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Recognising innovations that enhance our quality of life

Reflecting Finland's commitment to high technology, the Millennium Technology Prize has been created to recognise outstanding technological innovations promoting people's quality of life. To be awarded every other year and worth €1 million, it is the largest prize of its type. The first Millennium Technology Prize was awarded in June 2004 to Tim Berners-Lee.

The President of the Republic of Finland, Tarja Halonen, presented the first Millennium Technology Prize to Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, in June 2004.

Tim Berners-Lee, the first recipient of the Millennium Technology Prize, revolutionised electronic communication by developing the World Wide Web, a technology that has become virtually indispensable for people everywhere.

In the words of Pekka Tarjanne, the former Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union and the Chairman of the Millennium Technology Prize's Award Selection Committee:

“The Web has significantly enhanced many people's ability to obtain information central to their lives, and is encouraging new types of social networks, supporting transparency and democracy, and opening up novel avenues for information management and business development.”

Berners-Lee developed the Web while working at CERN in Switzerland as a means of improving the way information was managed by and shared between particle physics institutes around the world.

“The original idea of the Web was that it should be a collaborative space, where, by writing something together, and as people worked on it, they could iron out misunderstanding,” remembers Berners-Lee.

Back some 15 years ago, he certainly needed the perseverance, and humility, often required of pioneers, as the idea of the Web initially found few enthusiastic supporters. The rest is, as they say, history. Since then, the Web has had a profound impact on the way we exchange ideas, build communities, and do business everywhere.

Today, Berners-Lee is leading efforts to make the Web increasingly accessible and efficient at the World Wide Web Consortium based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The Web has significantly enhanced many people's ability to obtain information central to their lives.

Why a new prize?

As a leading developer and producer of hightechnology products and services, Finland has benefited from global technological developments, and government and industry wanted to acknowledge this by establishing a new prize.

“We benefit so much from world markets in high technology that we owe it to the world ?to science and to those who make a contribution to creating prosperity through high technology ?to establish the Millennium Prize,” explained Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen at the launch of the Millennium Foundation in 2002.

The Millennium Prize is designed to promote technological research and innovation that has a positive impact on the quality of people's life. Today, as the era of high technology takes over from the era of industrialisation, innovation is becoming increasingly critical in shaping our quality of life and well-being.

The Prize, the Millennium Technology Symposia, and public events aim to encourage discussion between technology specialists and decision-makers, and to stimulate interest in technological developments and professions, especially among the young.

Public-private partnership

The history of the Millennium Technology Prize has its roots in the mid-1990s in discussions on the idea of an international technology award between members of the Finnish Academies of Technology and others.

The Finnish government lent its support to the idea of recognising excellence in technological innovation, particularly that related to promoting sustainable development, at the end of 1999.

An independent fund, the Finnish Technology Award Foundation, was established in 2002 by a cross-section of Finland's leading technology organisations and associations. Since then, this public-private partnership has been further strengthened thanks to the support of corporate sponsors.

With a Board of Directors drawn from both the public and private sectors in Finland, and chaired by veteran industry figure and one of Finland's 'technology champions', Jaakko Ihamuotila, the Foundation hopes to play an active role in promoting international innovation.

Who can win?

Nominations are accepted from research institutions and industrial organisations around the world. The Prize can be awarded to a research and development team, an individual or, where several individuals have made separate contributions to an innovation, it can be shared between two or three individuals.

The selection and recommendation of the winner or winners to the Governing Board of the Foundation is the responsibility of an international Award Selection Committee.

The Millennium Technology Prize

is awarded to innovations that significantly enhance people's quality of life, contribute toward the realisation of humane values, and encourage sustainable economic development. Consideration is also given to nominees' current involvement in technological development, as the Prize is intended to stimulate further achievements.

> Tytti Nahi
(Published in High Technology Finland )