10 to the power of innovation at Nokia Bell Labs Prize competition

Marcus Weldon, July 19, 2016


The competition is heating up as innovators from around the world vie for the prestigious Nokia Bell Labs Prize of US$100,000. Since May 25th when the 13 semi-finalists were announced, there’s been a lot of excitement as the supporting Bell Labs researchers and candidates looked forward to meeting each other at the global innovation workshops, called Innovathons, which were held at Nokia headquarters in Espoo, Finland, on 15–16 June, and in Murray Hill, NJ, on 21-22 June.

Besides the opportunity to network, the Innovathons provide candidates with a chance to visit a Nokia Bell Labs facility and meet fellow researchers and the leadership team. During the 2-day workshops, candidates make an initial 5-minute pitch to Bell Labs leadership to help focus the proposals to have greater impact.

The Nokia Bell Labs Prize is a competition for researchers and scientists from participating countries around the world. They submit original proposals for innovations in Information Communications and Technology (ICT) that have the potential to change the way we live, work and communicate. The proposal should exhibit a potential for change an order of magnitude (10x) greater than the state of the art today.

Last year’s winner, Brandon Lucia of Carnegie Mellon University, won the prize for developing OIC, the operating system for intermittent computing. Using novel hardware and software techniques, OIC can survive intermittent or unreliable power. OIC is ideal for the Internet of Things (IoT)  and the billions of small devices and sensors that will be deployed, often into surroundings where energy sources are environmental and unreliable, in areas such as remote regions of the earth, space, and even inside the human body.

This year’s Prize was launched in March 2016 and attracted 252 proposals from 41 countries. Most were from universities, but some also came from industry. After a diligent review process, 13 were selected from the US, UK, Denmark, Taiwan and Israel. From now until September 9, they will partner with Bell Labs researchers to strengthen their proposals. The final submissions are reviewed and 5–10 finalists are announced on October 17. The finalists will go head-to-head later this year with the top three innovators taking home prizes.

The Prize is both a highly prestigious innovation award and a means to collaborate with the world-renowned Nokia Bell Labs. Although only three can win cash prizes, those surviving the first round gain visibility with a high-profile audience of researchers, innovators, entrepreneurs, media and partners. A few may also see their innovation come to fruition, contributing to changing our lives for the better.

If you’re interested in following this year’s Prize or entering the 2017 Nokia Bell Labs Prize competition with an idea of your own, you can visit our website, where you can learn more about the Prize and apply next year.