Alberto Sangiovanni Vincentelli (Milan, Italy, 1947), Professor at the University of California, Berkeley (USA), today received the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the ICT category, for his contribution to the design and optimization of chips found in electronic devices today.
In this fifteenth edition, the jury deemed his work over fifty years “radical” in building electronic circuits, from a traditional process to the automated industry known today. “By providing software tools to facilitate the creation of complex chips, it enabled a global explosion of integrated circuit design, encompassing research, industry, and academia,” the jury minutes read.
Sangiovanni Vincentelli explains that the processing capacity of electronic circuits has evolved over the years “from one to a million”. This major shift encouraged the development and marketing of the chips on which the devices in everyday use are based, such as computers, mobile phones, microprocessors installed in cars, planes, home appliances, and children’s toys.
Qualified by the jury as a “prolific inventor” and “extraordinary mentor”, Sangiovanni Vincentelli also founded the companies Cadence and Synopsis, which today are references in the global electronics industry for developing the software used to design “every and every” of the electronic chips produced on the planet . His nomination for this award has received 28 nominations, both institutional and individual, including Barry Parish, Nobel Prize in Physics (2017), and Joseph Sivakis, Turing Prize (2007).
During the early years of the computer industry, “silicon chips were relatively simple” and could be “designed by hand,” explains Ronald Ho, senior director of silicon engineering and curator of the judging panel at Meta. However, a smartphone, for example, has microprocessors with billions of transistors inside. “How was it possible for us to get from making chips by hand, with a few thousand transistors, to today’s complex chips? The answer is that we made it possible thanks to the work of the award-winning” he qualifies.
In the 2022 edition, American engineer Judea Pearl was awarded in the same category for introducing a new way to understand how more complex artificial intelligence systems work. Perl, who is well known in his field, has created a mathematical model that allows computers to manage uncertainty and make decisions in a way similar to what we humans do: through probability and causation.
The jury in this category was chaired by Joos Vandewalle, Honorary President of the Royal Flemish Academy of Sciences and Arts in Belgium and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the Catholic University of Louvenay. The members were Regina Barzilay, Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Health in the MIT School of Engineering (USA); Georg Gottlob, Professor of Computer Science at the Universities of Oxford (UK) and Technological University of Vienna (Austria); Osama Al-Khatib is Professor of Computer Science and Director of the Robotics Lab at Stanford University (USA). Rudolf Kreuz, Professor at the Faculty of Computer Science at the Otto von Guericke University in Magdeburg (Germany); and Mario Piatini, Professor of Computer Languages and Systems at the University of Castilla-La Mancha.
The BBVA Foundation has relied on these awards since 2008 to recognize high-impact contributions and has collaboration with the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) to form technical committees and juries.
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