Speech by President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö at the 2020 Millennium Technology Prize Award Ceremony on 18 May 2021

President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö presented the Millennium Technology Prize in a virtual award ceremony on 18 May 2021. Photo: Matti Porre/Office of the President of the Republic
Tasavallan presidentti Sauli Niinistö jakoi Millennium-teknologiapalkinnon virtuaalisessa palkitsemistilaisuudessa tiistaina 18.5.2021. Kuva: Matti Porre/Tasavallan presidentin kanslia

Esteemed Professors Shankar Balasubramanian and David Klenerman, ladies and gentlemen,

In little more than a year, one particular challenge – the COVID 19 pandemic – has changed our lives completely. Fortunately, we have also seen rapid scientific progress in combatting it.

Despite the current focus on the coronavirus, pandemics are of course not the only global challenge we are facing. Together, we have to find ways to fight climate change, to ensure adequate food supplies, to safeguard a clean environment, just to name a few examples.

All these challenges have one thing in common. Answers to them require solutions only technology and science can provide. We need technology and science for a better life.

And for a better life, we need scientists with courage, curiosity and skills. We need breakthrough innovations from borderless co-operation for the benefit of humanity.

Indeed, beneath every new innovation lies commitment, persistence and a great amount of pioneering research.

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The Millennium Technology Prize is Finland’s tribute to innovations for a better life.

Today I have the great pleasure to congratulate you, Professor Shankar Balasubramanian and Professor David Klenerman, as the ninth winners of the Millennium Technology Prize.

We are grateful for your achievements in developing the Next Generation DNA Sequencing technology.

This technology is said to have changed the basic understanding of life as such by enabling accurate, fast and low-cost DNA sequencing.

The innovation has a tremendous impact on biology and medicine world-wide. It enables improved healthcare, enhanced food production and better understanding of crop diseases. Furthermore, this technology has laid the ground for the creation of multiple vaccines against the coronavirus.

I am impressed by your innovation and your work.

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I will now ask the Chair of Technology Academy Finland, Marja Makarow, to present to you the Millennium Technology Prize award.

This award – an artwork “MilkyWay” – has been created by Pekka Jylhä, the renowned Finnish artist. It symbolizes open-minded, creative and curious thinking characteristic of successful research. At its best, this kind of thinking leads to significant breakthroughs for humanity, such as the Next Generation DNA Sequencing.

My warmest congratulations!