Lighting Industry

LED pioneers share Queen’s £1m engineering prize

A composite picture of three men in suits
Isamu Akasaki, Nick Holonyak Jr and Shuji Nakamura, the latter pictured speaking at LuxLive, are among the inventors of LED lighting that are sharing the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering and its £1 million prize money

THE INVENTORS of LED lighting have been awarded the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering and its £1 million prize money.

Isamu Akasaki, Shuji Nakamura, Nick Holonyak Jr, M. George Craford and Russell Dupuis won what organisers call ‘the world’s most prestigious engineering accolade’ for ‘the creation and development of LED lighting, which forms the basis of all solid state lighting technology’. 

The men are recognised not only for the global impact of LED and solid state lighting but also for the ‘tremendous contribution’ the technology has made, and will continue to make, to reducing energy consumption and addressing climate change.

 First awarded in 2013 in the name of Her Majesty The Queen, the QEPrize exists to celebrate ground-breaking innovation in engineering. 

The 2021 winners are announced by Lord Browne of Madingley, Chairman of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Foundation. HRH The Princess Royal shared a message of congratulation for the winners.

 In the citation, the organisers said: ‘Solid state lighting technology has changed how we illuminate our world. 

‘It can be found everywhere from digital displays and computer screens to handheld laser pointers, automobile headlights and traffic lights. 

‘Today’s high-performance LEDs are used in efficient solid state lighting products across the world and are contributing to the sustainable development of world economies by reducing energy consumption. 

‘Visible LEDs are now a global industry predicted to be worth over $108 billion (£79 billion, €90 billion) by 2025 through low cost, high efficiency lighting. 

‘LED lighting is 75 per cent more energy efficient than traditional incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs, and is playing a crucial role in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. 

‘LED bulbs last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs and their large-scale use reduces the energy demand required to cool buildings. 

‘Engineering is imperative to solving human problems,’ said blue LED developer Professor Shuji Nakamura. ‘All over the world, everyone knows the QEPrize. Most importantly, this is a team prize. 

‘I was able to do what I did in the 1980s, because of what had come before. ‘When I was modifying reactors every morning and every afternoon continuously for a year and a half, I never thought it would be so successful.’

‘This is a really special moment for me, said Dr George Craford .

‘The QEPrize is so prestigious and it is spectacular to receive recognition from The Royal Family. It is a career highlight that is impossible to beat. Engineering is incredible, and I am proud to part of something that has made such a big impact on the world.’

 ‘It is really something to share in this award win among my friends and colleagues – all five of us each played an important role, and this recognition means an awful lot,’ said Professor Russell Dupuis.

‘In those early days, when it was long days and nights hand-building reactors, Nick Holonyak mentored us. He really drew us in and inspired us to be part of the adventure that is engineering.’ 

The winners will be formally honoured at a ceremony later this year; they will receive the £1 million prize and an iconic trophy, designed by the 2021 Create the Trophy winner Hannah Goldsmith, a 20-year-old design student from the United Kingdom.