Berners-Lee wins €1m prize

Sir Tim has been awarded a cash prize for his work on the development of the Web - and has hit out at the ease with which software patents are awarded

Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee has received some cash to go with the glory of this year's award of a knighthood.

He is the first recipient of the €1m Millennium Technology Prize awarded by the Finnish Technology Award Foundation, which is the world's largest science prize. The cash and the prize trophy were presented by the president of Finland, Ms Tarja Halonen.

Professor Pekka Tarjanne, chairman of the awards committee, said in a statement that the unanimous decision had been made more quickly than expected. "The prize is a biannual award for an outstanding innovation that directly promotes people's quality of life, is based on humane values and encourages sustainable economic development globally.

"This is just like a definition of the Web."

In his acceptance speech, Berners-Lee laid out his vision of the 'semantic Web'. He said: "The XML code, the basis of today's www, is about document structure, while the semantic Web is about real things."

He added: "It's a pain doing things with a computer manually, when you know a piece of software could do it for you automatically."

Berners-Lee also slammed the ease with which patents for software are granted, particularly in the US. He said: "The problem is companies that make a business of applying for software patents. The bar of novelty for patents is ridiculously low."

He went on to say that if he had patented his idea for the Web, it would have stopped the system from developing as quickly as it had.

The Finnish foundation was set up this year with funds from the Finnish government, Finnish technology federations and private companies including Nokia. The Technology Industries of Finland Centenary Foundation and the Confederation of Finnish Industry and Employers contributed €10m and private companies will pay for the Foundation's administrative and communications budget.