Eni Award 2020

Eni Award: our energy science award

2008 saw the first edition of the Eni Award. Since then, 87 researchers from five continents have received awards, and the story goes on.

by Eni Staff
26 May 2021
9 min read
by Eni Staff
26 May 2021
9 min read

A regular event in the international calendar

Judges who have won Nobel Prizes. Winners who will go on to win Nobel Prizes. Major scientific discoveries and recognition of value that stems from the highest institutional echelons, given that the awards ceremony takes place at the Quirinale, in the presence of the President of the Republic. In little more than 10 years, the Eni Award has become so much more than just a company prize. Its story spans five continents and dozens of researchers’ lives. It was established in 2007 and is therefore a relatively young award, but one that has already become a firm fixture in the world of applied research in the energy sector.

The 2020 winners

Now in their 12th edition, the Eni Awards 2020 will be presented on 14 October, during an official ceremony held at the Quirinale Palace in Rome, attended by the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella.

The Energy Transition award, one of the three major awards honouring the best hydrocarbon innovations for decarbonizing the energy system, was presented to David T. Allen of the University of Texas. The Energy Frontiers award for research into renewable energy sources and energy storage was awarded to Chintamani Nages Ramachandra Rao, of the International Centre for Materials Science in Bangalore. Finally, the Advanced Environmental Solutions award dedicated to research into the protection of air, water and land and the remediation of industrial sites went to Jürgen Caro and Jörg Kärger, from the Universities of Hanover and Leipzig respectively.

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 Alaa Abbas and Mohamed Ahmed Ismail Tarek from the American University of Cairo and Djalila Ben Bouchta from Cairo University.

The Young Researcher of the Year award is presented every year to two researchers under the age of 30 who have received a research doctorate in an Italian university. It was won this year by Matteo Morciano and Francesca De Falco.

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:

  • Roberto Millini, Michela Bellettato and Giuseppe Bellussi for patenting a process of CO2 mineralisation with natural mineral phases and the use of the products obtained during the making of cement. 
  • Giovanna Carpani, Ilaria Pietrini for the E-Limina (Trademark) technology, linking isotopic and microbial investigations to aid the analysis of the biodegradation of contaminated sites (natural attenuation). 
  • Filomena Castaldo, Orazio Lo Chiano, Alessandro Riva for the ultra-intensified CObio-fixation technology, which is based on the bio-fixation of CO2 by microalgae in photobioreactors lit by an artificial light adapted specifically for their optimal photosynthesis.

The current Eni Award categories

  • Energy Transition award: research into innovative use of hydrocarbons and energy efficiency as a bridge to decarbonization of the energy system.
  • Energy Frontiers award: technological innovation in the fields of renewable energy sources and energy storage, as part of decarbonization of the energy system and access to energy in developing countries.
  • Advanced Environmental Solutions award: research and development of technologies in the field of environmental remediation and protection.
  • Young Researcher of the Year award: two awards for graduates of Italian universities who have written dissertations for research doctorates on preventing water, soil or atmospheric pollution, recovery and reuse of disused industrial sites, technological innovation in the fields of renewable sources and energy storage, or innovative use of hydrocarbons as a bridge to decarbonization of the energy system.
  • Research Debut - Young Talents from Africa award: two awards for graduates from African countries who have written dissertations or done master's courses at Italian universities on preventing water, soil or atmospheric pollution, recovery and reuse of disused industrial sites, technological innovation in the fields of renewable sources and energy storage, or innovative use of hydrocarbons as a bridge to decarbonization of the energy system. This category was created in 2017 on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the award.
  • Recognition of Innovation at Eni (for men and women working at Eni): an award for good ideas, based on the potential for innovation they produce, protected by requests for patents. Plus two prizes for the best technological innovations by Eni researchers.

The Awards’ Scientific Committee that assesses applications and awards the corresponding prizes is made up of scientists belonging to the greatest research institutes in the world. It is currently chaired by Prof. Jean-Marie Lehn, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1987, and has previously counted Robert Richardson, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1996, and the late Sir Harold Kroto, winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1996, among its ranks. 

The history of the Eni Awards through its key players

This infographic traces the history of the Eni Awards through the faces of its key players, a series of video interviews with award winners and detailed descriptions of the research conducted, which can be filtered by year and theme. The evolution of an awards scheme focusing on excellence.

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. For the main prize categories, the average is more than 600 applications per year, although it was decided to tighten the eligibility parameters due to the high number of applications and to raise the standard.

Overall, 8,506 researchers have applied in the three main categories over the past decade: 2,056 of them in the hydrocarbon sector, 3,301 in renewables and 3,149 in environmental protection.

Including the young researchers' awards, there have been 10,644 applications since 2008, an average of 819 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, 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 7 in 20 being women.

In 2013, Italian researcher Roberto Danovaro was recognised for his studies on the marine environment and its role in the CO2 cycle. 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.

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.