Bell Labs is renowned for its profound influence on the evolution of telecommunications and information technologies and consequently how people connect, collaborate, compute and communicate. 

And of course there are the prizes: 8 Nobel Prizes, the Turing medal, the National Medals of Science and the Grammy and Emmy that are the by-products of the discoveries that result from these inventions. But all these prizes are retrospective rewards for something already discovered and proven, often decades earlier. That is not to diminish these great awards in any way, but I believe there is an opportunity to add to these retrospective awards, with a prospective award – an award for an idea that has yet to be proven, or created, but is so potentially transformative that it has the potential to change the game if it can be realized. This is the spirit of the new Bell Labs Prize for Innovation in Information and Communications Networking. And just like the other great prizes, it is open to anyone in any of the countries where the prize is registered.

Innovating by drawing from the global community of brilliant minds.

In short, the Prize is a call to inventors around the globe to put forward their ideas and have the opportunity to collaborate with Bell Labs researchers to enhance it and create a first implementation of their idea. So it rewards “potential innovation,” providing a complementary early-stage bookend to the other prizes that reward “successful innovation” after the impact of the idea or innovation is proven.

Bell Labs researchers judge entries and select those that are best matched to the Bell Labs tradition and expertise. These selected proposals are paired with a Bell Labs expert to help develop the idea, and the top proposals are presented before a judging panel of industry visionaries and leaders. First, second and third prizes are awarded with a stipend of $100,000, $50,000 and $25,000, respectively. And we will do this every year!

This is classic Bell Labs — innovating by drawing from the global community of brilliant minds. But it is also the new Bell Labs because the ideas don’t just come from people working inside the labs, but from outside the labs as well. And with this, we are providing the opportunity for innovators to transform the way we live again — and maybe win the next Nobel Prize, or Emmy or Grammy.

I look forward to seeing the wealth of ideas out there about the future of networking and the collaborations between these innovators and Bell Labs researchers around the globe. Based on our history, it is not unreasonable to suggest that the future may very well be invented when these different perspectives are brought together with the goal of solving “10x” type problems. 

Let’s invent that future together!

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