Finnish technology prize celebrates ‘life-changing innovations’

June 10th, 2008 - 3:31 pm ICT by IANS  

By Jaideep Sarin
Helsinki (Finland), June 10 (IANS) The 1.15 million-euro Millennium Technology Prize aims at “recognising and inspiring” innovations that promote “quality of life” and is not a parallel to the Nobel Prize, says the Technology Academy in Finland that has instituted the award. The third edition of the prize - started in 2004 and given every two years by the Finnish technology industry and the Finland government with active support from leading mobile manufacturer Nokia and Finland’s airline Finnair - will be announced here Wednesday.

The winner takes home 800,000 euros while all the laureates for the award will also be given 115,000 euros for each innovation.

Six laureates are in the fray for the Millennium Technology Prize with four innovations. One of the innovations, the erbium doped fibre amplifier (EDFA), has been created by three scientists jointly while other three innovations are individual creations.

“The spirit of the Millennium Technology Prize is to recognise and inspire innovations offering solutions that promote quality of life and sustainable development,” Stig G. Gustavson, Finland’s technology academy chairman and chairman of the board of the Millennium Prize Foundation, told IANS in an interview here.

“We have very good relations with the Nobel Prize committee in Sweden even though we don’t have any formal collaboration with the Nobel Prize. The award has been created keeping innovations in mind and to celebrate their success. Of course, we have come to be known as the unofficial Nobel Prize in technology,” Gustavson said.

All six laureates and their four innovations for the 2008 Millennium Technology Prize, according to Gustavson, represent the values and purpose of the award. He added that each of these outstanding innovations had great beneficial influence on the lives of millions of people.

“The DNA fingerprinting technique developed by Sir Alec Jeffreys (Britain) has revolutionised the field of forensic science. The bio-materials for controlled drug release by Robert Langer (US) have significantly improved medical treatment.

“Andrew Viterbi’s (US) algorithm is a key building element in modern wireless and digital communications systems and the EDFA by three scientists - Emmanuel Desurvire (France), Randy Giles (US) and David Payne (Britain) - plays a fundamental role in global information superhighways,” Gustavson pointed out.

The inaugural technology award in 2004 went to World Wide Web (www) creator Tim Berners-Lee of the US while the second one in 2006 went to Japan’s Shuji Nakamura for creating energy-saving illumination systems for efficient lighting.

“The world would not have been what it is today without the www created by Tim Berners-Lee. The energy efficient lighting by Shuji Nakamura will help save energy in this world. These are great innovations and we want to celebrate them with others. By promoting these innovations, we want to stimulate cutting-edge research and development across the globe,” Gustavson said.

He and the technology academy here feel that the Millennium Technology Prize, coming from a country (Finland) that has given the world the biggest mobile manufacturer - Nokia - and other technology companies, is an apt recognition of Finland’s significant role in the global technology sector.

“The prize will create an identity for Finland in the field of technology,” Gustavson added.

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