europe.


For Karl Leo, this award is a very special honor: "I am delighted about this prestigious recognition and would like to thank my entire team, those who have supported me over the years and without whose cooperation this success would not have been possible. At the same time, the award is also an incentive for me to continue with our fundamental work and hopefully to bring many more innovative organic products from the lab to the market."



Date & Facts

18 Jun 2021



© European Patent Office



Prof. Karl Leo

Technische Universität Dresden


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