The owl is a symbol of wisdom. Since 1994 it has adorned a sculpture at the Heinrich Hertz Institute which is presented to the winners of a prize. It is sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with the aim to promote the development of patents.
In 1994, the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Heinrich Hertz Institute, Professor Dr. Joachim Hesse, donated an annual patent prize and decided together with the Institute's management on the awarding of the prize. The inventions submitted should meet the following criteria:
- they should be new,
- they should be characterized by a special "cleverness of the invention" (so-called inventive step),
- they should be well suited for economic use.
After Professor Hesse retired from the Supervisory Board in 1999, the "Gesellschaft von Freunden des Heinrich-Hertz-Instituts e.V." (Society of Friends of the Heinrich Hertz Institute) took over the awarding and financing - and the owl. The nominations now come from representatives of the "Wissenschaftlich-Technischer Rat" (since 2003 the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft). The selection still takes place in agreement with the institute management.
Since 2012, the prize has also been awarded to young scientists at the institute. In the future, excellent master's theses by student employees of Fraunhofer HHI will also be sponsored.
The last award winner in 2017 was the student Magnus Happach. He was honored for his work "Concept and realization of Wavelength Locking in Tunable Lasers based on a polymer platform".Martin Kasparick, too, received an award for his dissertation "Towards Self-Organizing Wireless Networks: Adaptive Learning, Resource Allocation, and Network Control". In addition to the sculpture, the prize winners will also receive prize money of 1,000 euros.