The inventor of the stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscope and the creators of a new ophthalmoscope laser scanning technology are among 12 finalists completing for Europe's top innovation prize, Inventor of the Year 2008. The prize recognizes inventors and innovations that were patented by the European Patent Office (EPO) between 1993 and 2002, said the award's founders, the European Commission and the EPO. Stefan Hell (Photo by Ansgar Pudenz, Copyright ©Deutscher Zukunftspreis) The prizes, which are symbolic only, will be given in four categories: industry, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)/research institutes, non-European countries and lifetime achievement. Nominated for his STED microscope under the lifetime achievement category is Stefan Hell, a director at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, Germany, where he leads the Department of Nanobiophotonics. With his invention, Hell surmounted the 130-year-old resolution limit in light microscopy and made it possible to observe fine details inside cells. Hell and his coworkers have used the STED to shoot the first live video of the inside of a living nerve cell with a resolution of 65 nm, observing the process of signal transmission in a nerve cell in real time. "The detailed observation in the inside of living cells will in the end lead to new knowledge in health care and lead to new therapies and medication," said Hell. Under the SMEs/research category, Douglas Anderson, Robert Henderson and Roger Lucas of Dunfermline, Scotland-based Optos were nominated for developing a new ophthalmoscope laser scanning technology for examining the retina, which could lead to earlier detection of eye cancers, diabetes and high blood pressure. Also nominated are Stephen R. Quake, Marc A. Unger, Hou-Pu Chu, Todd A. Thorsen, Axel Scherer of the California Institute of Technology for their nanotechnology breakthrough: an integrated fluidic circuit similar to a computer microchip that allows researchers to run experiments with quantities of liquids invisible to the eye. The awards ceremony will be held in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, May 6 during the European Patent Forum 2008.