The Economistís Innovation Award

The Economist is pleased to announce that Richard Swanson is the winner of The Economist's Energy and Environment Innovation Award 2009 for his contribution to the development of highly efficient solar-cell technology.

Solar power has grown by an average of 40% per year since the beginning of the decade, with global solar installations expanding from 600 MW in 2003 to nearly 3,000 MW in 2008, and Swanson has been instrumental in its development. His company SunPower researched methods of increasing the efficiency of solar cells whilst reducing the need for polycrystalline silicon, which is in short supply. As a result solar panels have a 19.3% conversion efficiency, the highest for a commercially available mass-produced solar panel. The technology is a great step towards achieving the US Department of Energy's goal of growing conversion efficiency to 20% by 2020.

Richard Swanson, along with the other 2009 Award Winners, will be recognised for turning innovative ideas into reality at The Economist's Eighth Annual Innovation Awards Ceremony and Summit, held in London on October 29th & 30th. The Awards Ceremony takes place at London's Science Museum on the night of October 29th and the Summit follows the day after at the Dorchester Hotel. This unique occasion is the only event of its kind focusing on the interface between innovation and business.

The Economist's Eighth Annual Innovation Summit provides an opportunity for delegates to meet the greatest thinkers and doers of this world in an inspirational setting, take away content relevant to their business and hear from the 2009 Innovation Award winners. The full programme includes speakers such as Dr Joseph Adelegan, President of Green Globe Trust Founder and Cows to Kilowatts Partnership, who is campaigning on issues of eco-efficiency, climate change, and eco-solutions and renewable energy in Africa. Adelegan will be joined by Dr Sergio Kapusta, Chief Scientist-Materials at Shell, who will be talking about the company's work to help safely recover more of the world's oil and gas from existing fields using some of the most innovative structures in energy exploration.

Journalists may request interviews and book a place at The Economist's Eighth Annual Innovation Summit at The Dorchester on October 30th by contacting Hayley Raffill at Waggener Edstrom on + 44(0)207 632 3858, mobile +44(0)7813 346395 or e-mail

Winner Quote: Richard Swanson, SunPower Corp
- When SunPower was founded almost a quarter century ago, solar was little more than a concept, " said Richard Swanson, president and CTO of SunPower Corporation. "Today, it is within reach of becoming mainstream throughout much of the world, and it is highly gratifying to be a part of this energy revolution. SunPower has contributed to the phenomenal growth of solar, and I have been fortunate to work with extraordinary engineers to deliver, what is today, the planet's most powerful solar technology. It is my extreme privilege to be recognised by The Economist and this innovation award."

Sponsor Quote: Dr Sergio Kapusta, Chief Scientist - Materials, Shell
"Congratulations to Richard Swanson on winning this Shell-sponsored award for innovation. At Shell we're always striving to meet growing energy demand in a way that is environmentally and socially responsible, and that requires innovation at every level. Richard shows us that innovation is just as much about making incremental improvements to existing technology as it is about coming up with the next big idea."

Judge Quote: Rinaldo Rinolfi, Executive Vice-president, Fiat Research
- "Richard Swanson deserves The Economist's Innovation Award because, starting from a deeper understanding of the solar cell physics, he developed a technological solution to improve the energy efficiency/cost ratio. Moreover, bringing his technology to the market is a fundamental contribution to the growth of solar photovoltaic renewable energy production."

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