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UK's 'Nobel prize for engineering' given to 'inventors of the interwebs'

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Update The would-be British based "Nobel Prize of engineering" - aka the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, whose recipients can be of any nationality - has been awarded for the first time. The winners are described as the "five engineers who created the internet and the World Wide Web".

According to the official announcement:

The winners are Robert Kahn, Vinton Cerf and Louis Pouzin for their contributions to the protocols that make up the fundamental architecture of the Internet, Tim Berners-Lee who created the World Wide Web and Marc Andreessen who wrote the Mosaic browser.

The award was announced today at the Royal Academy of Engineering by Lord Browne, the Academy's head, perhaps better known as the former chief of BP. Lord Browne holds a bachelor's degree in physics and a master's in business, plus many honorary degrees and awards including the RAE's Prince Philip Medal "for his outstanding contribution to the field of Engineering". However he is not known for any brilliant engineering innovations in particular.

The names of the donors who provide the £1m prize money are not disclosed: the RAE describes them as "a number of major engineering companies". It's reasonable to suspect that these include big weapons makers such as BAE Systems, which could offer a reason for the reticence - some would no doubt view contributions from such firms as blood money.

The five winners are to be formally presented with their award by the Queen in June. ®

Updated to Add

Since the publication of this article RAE representatives have been in touch to point out "important factual errors" in the text above.

Firstly, Lord Browne is no longer President of the RAE, though he is still in charge of the Queen Elizabeth prize.

Secondly, the donors who pay for the prize are in fact openly disclosed (they were not last time we reported on the Prize, when we phoned up and asked, but they are now. Our mistake). They are: BAE Systems, BG Group, BP, GlaxoSmithKline, Jaguar Land Rover, National Grid, Shell, Siemens, Sony, Tata Consultancy Services and Tata Steel.

The RAE people add:

"Whilst of course you are entitled to your opinion ... The Academy strongly objects to the use of your phrase ‘blood money’".

Further comment

Just to clarify: we here on the Reg engineering/defence desk do not ourselves regard BAE funding as blood money, though it is - as we said - a fairly common viewpoint. Our objection to BAE is not that it makes weapons, but that it makes shoddy, overpriced, long-delayed weapons and uses political arm-twisting to compel the British armed forces to purchase them.

Really BAE funding would only be blood money if its weapons actually worked properly, were delivered on time and could be afforded by comparatively cash-strapped, activist evil governments. Peace campaigners should probably be encouraging other rather more efficient weapons makers - for instance those of Russia - to be more like BAE.

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