Skip to main content

ASPIRE Prize 2021

Last page update:

The APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education (“ASPIRE”) is an annual award which recognizes young scientists who have demonstrated a commitment to both excellence in scientific research, as evidenced by scholarly publication and cooperation with scientists from other APEC member economies.    

The ASPIRE Prize supports APEC’s mission to:

  • strengthen international science and technology networks;
  • enhance economic growth, trade and investment opportunities in harmony with sustainable development, through policies, innovative R&D and technologies, and knowledge sharing; and
  • improve linkages and efficiency between research and innovation.   

ASPIRE 2021: Diverse Knowledge for a Sustainable Future

Each year the APEC host economy is asked to provide a theme to guide nominations for the ASPIRE Prize to be awarded in their host year.  For its host year of 2021, New Zealand selects “Diverse Knowledge for a Sustainable Future” as the ASPIRE nominating theme. APEC economies operate in a rapidly changing era of uncertainties and economic shocks laid bare by socio-environmental vulnerability and COVID-19.  These global issues have heightened awareness of the need to capture a diversity of knowledge, offering opportunities to reorient policy solutions towards new conceptions of collective good. 

This theme focuses on researcher insights from indigenous and ethnic minority cultures and communities to help inform new frontiers in science, technology, and innovation. This may research that explores interactions between traditional and contemporary approaches to knowledge and science, as well as applications such as better management of natural resources, healthcare, and agricultural systems.  Nominees should demonstrate a commitment to excellence in scientific research and cooperation with scientists from other APEC member economies in subjects such as: biology, chemistry, environmental science, physics, mathematics and other relevant fields.


Any citizen of an APEC member economy is eligible to be nominated for the ASPIRE Prize.  He/she must be living at the time of his/her nomination and be under the age of 40 as of 31 December of that year (i.e., all 2021 nominees must be under the age of 40 as of 31 December 2021). 


Each member economy, through its representative on the APEC Policy Partnership for Science, Technology and Innovation (PPSTI),  is invited to nominate one young scientist under the age of 40 to be considered for the ASPIRE Prize.

Individually qualified applicants are encouraged to complete the “Local Nomination Form” and send it to PPSTI Program Director Ms. Nurulaina Nadzeri (Aina) ([email protected]) by 23 April 2021 so it may be directed toward local economy reviewers.

Once nominations are received, PPSTI members rank the nominees through a selection ballot to determine the winner. PPSTI members are asked to judge the nominees based on how well they have demonstrated:

  • Excellence in scientific research, as evidenced through scholarly publication;
  • Commitment to cooperation with scientists from other APEC member economies; and
  • Contribution to the theme of “Diverse Knowledge for a Sustainable Future.”

The winner will be recognized at a virtual award ceremony during the APEC PPSTI Meeting hosted by New Zealand tentatively scheduled for August 2021.


Wiley and Elsevier, two of the world’s leading publishers of scholarly scientific knowledge, have committed to funding prize money in the amount of $25,000 USD. 



2020: Biodiversity for a Prosperous Economy

Dr. Huai Chen was awarded the 2020 ASPIRE Prize at an online ceremony by Dr. Siti Hamisah Tapsir, Secretary General, Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) Malaysia

Dr. Chen is a professor at Chengdu Institute of Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. His research is focused on wetland biodiversity and nature’s contribution to people. Dr. Chen’s findings lead to a better understanding of these wetlands including protecting, developing new generation models for methane emissions and enhancing assessment of carbon storage and ecological value. Read news release here.


2019: Smart Technolgies for Healthy Societies

Dr. Yun Hau NG was awarded the 2019 ASPIRE Prize in Puerto Varas, Chile by Dr. Nicole Ehrenfeld, Director, Scientific Initiative Millennium, Ministry of Economy, Chile. Dr. Ng is an associate professor at the School of Energy and Environment, City University of Hong Kong, China. His research is focused on the development of highly efficient photocatalytic systems to mimic natural photosynthesis to produce clean hydrogen from water. In short, he uses sunlight to split water into clean hydrogen. Read news release here.



2018: Smart Technologies for Healthy Societies

Dr. Madhu Bhaskaran of Australia was awarded the 2018 ASPIRE Prize in Port Moresby by Hon. Pila Niningi, Minister for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology of Papau New Guinea. Dr. Bhaskaran is a professor at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia where her work transforms the way we imagine, use and interact with electronic devices and sensors. She has developed ways to combine functional oxide materials processed at high temperatures with elastic and plastic materials. Her work has led to the development of wearable elastic electronics and sensors, including gas and UV sensors and flat optical devices—all of which are stretchable, optically transparent and as thin as a nicotine patch.
Read news release here.



2017: New Material Technologies—Dr Yanwu Zhu (China)

Dr. Yanwu Zhu of China was awarded the 2017 ASPIRE Prize in Ha Noi by Deputy Minister of Science and Technology of Viet Nam, Tran Quoc Khanh. Dr. Zhu is a Professor at the University of Science and Technology of China where he researches the fields of nanomaterials and specifically new carbon materials. His publications have been widely cited and his research with other APEC scientists has been applied in large-scale production of graphene materials. Read news release here.
Read news release here.



2016: Technologies for Food Security—Dr Hua Kuang (China)

Dr. Hua Kuang of China was awarded the 2016 ASPIRE Prize in Lima by Dr. Gisella Orjeda, President of the Peruvian National Council for Science, Technology and Technological Innovative (CONCYTEC). Dr. Kuang is a Professor at Jiangnan University’s School of Food Science and Technology in Wuxi, China, where she works with researchers in other APEC economies to develop low-cost biosensors that detect food sanitation hazards. Her patented technologies have been used to improve food safety for millions in China and elsewhere.
Read news release here.



2015: Disaster Risk Reduction: Understanding the Role of Climate Change and Variability—Dr Jong-Seong Kug (Republic of Korea)

Dr. Jong-Seong Kug was awarded the 2015 ASPIRE Prize in Manila by Secretary Mario Montejo of the Philippine Department of Science and Technology. Dr. Kug is an Associate Professor at Pohang University of Science and Technology’s School of Environmental Science and Engineering in Korea, and his El Niño prediction model has helped the Korea Meteorological Administration better understand tropical climate dynamics, and forecast and track extreme weather—an area that addressed Philippines’ theme of “Disaster Risk Reduction: Understanding the Role of Climate Change and Variability.”
Read news release here.

Aspire2014 Winner 

2014: Intelligent Transportation--Dr Agachai Sumalee (Hong Kong, China)

Dr. Agachai Sumalee, a Thai professor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, was awarded the 2014 ASPIRE Prize by Cai Jianlin, China’s Vice Minister of Science and Technology. China selected the theme of “Intelligent Transportaion”to reflect China’s interest in facilitating green and sustainable growth, environmental protection and low-carbon economies. Dr. Sumalee designed a model in collaboration with researchers from across the APEC region that allows highway managers to predict traffic conditions and prevent congestion. This led to ground breaking road traffic management system that slashed commuting times in the greater Bangkok area.
Read news release here
Read featured article here.


2013: Sustainable Ocean Development—Dr Carissa Klein (Australia)

Dr. Carissa Klein of Australia was awarded the APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education (ASPIRE) by Gusti M. Hatta, Indonesia’s Minister of Research and Technology. Dr. Klein’s selection is a result of her research with the University of Queensland that uniquely addresses the issue of sustainable ocean development by striking a balance between biodiversity conservation and socioeconomic viability.
Read news release here


2012: Health Innovation—Dr Rossa Wai Kwun Chiu (Hong Kong, China)

Russia selected health innovation as its 2012 ASPIRE nominating theme, building on its desire that APEC actively foster cooperation among economies in major innovation areas, such as human health, to support healthy lifestyles, productivity and economic growth. Dr. Chiu’s groundbreaking research and innovations in chemical pathology has brought non-invasive prenatal diagnosis of fetal genetic diseases into routine clinical use around the world.
Read news release here


2011: Green Growth—Dr Ali Javey (United States)

The United States selected green growth as its ASPIRE nominating theme, building on its desire that APEC actively promote environmentally sustainable economic growth and development, and help economies successfully transition to a clean energy future. Dr. Javey’s innovative work with nanomaterials has made great strides in developing a new generation of solar energy technology and reducing energy consumption in "green electronics."
Read news release here