Nokia today announced the top three winners of its fifth annual Bell Labs Prize, an international competition for innovators with ideas that will significantly ‘change the game’ in the field of information and communications technologies by a factor of 10.

bell labs prize

The winners collectively earned $175,000 in cash prizes and are given the unique opportunity to collaborate with Nokia Bell Labs researchers to help realize their vision.

This year’s Bell Labs Prize winners are:

First Place: Samory Kpotufe, currently an Assistant Professor at Princeton, and joining Columbia University next month, won the First Prize and $100,000 for his pioneering work on the critically important field of ‘transfer learning’ in machine learning that answers the question of how and when can learning from one machine learning tool, be applied to another; this is a question that lies at the heart of all machine learning – is each model a ‘one off’ or can the learnings be applied to other scenarios, and if so when? Samory has answered this question with a breakthrough theory that provides a quantitative answer.

Second Place: Aydin Babakhani of UCLA won Second Prize and $50,000 for his work on novel terahertz devices that can produce and receive a broad spectrum of Terahertz radiation at low cost and tiny form factor, opening the door to the imaging of our world in profoundly new ways.

Third Place: A team comprised of Benjamin Zaidel of Bar-llan University and Shlomo Shamai of Technion Institute of Technology, won Third Prize and $25,000, for their pioneering work on a practically implementable optimal air interface solution for connecting millions of IoT devices over radio network resources that is extremely close to the theoretical performance limit and cost-optimized.

Marcus Weldon, President of Nokia Bell Labs and CTO of Nokia, said, „The Bell Labs prize is a unique opportunity for innovators to collaborate with Bell Labs researchers to invent the future and solve the critical problems confronting humanity. This year’s collection of proposals elevated the competition to new levels, reflecting the ever-increasing role that technology has in improving nearly every facet of our lives. The top three projects were extremely close in the final judging, but Samory is a well-deserved winner of the 2018 Bell Labs Prize as his research in transfer learning takes the much-vaunted field of machine learning and puts it on a much firmer foundation for the future. The team here at Bell Labs looks forward to collaborating with all top three winners to help realize the full potential of their research ideas, in the coming years.”

This year’s Bell Labs prize competition attracted more than 250 proposals from around the world. Proposals were reviewed by Nokia Bell Labs researchers and evaluated based on three criteria, including whether the idea has a „10X innovation potential” to change the world; the proposal’s technical merit; and the overall feasibility of the proposed idea.

The proposals were narrowed down to a select group of outstanding candidates who were given the opportunity to partner with Bell Labs experts to help expand the impact of their proposals. Five finalists were then invited to the final judging event held this week at the iconic headquarters of Nokia Bell Labs in Murray Hill, N.J, with the judging panel comprised on Nobel Laureates, and former Bell Labs Prize winners, as well as Bell Labs alumni.

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