About The Prize

The Kavli Prize is a partnership between The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research and The Kavli Foundation.


The Kavli Prize recognizes scientists for pioneering advances in astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience. From unexpected scientific breakthroughs to the creation of entirely new fields of research, Kavli Prize Laureates are forward-looking and their work alters how we think about and interact with science today.  

Presented every two years, each of three international prizes consists of $1 million USD. Kavli Prize Laureates are selected by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters and are celebrated in Oslo, Norway, in a ceremony presided over by the Royal Family, where they receive gold medals for their achievements.


The idea for the Kavli Prize came from Fred Kavli, a Norwegian-American who cared deeply about science and who had a vision for celebrating scientific achievements in basic research.

“I have never met a bigger optimist. His belief in the importance of science for advances for humanity makes him a model for all of us. He looked forward.” -  Trond Fevolden, secretary-general, Norwegian Ministry of Education, 1992-2016

Fred Kavli grew up on a small farm in a village along the Eira River in southwestern Norway, a place where he experienced “the world at its most magnificent.”

“At times the whole sky was aflame with the northern lights shifting and dancing across the sky down to the white-clad mountaintops. In the stillness and loneliness of the white mountains, I pondered the universe, the planet, nature and the wonders of man.”  

Fred’s wonder and curiosity, his fascination with science, and a deep desire to do something for the long-term benefit of humankind, led him to establish The Kavli Foundation in 2000. From the earliest days he had a vision for a prize to honor the best of science on a global level. He wanted to create visibility for science. 

In 2005, the Kavli Prize was established in partnership with The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters and The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research. Fred Kavli selected the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience because he believed them to be exceptionally interesting and exciting, and that they would have great benefits to science and society. “The fields have longevity and I don’t believe that we will ever run out of questions in these fields.” The first set of Kavli Prizes were awarded in 2008. 

The Kavli Prize was established to recognize outstanding scientific research, honor highly creative scientists, promote public understanding of scientists and their work, and foster international cooperation among scientists.

The Kavli Prizes have so far honored 47 scientists from eleven countries − the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Netherlands, Lithuania, Japan, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland.

The most recent 2018 laureates include Ewine van Dishoeck (Netherlands) who received the Kavli Prize in Astrophysics “for her combined contributions to observational, theoretical, and laboratory astrochemistry, elucidating the life cycle of interstellar clouds and the formation of stars and planets”. Emmanuelle Charpentier (France), Jennifer A. Doudna (US) and Virginijus Šikšnys (Lithuania) shared the Kavli Prize in Nanoscience “for the invention of CRISPR-Cas9, a precise nanotool for editing DNA, causing a revolution in biology, agriculture, and medicine”; and Albert James Hudspeth (U.S.), Robert Fettiplace (U.S.) and Christine Petit (France) shared the Kavli Prize in Neuroscience “for their pioneering work on the molecular and neural mechanisms of hearing.”

Past awards have honored scientists for research ranging from the discovery of the Kuiper Belt to creating unprecedented methods for controlling matter on the nanoscale, to deepening our understanding of the basic neuronal mechanisms underlying perception and decision-making.

The 2018 Kavli Prize laureates at the audience with H.M. King Harald (from left to right): Virginijus Šikšnys, Jennifer A. Doudna, Albert James Hudspeth, H.M. King Harald, Ewine van Dishoeck, Robert Fettiplace, Emmanuelle Charpentier and Christine Petit. Photo: Thomas Eckhoff

Scientific Fields

The Kavli Prizes recognize seminal scientific achievements in astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience.


The Kavli Prize in Astrophysics is awarded for outstanding achievement in advancing our knowledge and understanding of the origin, evolution and properties of the universe, including the fields of cosmology, astrophysics, astronomy, planetary science, solar physics, space science, astrobiology, astronomical and astrophysical instrumentation, and particle astrophysics.


The Kavli Prize in Nanoscience is awarded for outstanding achievement in the science and application of the unique physical, chemical and biological properties of atomic, molecular, macromolecular, and cellular structures and systems that are manifest in the nanometer scale, including molecular self-assembly, nanomaterials, nanoscale instrumentation, nanobiotechnology, macromolecular synthesis, molecular mechanics and related topics.


The Kavli Prize in Neuroscience is awarded for outstanding achievement in advancing our knowledge and understanding of the brain and nervous system, including molecular neuroscience, cellular neuroscience, systems neuroscience, neurogenetics, developmental neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, computational neuroscience, and related facets of the brain and nervous system.


Selection of the Kavli Laureates

The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters appoints the three prize committees after receiving recommendations from the following international academies and equivalent scientific organizations:

  • The Chinese Academy of Science
  • The French Academy of Sciences
  • The Max Planck Society (Germany)
  • The National Academy of Sciences (US)
  • The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters
  • The Royal Society (UK)

The prize committees review the nominated candidates and submit their recommendations to the board of The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. The President of the Academy announces the prize winners in late May or early June every other even-numbered year.