By Peter Marten, June 2010
The Millennium Technology Prize, awarded in Helsinki every two years by Technology Academy Finland, attracts attention as the biggest tech prize in the world: a total of 1.1 million euros is on the line.
The selection committee announced the three Millennium Technology Prize laureates – the finalists – in April. After that, speculation continued to rage about who would collect the winner’s share – 800,000 euros – of the 1.1-million-euro sum up for grabs (the two runners-up have to make do with just 150,000 euros each).
The laureates are picked on the basis of innovations they have achieved in their careers. The innovation must have an impact on quality of life and sustainable development now and in the future, and result in significant technological change.
In plain English, it boils down to this: The innovation has to be groundbreaking and enrich people’s lives. Technology has the power to reduce inequality, improve our environment and accelerate sustainable development.
For the 2010 award, Cambridge physics professor Richard Friend was nominated for his revolutionary work in plastic electronics, with far-reaching consequences for energy-efficient displays, lighting, and solar-energy harvesting. His initial innovation included producing organic light-emitting diodes.
Computer engineering professor Stephen Furber of the University of Manchester was put on the list for his role as principal designer of the ARM 32-bit RISC microprocessor, found in most handheld electronic devices. Its use in mobile phones, automobiles, healthcare and digital photography and video benefits hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
Professor Michael Grätzel, director of the Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, was nominated on the basis of “Grätzel cells.” They are dye-sensitised solar cells whose applications include electricity-generating windows and low-cost mobile solar panels.
We can now reveal that the 2010 Millennium Technology Prize goes to Professor Michael Grätzel of Switzerland. He received the award in a ceremony held at the Finnish National Opera in Helsinki on June 9.
Millennium Youth Camp
In addition to the three Millennium laureates and the media entourage covering the presentation of the prize, 30 talented students also arrive in Helsinki around the same time. The 16-to19-year-olds come from all over the world to attend the week-long Millennium Youth Camp. They meet top representatives from Finnish business and science organisations, participate in project workshops and visit Aalto University. They also get the chance to meet with the Millennium Prize laureates and take part in the award ceremony.
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