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 that shape our world and our understanding of existence at the very large, very small and very complex scales. From unexpected scientific breakthroughs to the creation of entirely new fields of research, the laureates selected are forward-looking and their work alters how we think about and interact with science today.  

Presented every two years in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience, each of three international prizes consists of US$ 1 million. Laureates are chosen by three committees whose members are recommended by six of the world’s most renowned science societies and academies.

Laureates are celebrated in Oslo, Norway in a ceremony presided over by His Majesty King Harald V, where they receive gold medals for their achievements.

Video: The story of The Kavli Prize:


The idea to create a prize for recognizing outstanding achievements in the three fields of astrophysics (the largest), nanoscience (the smallest) and neuroscience (the most complex) came from Fred Kavli, a physicist, entrepreneur, innovator and philanthropist born in Norway and who later became an American citizen.

Fred Kavli grew up on a small farm in a village along the Eira River in Norway, a place where he experienced “the world at its most magnificent” and it gave birth to his interest in science. His wonder and curiosity led him to establish The Kavli Foundation to advance science for the benefit of humanity and a desire to recognize forward-looking, world-shaping science. As a part of achieving this vision, he sought the partnership of his home country in creating the international Kavli Prize. The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research and the U.S.-based Kavli Foundation formed a partnership in 2005 and began preparations for the first set of Kavli Prizes inaugurated in 2008.      


The Kavli Prize was established to:


  • Recognize outstanding scientific research
  • Honor highly creative scientists
  • Promote public understanding of scientists and their work
  • 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


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.


The agreement to establish the Kavli Prize was signed in 2005 by the founder of The Kavli Foundation, Fred Kavli; Kristin Clemet, Norwegian Minister of Education and Research; and Jan Fridthjof Bernt, President of The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.