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Stem cell scientist and open source software engineer named joint winners of 2012 Millennium Technology Prize - Embassy of Finland, London : News & Current Affairs


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News, 14/06/2012

Stem cell scientist and open source software engineer named joint winners of 2012 Millennium Technology Prize

Technology Academy Finland has 13.6.2012 announced that two prominent innovators, Linus Torvalds and Dr Shinya Yamanaka, are joint Grand Winners of the 2012 Millennium Technology Prize, one of the world’s major technology prizes. The President of the Republic of Finland, Sauli Niinistö presented the prize today. This is the first time that the Grand Prize has been shared by two scientists. The 1.2m Euros prize fund will be split, with both winners receiving 600,000 Euros each.

Shinya Yamanaka, presidentti Sauli Niinistö ja Linus TorvaldsShinya Yamanaka, presidentti Sauli Niinistö ja Linus Torvalds

Linus Torvalds, a Finnish-American citizen born in Finland, has been awarded the prize for creating the Linux kernel, a new open source operating system for computers. 73,000 man years have been spent fine-tuning the code. Today millions use computers, smartphones and digital video recorders that run on Linux. Linus Torvalds’s achievements have had a great impact on shared software development, networking and the openness of the web.

Dr Shinya Yamanaka, a Japanese citizen, has been awarded the prize in recognition of his discovery of a new method to develop induced pluripotent stem cells for medical research. Using his method to create stem cells, scientists all over the world are making great strides in research in medical drug testing and biotechnology. This should one day lead to the successful growth of implant tissues for clinical surgery and combating intractable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

Linus Torvalds said:

Linus TorvardsLinus Torvards

"I'm really honored to be the joint recipient of this year's Millennium Technology Prize. This recognition is particularly important to me given that it's given by the Technology Academy of Finland. Thank you to the International Selection Committee and the TAF Board.

“I'd also like to thank all the people I've worked with, who have helped make the project not only such a technical success, but have made it so fun and interesting."

Shinya Yamanaka said:

Shinya YamanakaShinya Yamanaka

“It is an honour to be named as the joint Grand Prize Winner of the 2012 Millennium Technology Prize – one of the world’s most important science and technology awards. I am not accepting this on behalf of myself alone. The discovery of induced pluripotent stem cells could not have been achieved without tremendous efforts by students and technicians in my laboratory.

“My mission now is to advance iPS cell research in cooperation with many researchers around the world and bring the technology to medicine as early as possible. I will continue to work hard to achieve our goals of developing new drugs and medical treatments to intractable diseases by using iPS cell technology.”

Previous winners

The Millennium Technology Prize is awarded every two years for innovations that significantly improve the quality of human life, today and in the future. Previous winners of the prize include Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web; Professor Shuji Nakamura, TECHNOLOGY ACADEMY

inventor of coloured LEDs and a blue laser; and Professor Robert Langer, for developing innovative biomaterials for use in tissue regeneration. Most recently, the prize was awarded in 2010 to Professor Michael Grätzel for his work on dye-sensitised solar cells that provide low cost renewable energy.

Rigid selection process

The prize is awarded by the Technology Academy Finland, an independent foundation established by Finnish industry in partnership with the Finnish state. The Grand Prize Winners were selected by the Board of the Foundation on the basis of recommendations made by the International Selection Committee.

The Technology Academy ( promotes Finnish technology by supporting scientific research that develops innovations and new technologies and contributes to the improvement of people's living conditions while building on humane values. The Technology Academy awards the international Millennium Technology Prize (, the world's most respected technology prize, every two years.

The organisation of the Technology Academy includes the Finnish Academy of Technology (, the Swedish Academy of Engineering in Finland ( and the Industry Council, whose members represent leading Finnish industrial companies. 

Nominations for the Millennium Technology Prize are sought from universities, academies, research institutes and industrial organisations all over the world. Candidates are nominated by others, rather than themselves.

The task of assessing the nominations falls to the International Selection Committee, including eight scientists from academia and industry. Four criteria are used to assess the significance of each innovation: the innovation’s impact on the quality of life and sustainable development now; and in the future; and the significance of the resulting technological change. The committee also ensures that the nominated person or persons are responsible for the innovation.

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Updated 21/06/2012

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