Norwegian scientist Fred Kavli
Norwegian scientist Fred Kavli - 
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Scott Jagow: The Nobel prize is probably the most coveted award in science. It was named for the Swedish industrialist, Alfred Nobel. Now, another wealthy entrepreneur from Scandinavia wants to give something back. Today, the first Kavli prize will be awarded, and it comes with a million bucks. Janet Babin reports from our Innovations Desk at North Carolina Public Radio.

Janet Babin: Fred Kavli's a Norwegian-born businessman who made a fortune in sensor technology. But the California resident always loved science, and wanted to give back.

Fred Kavli: I've long thought that I want to do something of long-range benefit to human kind.

Part of his legacy will be the Kavli Awards. They recognize creativity in nanoscience, neuroscience and astrophysics. The winners were chosen by an independent panel of researchers, and the prizes have no strings attached.

Kavli: We are letting them do whatever they wish to do with the money, so we are not telling them what to do.

Babin: I guess that's part of the joy of winning the Kavli Prize, huh.

Kavli: Absolutely, it should be.

Kavli says he wants to fund basic research at a time when governments and universities are pulling back. The prizes will be awarded every two years.

I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.