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

Photo of the 2012 Millennium Technology Prize winners Shinya Yamanaka and Linus Torvalds with president Sauli Niinistö in the middle.

Technology Academy Finland has today 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 during the ceremony at the Finnish National Opera in Helsinki in front of an audience of scientists and business leaders. 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.

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.

Dr Ainomaija Haarla, President of Technology Academy Finland, said:

“The Prize Committee decided, for the first time in the Millennium Technology Prize’s ten year history, to award the Grand Prize to two innovators. Dr Shinya Yamanaka’s work in stem cell research and Linus Torvalds’s work in open source software have transformed their fields and will remain important for generations to come.
“The International Selection Committee has to judge whether an innovation has had a favourable impact on people’s lives and assess its potential for further development to benefit humanity in the future. The innovations of both this year’s winners embody that principle.
“Dr Shinya Yamanaka’s discovery of a new method to develop pluripotent stem cells for medical research could help combat intractable diseases. And Linus Torvalds’s work has kept the web open for the pursuit of knowledge and for the benefit of humanity – not simply for financial interests.”

Linus Torvalds said: 

“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.”

Dr Shinya Yamanaka said:

“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, 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.

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.

Partners of the Millennium Technology Prize:
Aalto University, Cargotec, FIM, Fortum, Gasum, Halton, Kemira, Lönnberg, Metso, Metsä Group, Neste Oil, Nokia, Outotec, Ruukki, SEB, Vaisala, Wärtsilä.

Read more about Millennium Technology Prize winners

1. For international media enquiries, please contact:
Rob Blackhurst Apollo Public Relations rob@apollopublicrelations.com 00 44 787 9423341
2. For Finnish media enquiries, please contact:
Niina Suhonen, Head of Communications & Marketing, Technology Academy Finland
firstname.lastname(at)technologyacademy.fi, tel. +358 40 8439 438
3. Contacts at Technology Academy Finland
Ph.D. Juha Ylä-Jääski, acting President and CEO
firstname.lastname(at)technologyacademy.fi, tel: +358 40 716 0703
Chancellor Jarl-Thure Eriksson, Åbo Akademi University, Chairman of the International Selection Committee, firstname.lastname(at)abo.fi, tel. +358 40 5012 570

Further information about the Prize and members of the International Selection Committee at: www.millenniumprize.fi
Additional information about Technology Academy Finland at:

More about the laureates and their innovations:
Case stories, interviews, photographs and videos on the laureates are available at www.millenniumprize.fi
Videos in YouTube
Linus Torvalds http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1MCvuDvCaQ
Dr Shinya Yamanaka http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXvRbffAhn8

Technology Academy Finland (TAF) is an independent foundation with a mission to support scientific research and new technologies that will benefit humanity and improve the quality of people’s lives. TAF awards the Millennium Technology Prize every two years and runs associated events such as the annual Millennium Youth Camp. TAF also promotes Finland as a high-tech country by actively participating in global networks in the scientific community, business and governmental organisations.

Partners of the Millennium Technology Prize