Discovery or invention': the case for recalibrating the Nobel Prize for Physics

Author:Örjan Strandberg
Position:Spokesman of the Swedish National Innovators Council and Chair of the Stockholm Innovators Association, Stockholm, Sweden
42 June 2019
“Discovery or
invention”: the case
for recalibrating the
Nobel Prize for Physics
By Örjan Strandberg , Spokesman of the Swedish Nat ional
Innovators Cou ncil and Chair of the Sto ckholm Innovators
Association , Stockholm, Sweden
Most countries in the world agre e that inventions and innovations are prere quisites for
every nation’s industrial and societal growth and welfare. Intellectua l property laws are
the most important in centive for encouraging innovation and creativity. These laws rec-
ognize and reward inventors and ensure so ciety benets from inventions.
The other importan t motivator for invention and innovation is society’s general encour age-
ment and acknowledgement of the inventor, both politically and socially, via the media,
through awards and stipends, for exam ple.
Arguably, the most important inter national award for inventors should have been the
Nobel Prize for Physics. However, that prize, for reasons we will explain, has, over time,
come to be perceived as the world’s most prestigious science prize and is no longer
specically associated with invention.
That all nations need a rich a nd continuous ow of skilled researchers and scientis ts is
a given. But this should not detract from the equally important need for ingenious in-
ventors and their inventions. Histor y shows us that inventors are the main originators of
technological, industrial and societal growth. In Sweden, for example, a report entitled,
Where did Sweden’s Top 100 Innovations originate? by the Swedish innovation researcher
Dr. Christian Sandström, shows that at least 80 percent of inventions originate from
outside academia.
Over the last three decades, p ersuasive theories have circulated among politi cal leaders,
suggesting that the scienti c community can replace the inventor community. This has
resulted in a measurable de cline in government funding for inventions in the industrial

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