Last updated November 4th 2018

An Israeli researcher at Bar-Ilan University and a Finnish executive were named as the winners of this year’s
Eric and Sheila Samson Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation in Alternative Fuels, which comes with a $1 million award, the world’s largest in the field.

The annual prize, named after a South African-Israeli philanthropist couple, is being awarded for the sixth year running. This year marks the first time an Israeli scientist won the prize, with previous awards being handed to international recipients.

Israeli Professor Doron Aurbach of Bar-Ilan University’s Department of Chemistry and Finnish executive Dr. Lers Peter Lindfors, senior vice president of technology at oil refining and marketing company NESTE, and his team will be presented with this year’s prize by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Minister of Science and Technology Ofir Akunis on Monday at Israel’s Annual Smart Mobility Summit.

Aurbach was selected for his pioneering contribution to the development of new batteries including an innovative magnesium-based battery. His research shows great potential for developing innovative batteries to propel electric cars, the Ministry of Science and Technology said in a statement.

Lindfors and his team at NESTE developed innovative methods for making bio-diesel fuel from organic waste materials, such as animal oils and used cooking oils. Based on their innovative process, NESTE has produced millions of tons of bio-diesel to propel trucks and ships, which could reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent.

The Eric and Sheila Samson Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation in Alternative Fuels was founded as part of Israel’s national program, launched in 2011, to reduce global dependence on oil, with an aim of encouraging global innovation and scientific and technical breakthroughs in the field of alternative transportation fuels. The Prime Minister’s Office then launched the Fuel Choices and Smart Mobility Administration to lead the initiative.

“The basic scientific discoveries and technological developments of the award recipients are advancing humanity closer to the moment when we can break away from the need to use fossil fuels that diminish and pollute transportation and other needs,” said Prof. Yitzhak Apeloig, chairman of the Prize’s Board of Governors and former president of the Technion, in a statement this week.

Dr. Anat Bonshtein, the director of the Fuel Choices and Smart Mobility Administration, said: “Israel has set an ambitious goal – to reduce the use of fossil fuel for transportation by 60 percent by 2025. In order to achieve this goal, innovation, smart and strong policy are needed. Israel is preparing for global leadership in this field in order to reduce dependence on oil and dependence on the oil-producing countries, thereby strengthening the world economy.”