Press Room


January 30, 2013

2013 Japan Prize Recognizes Inventors of Innovative Semiconductor Fabrication Materials and Key Founder of Census of Marine Life
Profs. Grant Willson and Jean Fréchet are honored for "Materials and Production" Field;
Prof. Frederick Grassle for "Biological Production and Biological Environment" Field

Tokyo (January 30, 2013)

- The Japan Prize Foundation today announced the winners of the 2013 Japan Prize, one of the most prestigious, international awards in science and technology. C. Grant Willson and Jean M.J. Fréchet of the United States jointly won the Japan Prize in the field of Materials and Production for their outstanding achievement in the "development of chemically amplified resist polymer materials for innovative semiconductor manufacturing process." The Japan Prize in Biological Production and Biological Environment went to John Frederick Grassle, also of the United States, for his contribution to "marine environmental conservation through research on ecology and biodiversity of deep-sea organisms."

The Foundation annually awards the Japan Prize, now in its 29th year, to scientists and researchers in two categories who, regardless of nationality, made substantial contributions to their field as well as peace and prosperity of mankind.

In his acceptance speech during a press conference held today in Tokyo, C. Grant Willson, Ph. D., Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, the University of Texas at Austin, said, "Sharing the Japan Prize with Prof. Fréchet is a huge and unexpected honor." Prof. Willson, then a manager at the IBM San Jose Research Center in California, and Prof. Fréchet, then a Visiting Scientist at IBM on his sabbatical leave from the University of Ottawa, started collaboration in1979, when the industry was approaching a limit in making semiconductors smaller with the existing lithography process and available resist materials. Together with the late Dr. Hiroshi Ito, they pushed the limit by inventing chemically amplified resists that helped the fabrication of microstructures. Their invention enabled the semiconductor industry to follow Moore's Law that states transistor density on integrated circuits doubles about every two years.

Looking back at the time when the first batch of the material they developed was used to produce many number of chips, Prof. Willson said it was "a thrill that is difficult to describe and one that I will surely never forget." Chemically amplified resists are now used to manufacture nearly all of the microprocessors and memory chips that are found at the core of a variety of electronics products that are part of our everyday lives, ranging from mobile phones and personal computers to home appliances, automobiles and medical equipment. Further, these resists continue to serve as an important foundation for next-generation semiconductor technologies such as extreme ultraviolet lithography and electron beam lithography.

Jean M. J. Fréchet, Ph.D., Vice-President for Research, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, delivered his acceptance speech with insightful advice for young scientists: "In order to solve technological problems, it is often good to gather a team of people with different backgrounds: some who will be able to draw from their experience and intimate knowledge of a technology, and others with a different background and perhaps little experience, but who may be able to suggest new or unusual ideas. I have been very fortunate to work closely with Grant Willson, a man with a most creative mind, outstanding leadership qualities and a wonderful personality."

J. Frederick Grassle, Ph. D., Professor Emeritus, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, sent in a recorded message in lieu of attending the conference. “I’m greatly honored to receive this prestigious award and am pleased to see my work on biodiversity recognized, but also to see recognition for the importance of ocean life,” he said. Upon learning of the discovery of ecosystems near deep-sea hydrothermal vents, Prof. Grassle organized a team to carry out a research expedition in 1979. Using a research submersible, Prof. Grassle and others dived to around 2,000 meters to observe and sample various unknown species around the vents and unlocked the existence of chemosynthetic ecosystems that do not depend on photosynthesis in the deep, dark sea, where sunlight never reaches. That discovery upset conventional wisdom in biology, namely that photosynthesis provides the basic energy source for virtually all organisms.

Prof. Grassle also worked on biodiversity in the deep sea and proposed the "patch mosaic hypothesis." He then verified this hypothesis by carrying out experiments on the deep seafloor. That work led to the quantitative evaluation of deep-sea biodiversity on a global scale, suggesting many more unknown species than previously thought. The research became the starting point for him to lead the establishment of the Census of Marine Life (CoML). By 2010, more than 2,700 members from 80 countries participated in the 10-year project, conducting research in marine waters around the globe. Data from this project are publicly available through the OCEAN Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) database, which is managed by UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), and findings have been reported in books and several thousand scientific papers.

The Japan Prize aims to reward those who have made a substantial contribution to the advancement of science and technology as well as peace and prosperity of mankind. Profs. Willson, Fréchet and Grassle well deserve to receive this esteemed honor. Each of them will receive a certificate of recognition and a commemorative gold medal at an award ceremony on April 24, 2013 during Japan Prize Week in Tokyo. A cash award of 50 million Japanese yen will also be given to each field.

2014-2016 Japan Prize Designated Eligible Fields

The Japan Prize Foundation also announced the fields eligible for the 2014-2016 Japan Prize, which are listed below. In 2014, the Japan Prize will celebrate its 30th year of honoring world leaders of science and technology.

  Designated Eligible Fields for Physics, Chemistry & Engineering Designated Eligible Fields for Life Science, Agriculture & Medicine
2014 Electronics, Information and Communications Life Science
2015 Resources, Energy and Social Infrastructure Medical Science and Medicinal Science
2016 Materials and Production Biological Production and Biological Environment

About Japan Prize Foundation

Since its inception in 1985, the Japan Prize Foundation has awarded the Japan Prize to 78 people from 13 countries. In addition to awarding the Japan Prize, which is endorsed by the Japanese government, the Foundation has been hosting "Easy-to-Understand Science and Technology" seminars and awarding research grants to help nurture young scientists and further promote the advancement of science and technology. For additional details about the Japan Prize Foundation and its activities, please visit

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