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October 4, 2017updated 21 Jul 2022 7:18am

The Millenium Technology Prize – The Nobel Prize of the tech world

What life enhancing technology innovations fit for Millenium Technology Prize nomination might await us in the future?

By Tom Ball

The prize

The Millenium Technology Prize is an award from Technology Academy Finland for innovations in technology that contribute to the enhancement of life. One million euros is the reward, and it was first earned in 2004, since then it has been possible to win the prize every two years.

When a winner is found, the honour is further enhanced as the award is presented by the President of Finland, making it a truly desirable achievement for organisations striving to make ground-breaking research.

How to win it

There are some essential conditions that must be adhered to for consideration for the award; the innovation must have been applied in practice, and it must be worthy of ongoing research and development. Innovations pertaining to military technology are not accepted, as the theme of life-enhancement takes precedence.

Organisations and institutions that could win the award include research institutes, tech companies, national level science and engineering academies and universities, meaning a winning innovation could come from a wide range of origins.

In regard to making the final decision on the victor, an international select committee formed of eight members is required to propose a winner to the board of Technology Academy Finland. From this point the board will be tasked with making the important final decision.

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The select committee members tend to include esteemed academics from a range of fields and backgrounds. For example, a current select committee member is the retired CEO/Chairman of the Board of Intel, Dr. Craig R. Barrett.

Worthy winners

In addition to being the first ever winner of the prize in 2004, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, may be the most important winner of The Millenium Technology Prize of all time so far. The World Wide Web has completely altered the way we live, revolutionising all industries and everyday life, giving us access to a world of new potential. For these reasons it is unquestionable that Berners-Lee’s invention enhanced life on a never before or since seen scale.

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Moving on a decade from this crowning, inaugural year of the award in 2004, Stuart Parkin from the United Kingdom won with his achievements in magnetic storage capacity. This colossal achievement involved the expansion of magnetic disk drive capacity by thousands of times, a critical innovation for enhancing life, with data constantly becoming more and more valuable.

The Millenium Technology Prize

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web

The 2006 winner of the prize, Shuji Nakamura, invented blue and white LED lights. This technology is now dispersed far and wide across the world, and is often taken for granted, but LEDs have become commonly used in the lighting of computer displays and various other screens for example. This award stood out above 109 nominations from 32 different countries in the second competition ever.

Frances Arnold from the United States claimed victory in the most recent, 2016 iteration of The Millenium Technology Prize, for the invention of directed evolution, a process by which proteins can be developed in a way that is comparable to natural evolution. This ground-breaking achievement is set to have huge life enhancing benefits for the future, as it enables sustainable development, without requiring raw materials.

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