“What's nice about inventing is that sometimes alone, but much more often with a couple of other people, you experience a eureka moment,” explains Aarts, who still has plenty of patents in the pipeline. His list of inventions is long. Worldwide, he has registered seven hundred; not all of these have been approved, however, and some concern patents already registered in another country. “I'm receiving the medal for a hundred actually granted patents; a patent subsequently granted in another country still counts as just one patent.” Furthermore, it can take years before a patent application is approved.
Included here in this list are diverse and often impressive inventions, such as the CD. “My first, American, patent dating from 1983 related to writing CDs. I started working for Philips in 1977 and in the early days my main focus was acoustics—which included things like improving loudspeakers. These days, I'm concerned mainly with medical applications.” Aarts has been granted patents for ‘Measuring stress’, ‘Measuring COPD’ and ‘Measuring snoring’.
According to Aarts, who has worked one day a week for TU/e since 2006, the university has certainly benefited from his inventions. “I have published a great deal in academic journals and my students have also helped certain inventions come about. For me it's all about the four Ps: people, patents, papers and products.”
At the TU/e Innovation Lab, which registers patent applications for TU/e, no other individual has previously reached the one hundred mark for the number of patents granted. Any number between ten and twenty patents is already pretty high, they know at the institute. The patents registered by Aarts, however, are not mentioned here; all his patents are registered at Philips. “I understand that at Philips I have three predecessors who have at least a hundred patents to their name.” The professor will be awarded the medal in a few weeks' time, though he cannot yet say exactly when.
Photo | Angeline Swinkels