Eni Award

 By Paola Arpino

Someone said that “Excellence does not require to cross the finish line” and, while acknowledging the truth of such a statement, in some cases, when excellence emerges in Italy, a country blamed for letting brightest minds flee to other horizons, one cannot help but consider the Eni Award as a “finish line” as well as a springboard, for many researchers…

An initiative created with the aim of encouraging research in the energy sector, Eni Award, thanks to the commitment and excellence of the work carried out by passionate researchers, has earned over the years the recognition of a real “Nobel Prize for Energy” as the world renowned Stockholm Academy Award does not cover this specific field.

The history

2007 is the year in which the annual Eni Award was officially established as envisaged in the “Eni’ Technological Master Plan”, replacing the Eni Italgas prize which reached its 19th edition in 2006 with the objective of developing a better use of energy sources, promote science and technologies applied to the environment and enhancing new generations of researchers. The premises, which would have turned the price into an important international benchmark in the energy field, with particular attention to aspects related to innovation and sustainability, were already visible since its launch. Innovation and sustainability are now pivotal themes in the process of transformation towards energy transition, which characterizes the current historical period on a global level.

The key players

Since its establishment, the Award, which counts on a well-established and prestigious network of researchers in the field of energy and the environment, has been featured by the complexity and completeness of the approach to sustainable energy and bears witness to the importance that Eni gives to scientific research and sustainability issues. The macro thematic areas subject to research are those of Hydrocarbons, and Environmental Protection.
The Award’s Scientific Commission, which is called upon to evaluate applications and recognize the awards, is of high prestige and includes researchers and scientists from the world’s most advanced research and institutes. These includes the contribution of the American Robert Richardson, Nobel Prize Laureate for Physics in 1996 and Sir Harold Kroto, Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1996 who both recently died.
In other later editions researchers came along to be awarded from Europe and the United States of America with research supported in some cases by distinguished personalities from the various assessment committees including three Nobel Prize winners.

Numerical escursus in the last decade

In the last ten years, the numbers relating Eni Award are important: applications have been growing exponentially for international awards: from 167 in 2008 to 601 in this year, with peaks of up to 1,253 in 2014, when the eligibility criteria had to be tightened for the high number of applications submitted.
Overall, researchers applying in the last decade were 7,559: 1,795 in the hydrocarbon sector; 2,897 in the renewables sector; 2,700 in the environmental protection sector. An impressive number of candidates from all continents have gathered the best of the world’s research, proving the vitality of innovative research and attention to the crucial energy and environmental problems.

The awards: some “case studies”

In the last decade, among the award-winners, some figures of great stature stand out: in 2012, for example, the prize was delivered for the second time to a woman: the Canadian Barbara Sherwood Lollar (also known for her commitment in the study of the possible presence of water on Mars) for her work aimed at the application of the geochemistry of stable isotopes to research and protection of groundwater resources and environment. A contribution to the most important resource for life: water. In 2013, an Italian researcher – and not the first – Roberto Danovaro was rewarded for his studies on the marine environment and for his role in the CO2 cycle. Shortly after the recognition, Prof. Danovaro, become in the meantime famous all over the world, was appointed President of the Geological Station “Anton Dohrn” in Naples, a national institute of great international importance.
Last year, it was the turn of the great Italian geologist Emiliano Mutti, one of the fathers of modern Italian geology. His books have trained all current geologists and in the world his name is synonymous with Italian geology.
It should be noted that among the award-winners the Eni Award boasts a remarkable presence of women: 7 out of 20. A significant evidence of the of Italian research vitality. Furthermore, all the award-winning young people have filled a space in the difficult world of work and the skills of some of them are now internationally recognised.

The ceremony

To confirm the importance of the event, the ceremony for the assignment of the Eni Award is held in Rome, at the “Palazzo del Quirinale” in the presence of the President of the Republic, the President and the CEO of Eni, contextually to the Innovation Awards conferred on three internal research teams that have distinguished themselves for their level of innovation and the importance of the results relevant to business obtained.

Eni Award is in its 10th edition this year

Eni Award 2017: a re-styling touch

The 2017 edition celebrates the tenth anniversary of the Eni Award introducing significant innovations concerning the studies, subject of recognition, and the establishment of the prize “Debut in research” whose focus will be on the “Young Talents of Africa with the aim of enhancing a country with which Eni has always been connected with full commitment.
“Africa is our past, the present and our future” sums up the actor Neri Marcoré in a sentence on the occasion of the Mantua Festival, where Eni participated with the event Inedita Energia, telling through a photographic path the profound relationship that Eni has been having with the territory since the 1950s.
In line with the company’s strategy, the “Research Debut Award” for young African talents is reserved for graduates from African Universities who have presented projects in the field of energy and environmental issues to be applicable in their countries of origin. In this category, the winners are: Blessing Onyeche Ugwoke and Yemane Kelemework Equbamariam who will be able to pursue a Phd at prestigious Italian universities.
A new formula of the “Debut in Research Award” is reserved for younger researchers, with a revision of the Award’s name which, by offering a new impulse to curiosity, tenacity and skills acquired by the new levers of the future with courage and determination, shifts the focus from the price to the person and becomes “Young researcher of the year. In this category, the award-winners are: Stefano Langé and Matteo Fasano.
For the “Energy Transition Award” category, on the other hand, which rewards innovations in the hydrocarbon sector for the decarbonisation of the energy system, the winner is Robert Schlögl, while for the “Advanced Environmental Solutions Award” category, awarding research that focuses on the air, water and land safeguard and the reclamation of industrial sites, the winner is Graham Hutchings.
Finally, Jens Nielsen was awarded for the “Energy Frontiers Award” whose aim is to reward research and technological innovation results in the field of renewable energy sources and energy storage, with a view to decarbonising the energy system and access to energy in developing countries.
A few years ago, during a conference by the title “The researcher job. Testimonies of the most beautiful work in the world” a question was posed on “what was the real goal hidden behind so much self-sacrifice” and left unanswered since then… What about if we, of Eniday, dared saying “TO WIN THE ENI AWARD?”


Research Debut Award

   Blessing Onyeche Ugwoke

   Yemane Kelemework Equbamariam


Young researcher of the year

   Stefano Langé

   Matteo Fasano


Energy Transition Award

   Robert Schlögl


Advanced Environmental Solutions Award

   Graham Hutchings


Energy Frontiers Award

   Jens Nielsen

SEE MORE: Energy producing homes by Luca Longo

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Paola Arpino
Traveling with myself, through Rome, London and Milan, dreaming that one day I could be writing....