The history of Eni Award, our energy science award

2008 saw the first edition of the Eni Award. Since then until 2022, 98 researchers from five continents have received awards.

03 October 2022
9 min read
03 October 2022
9 min read

An international event for applied research in energy

The story of the Eni Award spans five continents and the careers of dozens of researchers and scientists. Since it was established as a company award in 2007, it has grown to become an internationally recognised accolade for applied research and technological innovation in energy. Each year, the prize-winning work involves discoveries which make a big impact, bringing radical breakthroughs closer – in energy efficiency, in renewables, in decarbonization and in safeguarding the environment. What’s more, in 2017, the Eni Award was opened to scientific talent in Africa, a continent with enormous human potential. In order to provide an even more complete overview of current knowledge, in recent years topics related to sustainability and energy access have been included. These in turn are linked to achieving the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable development Goals (SDGs). As always, the Award features a section devoted to the most inspiring doctoral theses and recognition of the most significant technological innovations developed by Eni researchers and technical experts.

The 2022 winners

Now in their 14th edition, the Eni Awards 2022 have been presented on 3 October, during an official ceremony held at the Quirinale Palace in Rome, attended by the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella.

The Energy Frontiers Award, one of the three main prizes, which honours the best research and innovation in the field of renewable energy sources and energy storage, has been awarded to Jens Nørskov and Ib Chorkendorff, from the Technical University of Denmark. The Advanced Environmental Solutions Award, dedicated to research on air, water and land protection and industrial site remediation, was awarded to Geoffrey Coates, from Cornell University (New York, USA). Finally, the Energy Transition Award, which celebrates the best innovations for decarbonizing the energy system, went to Naomi Halas and Peter Nordlander of Rice University (Houston, USA).

The award for Young Talent from Africa, introduced in 2017 to mark the 10th anniversary of the Eni Awards and dedicated to young talents from the African continent, went to  Yousif Adam from the American University in Cairo (Egypt), Ibrahim Mohamed Ibrahim Moustafa Ibrahim from the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport (Egypt), Andsera Adugna Mekonen from Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia) and Andris Metumo Simeon from the University of Cape Town (South Africa).

The Young Researcher of the Year award is presented every year to two researchers who have received a research doctorate in an Italian university. It was won this year by Isabella Fiorello and Giulia Fredi.

In the Recognition at Innovation Eni section, which recognises the most revolutionary projects developed by Eni's researchers and technical experts, awards were given to:

  • P. Biagini, R. Po' (Eni), F. Bisconti, A. Giuri, A. Rizzo and S. Colella (CNR-Nanotec, Lecce) for patenting peroskite-based semi-transparent photovoltaic cells and the process to produce them.
  • G. Gatti, C. Perretta (Eni Versalis) for developing an innovative type of eSBR elastomer containing used, recycled and micronised tyres (ELT, End-of-Life-Tires) to be used in the production cycle of new tyres.
  • A. Chiodini, S. Loda, F. Rubertelli (Eni) were selected for developing an automatic device (e-lorec®) for recovering dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPL) from contaminated soil. 

Furthermore, in 2021, the special mention “Eni Joule for Entrepreneurship” has been established, awarded, within the Eni Award Prize ceremony, to teams, spin-offs or startups out standing in sustainable innovation. The prize complements the Eni Award in fostering the implementation, enhancement and transfer of technologies in the field of energy transition. Within the first two editions of the prize, six Italians startups have been awarded. The special mention "Eni Joule for Entrepreneurship" 2022 was given to the teams:

  • AraBat: early stage startup based in Foggia which, from oranges and batteries, aims to solve the problem of the supply of precious metals. It is developing a sustainable process for recycling spent lithium-ions batteries and marketing of recovered metals through an innovative system based on citrus-waste.
  • Sinergy Flow: early stage startup based in Milan wich is developing a sustainable redox flow battery for energy storage on a multi-day basis. The flow cell battery uses sulfur-rich waste from the petrochemical industry, with a low installation cost and high performance.
  • Ricehouse: growth stage startup based in Milan which began its journey in 2016 with the goal of creating a positive impact on society by promoting a responsible change in the architecture sector. In particular, the startup transforms byproducts of rice processing into natural materials for green building. Today it has become a benefit company and has about 15 employees.

Press release | The 2022 Eni Awards: Eni's scientific research prizes were awarded today in the presence of the President of the Republic.

The energy of the future starts here

Since 2008, the Eni Awards have become an international benchmark for energy innovation. Its story begins in 2007, when it became part of Eni's technological master plan, replacing the Eni-Italgas award for improving use of energy sources, promoting science and technology with environmental applications, and making the most of the new generations of researchers. Over the years, the award has evolved to embrace areas environmental remediation, hydrocarbons and renewable energy, with one eye on developing countries and the ideas of young students and Eni people. The Eni Awards are bestowed every year and now involve some of the most important scientific institutions in the world, along with Eni's research centres. In 2008 applications numbered 167 and rose to 1,253 in 2014. Overall, considering  the three main categories and the two categories dedicated to young people, 11.122 researchers have submitted their applications, an average of approximately 800 per year. This remarkable number includes the cream of the research world, showing their enthusiasm for innovative research and attention to the crucial issues of energy and the environment.

Awards: a few case studies

The Eni Awards have recognised some outstanding figures: in 2013, for example, the Renewable Energy award went to American Frances H. Arnold who was later awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 2018. In 2012, meanwhile, Canadian Barbara Sherwood Lollar, who became famous for her studies on the presence of water on Mars, published in 2019, was chosen for her work on the application of stable isotope geochemistry in the protection of groundwater resources and the environment. Among other things, the Eni Awards are noteworthy for the significant female presence among award-winners, with 8 in 22 being women in this last edition. In 2013, Italian researcher Roberto Danovaro was recognised for his studies on the marine environment and its role in the CO2 cycle. And, in the same year, shortly after receiving his award, professor Danovaro, who had become famous around the world, was made President of the Anton Dohrn geological station in Naples, a national institute of international importance. In December 2020, Danovaro was recognised by Expertscape as the world’s leading scientific authority in the seas and oceans category. Overall, from their creation to the present day, the Eni Awards have involved various distinguished scientists, from John Craig Venter, known for the sequencing of the human genome, to Gérard Férey, a researcher into nanoporous hybrid and inorganic solids who died in 2017, and even Emiliano Mutti, one of the fathers of modern Italian geology. Finally, both Giorgio Parisi and Klaus Hasselmann, who have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2021, have won the Eni Award (Eni-Italgas award), respectively in 1993 and 1996. Furthermore, in past years, Giorgio Parisi was among the members of the Awards’ Scientific Committee.