French and Swedish enterprises win European Information Society Technology Prize 2005

Brussels 27 April 2005Two French firms and a Swedish company are the recipients of the Grand European Information Society Technology Prize 2005. This prize of 200.000 euro to each winner, is organised by the European Commission together with the European Council of Applied Sciences, Technologies and Engineering. It is open each year to companies or organisations that present an innovative information technology product with a promising market potential. The winners of the 2005 Prize were selected by an independent jury from a total of 430 applicants from all over Europe. Most of the applicants, and also the three winners, are innovative small and medium-sized enterprises.

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"The three Grand Prize Winners are outstanding examples of European innovation", stated Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding, who awarded the prizes yesterday evening at the Belgian Palace of the Academies. "Projects like these show that Europe has a strong growth potential and can substantially enhance its competitiveness by investing in information and communication technologies."

The three Grand IST Prize winners 2005, of equal merit, are:

  • Cypak, Sweden, for PIN-on-Card technology, a contactless smartcard with integrated PIN pad for secure verification over the Internet. This technology is designed to protect consumers' identities and integrity from attacks by malicious code and to enhance identity and trust in communications on the Internet. Cypak was founded in 1999 and has a staff of 14.
  • Let it wave, France, for CodecID, a compression software enabling the storage of high-quality identity photos with as few as 500 bytes, for secured documents such as ID cards, visas and access badges. Let it wave was founded in 2001 and has a staff of 8.
  • PRAXIM medivison, France, for SURGETICS Kneelogics Application, a computer-assisted surgical system dedicated to the precise positioning of implants and grafts in knee replacement and anterior cruciate ligament surgery. PRAXIM medivision was founded in 1995 and has a staff of 55.

Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding declared herself surprised but very pleased that female innovators stole the limelight at the 2005 Information Society Technologies (IST) Prize award ceremony in Brussels on 26 April. Two of the three Grand Prizes were awarded to teams headed by women, and the Commissioner was quick to recruit both as ambassadors for her campaign to encourage increased female participation in science and technology.

The first person called on to accept a Grand Prize and a cheque for 200.000 euro was Stina Ehrensvärd, whose company Cypak, a Swedish SME, was recognised for its PIN-on-Card technology. The card is designed to increase personal data security, particularly when on-line, by moving sensitive information out of the computer, where passwords entered on a standard keyboard are vulnerable to being copied.

Cypak has achieved this by integrating a microcontroller and numeric keypad into a smart card, which is connected to a computer via a reading device. Rather than storing sensitive data such as PIN numbers, secret keys and other personal information on the computer, it is digitally encrypted in the card, where it cannot be copied or spied upon. This was the second time Cypak has taken top honours, having first won the prize in 1999.

The second woman invited on stage was Marie de La Simone, who accepted the Grand Prize on behalf of French company PRAXIM medivision for its SURGETICS Kneelogics Application. This system allows surgeons to precisely plan surgical procedures such as knee implants and anterior cruciate ligament position by combining relevant anatomical patient data with pre-operative statistical knowledge. Not only is surgical planning therefore fully adapted to a patient's particular anatomy, but the system also helps surgeons to perform operations as specified during the planning stage using highly accurate sensor-based guidance, resulting in less invasive procedures.

Ms. de La Simone thanked the IST Prize Grand Jury for their recognition, and paid tribute to the large team of researchers, scientists, surgeons and marketing executives that had made the product a commercial reality. "I would also like to thank the Commission for its help and support during various framework programmes, which made this all possible", she concluded.

The last prize went to another French company, Let It Wave, for their innovative photo compression software CodecID. This product has improved photo ID compression rates by a factor three, as a result of which encrypted photos can be stored on contact-less chips and embedded in ID cards such as driving licences and passports. Encrypted digital photos cannot be forged, providing much higher security levels than printed photos.

Accepting the award on behalf of Let It Wave was Thierry Maupetit, who stated: "I'd like to thank the Commission, especially as Let It Wave was basically a crazy idea to transform a theorem into an application. We're here today because we have a great research community in fundamental mathematics around us, and I hope that Europe will continue to be generous to fundamental research and encourage linkages between scientists and industry."

In response, Ms. Reding noted: "I can assure the winner that we will continue to invest in both these areas, as both are essential for winning the competitiveness race." Earlier, the Commissioner had touched upon the wider political context within which initiatives such as the IST Prize should be viewed. Whilst emphasising that Europe has many reasons to be proud, given its global leadership in sectors such as aeronautics and mobile telephony, Ms. Reding warned that Europeans are less successful in information and communication technologies (ICTs).

"ICTs play a key role in creating growth and jobs. They are enabling technologies that underpin innovation and are responsible for 50 percent of all productivity growth in the economy. It is therefore essential that ICTs are refocused in the new Lisbon strategy", the Commissioner stated.

Another speaker held up the IST Prize as an example of how to get things done under the relaunched Lisbon agenda, with small-scale initiatives having a big effect. Ms. Reding concluded by adding: "The IST Prize is valuable for giving recognition and support to innovators and potential market leaders of the future, and that's why the Commission continues to lend its full support."

The European IST Prize is funded by the IST Programme, which is part of the European Union's Sixth Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. This year, the Commission received 430 applicants from 29 countries. The applications were evaluated by an independent Executive Jury that included 18 experts from 18 countries and was chaired by Guy Demuynck, Member of the Executive Board of KPN and CEO of KPN Mobile.

In the past, winners of the IST prize often contributed to groundbreaking products. The Belgian company Eyetronics, for example, won one of the prizes in 1998 for a 3D scanning solution to capture objects, faces and whole bodies. This solution was used for high-end and special effects in the films "Lara Croft" and "The Last Samurai".

Applications for next year's European IST Prize are possible until 12 May 2005. Next year's Awards Ceremony will take place in the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, in March 2006. For further information, please consult the European IST Prize Web site.


Leslie Versweyveld

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