While the rest of the Netherlands was glued to their screens for the first exit poll of the Dutch parliamentary elections, Fernandez Rivas was thinking of very different things Wednesday night. In front of Princess Mabel, widow of Prince Friso, and Princess Beatrix, mother of the prince and former queen, he was competing with two other projects for the prestigious prize. A day later, the Cuban indicated that he preferred not to describe the other two finalists as competition. 'I was not facing them, but next to them. I knew nothing about the other two finalists beforehand, but was enormously impressed by their work. At that moment the tension in me increased considerably.'
Until Wednesday, it had not happened for seven years, that the professional jury and the public vote decided on the same winner. Fernandez Rivas is best known for the needle-free injection technique he works on. In this technique, needles are unnecessary. The drug itself acts as a needle because it is 'shot' through the epidermis at high speed. 'This is a hot topic mainly because of corona vaccination, but I want to emphasize that this technique is not central to this prize. It's also about the development of microbubbles. That has come up a lot. The professional jury interviewed the three candidates in the run-up to the finals, and it's a broader project than just needle-free injection.'
After the announcement, Fernandez Rivas was given the honor of talking to Princess Mabel and Princess Beatrix. Where all of the Netherlands has had enough of video meetings, he was in a video conversation with the royal duo and three people from the jury. ‘It was overwhelming. The conversation lasted five minutes longer than it was supposed to, so I assume they also found it a nice conversation.'
Fernandez Rivas says the content of the conversation touched him the most. They talked about the way Prince Friso thought about engineering. ‘The fact that they are doing something positive with that in the form of this award is impressive. That did more for me than the fact that I was allowed to talk to them. At the same time it felt special because in Enschede I often celebrated Beatrix's birthday, while now I was talking to her about my work.'
Fernandez Rivas hopes that the award will generate attention for engineering. 'So not only attention for me, but also for the UT and for engineering in general. National and international media are devoting news items to this prize and that is great. Especially in these uncertain corona times it is important to show that people are always needed in engineering, whatever your background is.'