Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, Shuji Nakamura, father of blue, green and white LEDs, and Robert Langer, pioneer of biotechnology, were among the many high-level participants to celebrate Finland’s innovation award, the Millennium Prize, in Washington DC.
The three innovators, all previous recipients of the Millennium Prize, gathered to the Embassy of Finland on October 8 to celebrate the one-million-euro technology and innovation award. Their star power attracted more than 100 journalists, academics and innovation experts to the embassy to enjoy a spirited and lively discussion on the new advances in science, led by New York Times reporter Steve Lohr.
The Millennium Prize, the world’s most prestigious technology prize, is awarded by Finland’s technology Academy Foundation every second year to a technological innovation that improves quality of life. The first winner of the prize in 2004 was Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web, an internet-based hypermedia initiative for global information sharing while working at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory. He wrote the first web client and server in 1990, and his specifications of URIs, HTTP and HTML were refined as Web technology spread.
In 2006, the winner was Dr. Shuji Nakamura, who is currently the Professor of Materials Department in the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 1993, he stunned the scientific community with the announcement of very-bright blue light emitting diodes, LEDs. In rapid succession, he then announced a green LED, a blue laser diode and a white LED.
The most previous winner, Dr. Robert Langer, is considered a pioneer in the emerging field of biotechnology. He has developed many new technologies, including transdermal delivery systems and tissue engineering, and discovered many advanced drug delivery systems that have had a significant impact on fighting cancer, heart disease, mental health illnesses and numerous other diseases.
The winners’ panel discussions with Mr. Lohr were followed by several questions from the audience, who were eager to hear Sir Tim’s thoughts on the innovative uses of the internet, Dr. Nakamura’s eventful path to discovering the LEDs and Dr. Langer’s visions on the future of biotechnology. The event, hosted by Stig Gustavson, chairman of the Millennium Prize Foundation, and Ambassador Pekka Lintu, ended in a gala dinner, during which the audience was treated to speeches by Dr. Charles Vest, president of the National Academy of Engineering and president emeritus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Dr. Rita Colwell, director of the National Science Foundation.
On Thursday, October 8, the candidates for the 2010 Millennium Technology Prize were named. A total of 55 people and 39 innovations, representing all fields of technology, have been nominated for the prize. The finalists are published in April 2010, and the winner or winners will be announced by President Tarja Halonen in June 2010.