British-American physicist Stuart Parkin has won the 1 million-euro ($1.3 million) Millennium Technology Prize for discoveries leading to a thousand-fold increase in digital data storage on magnetic disks.
His discoveries enabled cloud services and the online distribution of social networks, music and film.
The Finnish foundation on Wednesday cited the 58-year-old director of the IBM-Stanford spintronic science center in California as an innovator who helped make "our contemporary online world largely possible." Spintronics relies on the magnetic spin of electrons rather than their charge to store bits.
The biennial technology award was initiated in 2004 by the Finnish government and industry for "innovations that improve the quality of people's lives."
Previous winners include Japan's Shuji Nakamura for laser research and Tim Berners-Lee for inventing the World Wide Web.