Bell Labs Prize

Our annual competition to advance innovation

Each year, the Bell Labs Prize recognizes game-changing innovations in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Geared toward innovative proposals that look to solve broader societal and humanistic challenges, the competition continues Nokia Bell Labs’ rich tradition of finding solutions to some of the greatest challenges facing the information and telecommunications industry.

Imagine the future and we will help you invent it with cash prizes that can help propel your idea forward. In addition, all three winners are considered for opportunities to work alongside Nokia Bell Labs researchers to further explore their ideas.

Infographic depicting Bell Labs Prize denominations for winners: first prize is $100,000, second prize is $50,000, third prize is $25,000.

Prize process

The competition is open to anyone in the participating countries who meets the eligibility requirements. From the hundreds of applications we receive, five and seven finalists are selected to compete for three prizes in mid-November in front of a panel of renowned experts and industry leaders. The prizes awarded: $100,000 (grand prize), $50,000 (second place) and $25,000 (third place), will be paid directly to the prize winners. During the final stage, we will assign a Nokia Bell Labs Research Partner (BLRP) to help you strengthen your proposal to maximize your chances of winning the prize. Your proposal will be judged based on a credible proof-of-concept or set of results that validate the full potential of the innovation. 

Key dates

  • March 10, 2021 - Call for proposals
  • May 14, 2021 - Proposal deadline
  • June 21, 2021 - Selection announced - 12 proposals selected from around the world
  • June 30, 2021 - Virtual Innovathon
  • November 9, 2021 - Judging & winners announced


This prize is open to all eligible applicants who register and submit proposals in the general areas of information and communications technologies. Teams of up to four members are allowed to participate, provided each member of the team meets the eligibility requirements.

Participants must:

  • Own their ideas
  • Be 21 years of age or older
  • Possess a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree
  • Not be employed by Nokia or be a family member of Nokia employee
  • Reside in one of the following countries:
United States, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada (except Quebec), China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, United Kingdom

2020 competition

2020 Bell Labs Prize winner Firooz Aflatouni

Firooz Aflatouni, Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering at University of Pennsylvania, won the 2020 Bell Labs Prize for his proposal for a new type of image-recognition platform that processes raw optical data. Assisted by University of Pennsylvania postdoctoral researcher Farshid Ashtiani, Aflatouni demonstrated an integrated photonic-mmWave deep neural network for image, video and 3D object classification, leading the judging panel to award him first prize and a $100,000 award. This innovation opens up a new realm of possibilities for compact, low-cost and highly energy-efficient image-processing systems and might eventually lead to the technology being embedded in everyday smartphones and cameras.

Behind the scenes with the 2018 winners and 2019 call for proposals

Bell Labs Prize stories

Winners' Gallery

2020 Bell Labs Prize winner Firooz Aflatouni

2020: Firooz Aflatouni for his proposal for a new type of image-recognition platform that processes raw optical data.


2019: Tianshi Wang and Professor Jaijeet Roychowdhury for their work on “A Classical Spin on Quantum Computing”


2018: Samory Kpotufe for "Teach a Machine to Draw, Ask it to Paint"


2017: Kaushik Sengupta for a radical transceiver chip technology to power a truly universal software-defined reconfigurable radio


2016: Sungwon Chung, Hossein Hashemi, and Hooman Abediasl for “Large-Scale Plasmonic Optical Phased Array”


2015: Brandon Lucia for his work on OIC: The Operating System for Intermittent Computing


2014: Emmanuel Abbe for “A Shannon Theory of Social Networks and Beyond”