|© AP The prize was awarded on Tuesday in Helsinki|
US engineer Frances Arnold has won the Millennium Technology Prize for pioneering "directed evolution".
By driving a sped-up version of natural selection in the lab, the method has created new enzymes for industrial catalysts, household detergents, and even to make rocket fuel from sugar.
The €1m (£0.8m) prize is awarded biennially and Prof Arnold is the first female winner in its 12-year history.
It recognises developments that "change people's lives for the better".
The Technology Academy Finland, which presents the prize, said the deliberations began in November 2015 but that "there was only one outstanding candidate".
Prof Arnold, from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), spoke to the BBC before travelling to Helsinki for Tuesday's ceremony.
She said the "basic concept" of using evolution to create better enzymes emerged from her laboratory more than 20 years ago.
BBC News: Evolutionary engineer wins tech prize, Jonathan Webb