The Economist Innovation Awards 2013

De Soto. Miyamoto. Gates. Zuckerberg. Wales. Jobs. People who have changed the game. Those who sow the seeds of an idea and nurture them into the innovations that we incorporate into our everyday lives. This year we celebrate the twists and turns of ideation and creation - the stories behind these great innovators.

Among the host of leading innovators celebrated at last year's Innovation Awards were the brains behind modern maps, anti-cancer drugs and private space flight. The awards, sponsored by Huawei and Astellas, recognise significant contributions across eight fields ranging from business processes to environmental technology.

This year's action will be streamed live and free from London's BAFTA theatre on December 3rd 2013.


On December 3rd 2013 we will gather an audience of 200 guests by invitation only, comprising leading figures from business, academia, science, R&D and government for a presentation of our awards in the BAFTA Theatre, Piccadilly, London. The ceremony will be broadcasted live on the day to desktops, tablets and mobiles so you don’t have to miss out.Tune in to see the Awards presentation and send your congratulations and comments via the live conversation feed.

The awards celebrate outstanding innovators in the following categories:

Includes pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and agriculture

Winner : James Allison, Immune checkpoint blockade for treatment of cancer

T-cells are lymphocytes, a potent type of white blood cell with receptors that recognize and bind to antigens. T-cells launch immune responses to destroy these pieces of invading organisms, abnormal cells or proteins, which are captured and presented to the T-cells by antigen-presenting cells.

James Allison, a long-time cancer researcher who began his career at the University of Texas Cancer Center in 1978, studied why T-cells failed to recognize or attack certain cancers, evading the body’s natural immune system. Allison’s seminal discoveries in T-cell biology include the T-cell antigen receptor used by T-cells to bind to and recognize antigens; that T-cells require a second signal to launch an immune response after they are bound to an antigen (B7 molecules on presenting cells must engage a surface molecule called CD28 on the T-cell); and how a molecule called CTLA-4 that protrudes from the T-cells’ surface inhibits activated T-cells to protect normal cells from attack as well as protecting cancer cells from attack.

Includes hardware, software, security, telecommunications

Winner : Steve Furber and Sophie Wilson, The ARM processor

In 1983, Wilson designed the instruction set for one of the first RISC processors, called the Acorn RISC Machine or ARM. RISC or reduced instruction set computing means a microprocessor chip that uses a reduced and limited set of simple instructions rather than the more complex set of instructions that until then caused most chips to run more slowly than desired.  Today, ARM chips dominate the processor chips inside smart phones, digital cameras and other mobile devices. They can be found in the Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy, for example. ARM shipments to date exceed 40 billion units and the company says they are at the heart of more than 35% of all consumer devices worldwide. ARM’s goal is to have its processors in more than half of all tablets, mini-notebooks and other mobile PCs sold by 2015.

May include the product or design in support of a product

Winner : Chuck Hull and Bre Pettis, Pioneering and popularizing 3D printing

Chuck Hull is considered the father of three-dimensional printing. He originally called it stereolithography, for which he was issued a US patent in 1986. He founded 3D Systems the same year. Bre Pettis, a dedicated maker and tinkerer, wanted a 3D printer but could not afford the industrial priced and sized machines, so he set out in 2009 to create an affordable and accessible desktop-sized 3D printer. His company, MakerBot, has helped open the technology much more widely to consumers.

Includes green technologies, utilities and transportation

Technology-based products or services that don't fit neatly into any of the above categories (this includes materials science, nanotechnology and other emerging fields, e.g. blue-violet laser)

Enabling compounds, products, technologies or methodologies which underpin product discovery, design, or manufacturing, as well as fulfillment
processes in business and education

Winner : Salman Khan, Free, online world-class education

In 2004, Salman Khan’s young cousin Nadia was having trouble in math class in New Orleans. Working in Boston at a hedge fund, Khan offered to tutor her. Khan began tutoring her by phone and using an interactive notepad. By 2006, word got around and Khan was tutoring 15 family friends and cousins as a hobby. To better scale, he began writing software to give his cousins practice and feedback in mathematics. To complement this software, he also began posting videos of his hand- scribbled tutorials on YouTube.  Demand took off, and in 2008, when the practice problems and instructional videos were reaching tens of thousands of students per month, he quit his day job to commit himself fully to the not-for-profit Khan Academy.



Novel technologies and business models that improve everyday lives (e.g. microcredit)

Winner : Jane Chen, Rahul Panicker, Naganand Murty and Linus Liang, Inexpensive incubator for premature babies

Jane Chen, Rahul Panicker, Naganand Murty and Linus Liang met in a 2007 Stanford University class named Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability. As part of a class assignment, they developed a low-cost incubator design that could help save the lives of millions of premature babies born in poor countries. The nonprofit organisation Embrace has now set up 20 programs in 10 countries to distribute the warmer. It has hired local staff and established partnerships around the globe, including Afghanistan, Uganda, China, Guatemala and South Sudan. Recognizing that technology alone is not enough to solve the problem of hypothermia, Embrace integrates the warmer into public health education programs to have a deeper and more lasting impact on the communities it serves.

For corporate use of innovation: Nominations submitted by the judging panel only.

To find out more register to watch this event streamlined live on December 3rd 2013!