Politics & Management - 24.03.2014

Prof. Dr. José del R. Millán receives Bertha-und-Carl-Benz-Preis

The City of Mannheim’s Bertha-und-Carl-Benz Preis 2013 was presented to Prof. Dr. José del R. Millán on Sunday, 16 March. In bestowing the Bertha-und-Carl-Benz-Preis, the City of Mannheim recognizes individuals or organisations who have served in the field of improving mobility – especially in making mobility easier, more social or more environmentally sound. “The prize follows the tradition of Bertha and Carl Benz’ entrepreneurial courage and of the implementation of their invention into our society”, Dr. Peter Kurz stated.

Prof. Millán holds the chair for „Non-Invasive Brain-Machine Interface“ at the École Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne. He conducts research into brain-computer-interfaces which are able to control mobility aids for people with reduced mobility. This is done by transmitting electrical activity patterns produced by the brain into control signals that can be interpreted by a computer. As a part of this research, Prof. Millán and his research team have developed a wheelchair prototype for people paralysed from the neck downwards and a “virtual presence” which enables bed-bound patients to take part in the every-day life of their families.

The holder of the prize-giving speech, Dr. Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, Director of the Central Institute of Mental Health, said that a connection exists between freedom of thought and physical mobility. “And you, Professor Millán, make a considerable contribution towards the freedom of thought of people with reduced mobility.”

In his acceptance speech, Millán expressed that he was extremely touched and honoured to receive the Bertha-und-Carl-Benz-Preis. “Their vision and invention has revolutionized the way people move and interact”, he stated. His dream is to use his research to widen the way people move and interact. He declared that his research was lasting for much longer than he had imagined on the outset, but that every individual patient whose life he could improve will have made all his efforts worthwhile. “We have a strong ethical responsibility”, Millán said. “This dream cannot stop!”