Two leading international innovators, Linus Torvalds and Shinya Yamanaka, share this year’s $1.5 million Millennium Technology Prize.

Torvalds, a Finnish-American, was presented the prize for creating the Linux kernel, an open source operating system used in millions of computers.

The development of Linux as an alternative to proprietary solutions such as Microsoft Windows led to the launch of Linux-based companies such as Raleigh-based Red Hat (NYSE: RHT), now the world’s largest provider of Linux-based solutions and services.

“Linus Torvalds’s work has kept the web open for the pursuit of knowledge and the benefit of humanity – not simply for financial interests,” said Dr Ainomaija Haarla, president of Technology Academy Finland, according to the BBC.

Torvalds, who now lives in Oregon after moving from Finland in 1997, Oregon, acknowledged his homeland.

“This recognition is particularly important to me, given that it’s given by the Technology Academy of Finland,” he said, according to the BBC.

“I’d also like to thank all the people I’ve worked with, who have helped make the project not only such a technical success, but have made it so fun and interesting.”

Yamanaka, from Japan, was cited for his discovery of a new method to develop stem cells, which has helped scientists in medical research.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto presented the prize to the two winners in Helsinki on Wednesday.

The Finnish government and local industry initiated the biennial award in 2004. Previous winners include Japan’s Shuji Nakamura for inventions in laser technology and LED lighting, and Tim Berners-Lee for inventing the World Wide Web.