Preceded the day before by the gala concert in honor of laureates

The presentation ceremony of the 12th and 13th BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards will take place on September 21 in Bilbao

The presentation ceremony of the 12th and 13th Frontier of Knowledge Awards will take place on September 21 in the Euskalduna Conference Centre, Bilbao. The evening before, the same center will be the venue for the gala concert in honor of laureates. This will be the second time that the Bizkaia capital has hosted the Frontiers Awards events, following the BBVA Foundation’s decision in 2019 to make Bilbao the permanent home of the ceremony and concert of its international award scheme as of its 11th edition, and the postponement of the 2020 events due to the public health emergency surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Bilbao will thus celebrate a double ceremony honoring the achievements of the 35 laureates in the 12th and 13th editions of the Frontiers Awards.

16 July, 2021

12th edition


13th edition


At the gala concert in honor of laureates on September 20, the Basque National Orchestra, under conductor Roberto Treviño, will perform works by the Music and Opera laureates in the 12th and 13th editions of the Frontiers of Knowledge Awards: Symphony No. 3 by Arvo Pärt, and Violin Concerto No. 3 (Alhambra) by Peter Eötvös. The evening will close with Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, with the solo part taken by maestro Joaquín Achúcarro.

The following day, the Euskalduna Conference Centre will host the award ceremony itself, led by the President of the BBVA Foundation, Carlos Torres Vila, and the President of CSIC, Rosa Menéndez. Also among the speakers will be the President of the Basque Country, Íñigo Urkullu, and the Mayor of Bilbao, Juan Mari Aburto.
12th edition laureates

Winners in the 12th edition were: in Basic SciencesCharles Bennett, Gilles Brassard and Peter Shor for their fundamental role in the development of quantum computation and cryptography.

In Biology and Biomedicine, the award went to Michael Hall and David Sabatini for discovering the mechanism that regulates cell growth, opening up new therapeutic approaches against cancer, diabetes and ageing.

The award in Information and Communication Technologies was won by Isabelle Guyon, Bernhard Schölkopf and Vladimir Vapnik for advancing the field of artificial intelligence by teaching machines the human skill of classifying data.

The award in the Ecology and Conservation Biology category went to Carlos Duarte, Terence Hughes and Daniel Pauly for their fundamental contributions to our understanding of marine ecosystems and the challenges facing their conservation.

The Climate Change laureate was Kerry Emanuel, recognized for detecting and predicting the intensification of hurricanes as a consequence of climate change.

In Economics, Finance and Management, the award was granted to Philippe Aghion and Peter Howitt for developing an economic growth theory based on the innovation that emerges from the process of creative destruction.

In Humanities and Social Sciences – a category alternating annually between the two domains, with this edition devoted to the Social Sciences – the award was shared by psychologists Susan Fiske and Shelley Taylor, the pioneers of social cognition who laid bare the role of cognitive bias in social relations.

The award in the Music and Opera category went to Arvo Pärt, creator of ‘tintinnabuli’, a new musical language centered on the voice and stripped of all accessory elements that has connected with a wide public.

13th edition laureates

Winners in the 12th edition were: in Basic SciencesPaul Alivisatos and Michael Grätzel for developing new nanomaterials with applications in solar energy and cutting-edge electronics.

In Biology and Biomedicine, the award was shared by David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for identifying the sensors that enable us to feel pain, temperature and pressure.

The award in Information and Communication Technologies was bestowed on John Hennessy and David Patterson for making computer architecture into a science and designing the processors that power today’s devices.

The award in Ecology and Conservation Biology went to Sandra Díaz, Sandra Lavorel and Mark Westoby for cataloguing plant traits and their functions in ecosystems worldwide.

The Climate Change award went to Neil Adger, Ian Burton and Karen O’Brien for incorporating the social dimension to climate change science through the study of adaptation to unavoidable impacts.

The award in Economics, Finance and Management was shared by Ben Bernanke, Mark Gertler, Noburo Kiyotaki and John Moore for establishing the nature of the linkage between the financial sector and the real economy and how it operates to amplify crises.

The award in Humanities and Social Sciences – a category alternating annually between the two domains, with this edition devoted to the Humanities – went to Gerald Holton for articulating the cultural dimension of science and the liberating power of scientific rationality.

In Music and Opera, the award was won by Peter Eötvös, described by the committee as “one of the most important musical voices of our time,” whose artistic significance, originality and contribution to the advancement of music since the second half of the 20th century “can be recognized in his writing for voice, solo instrument and orchestra.”

About the Frontiers of Knowledge Awards

The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards recognize and reward contributions of singular impact in science, art and the humanities, privileging those that significantly expand the frontiers of the known world, open up new fields, or emerge from the interaction of various disciplinary areas.

The goal of the awards, established in 2008, is to celebrate and promote the value of knowledge as a public good without frontiers, the best instrument at our command to take on the great challenges and opportunities of our time. Their eight categories are congruent with the knowledge map of the 21st century, according a differential weight to areas of particular relevance and dynamism in recent decades such as the environment, information and communication technologies and biomedicine, alongside other areas like basic sciences, economics, social sciences, the humanities and the supremely creative realm of contemporary music and opera.

The BBVA Foundation is aided in candidate evaluation in the eight award categories by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), the country’s premier public research organization. CSIC appoints evaluation support panels made up of leading experts in the corresponding disciplinary domain, who are charged with undertaking an initial assessment of candidates, and drawing up a reasoned shortlist for the consideration of the award committees. CSIC is also responsible for designating each committee’s chair and participates with the BBVA Foundation in the selection of its members, thus helping to ensure the objectivity and merit of the selection process

One external indicator of the excellence of the awards is that as many as fifteen Frontiers of Knowledge laureates have gone on to win the Nobel Prize.

Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, winners of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, received with the Frontiers Award in Biology and Biomedicine in 2017. In the same edition, the Noble Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences was bestowed on Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson, Frontiers awardees in Economics, Finance and Management in 2013 and 2016 respectively.

In 2019, four Nobel prizes went to researchers previously distinguished with a Frontiers of Knowledge award: Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo in Economics (2008 Frontiers laureates in Development Cooperation) and Didier Queloz and Michel G. E. Mayor in Physics (2011 Frontiers laureates in Basic Sciences). In earlier editions, Shinya Yamanaka and James P. Allison, winners in the Biomedicine category of the awards, received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2012 and 2018 respectively; and Robert J. Lefkowitz, another Biomedicine laureate, won the Chemistry Nobel in 2012. In Economics, Finance and Management, three Frontiers laureates besides Milgrom and Wilson were subsequently awarded the Economics Nobel: Lars Peter Hansen (2013), Jean Tirole (2014) and Angus Deaton (2015). And finally, William Nordhaus received the 2018 Nobel in Economics after winning the Frontiers Award in Climate Change earlier that year.