Bern, 31.10.2017 - Since 1920 the Marcel Benoist Foundation has awarded the Swiss Science Prize annually for excellence in research. With the foundation’s centenary approaching, the Board chaired by Federal Councillor Johann N. Schneider-Ammann has reorganised the foundation and equipped it for the future. The foundation is to be recapitalised via private donations, the selection procedure will now be in the hands of the Swiss National Science Foundation, and the foundation’s structures are to be modified. The Confederation will still contribute to the funding of the award, but in the form of a public-private partnership. The reorganisation was announced at the University of Bern’s Climate and Environmental Physics Department, which is headed by Professor Thomas Stocker, the 2017 Marcel Benoist prizewinner.
As Federal Councillor Johann N. Schneider-Ammann emphasised at the media conference: "Our country relies on top performance in research and innovation. With the Marcel Benoist Swiss Science Prize we want to draw attention to excellence and highlight its importance for our society and our economy."
From 2018, the prizewinner will be selected by the Swiss National Science Foundation. This will ensure a broad-based selection procedure according to excellence criteria, and take into account the various scientific disciplines on a rotating basis. There will be an open nomination procedure in which the research community in Switzerland is invited to make proposals.
Much has been invested in publicity and raising the profile of the award ceremony. For this reason, the ceremony will now take place in Bern, starting with the 2017 event on 1 November. By the centenary year in 2020 it is hoped to realise the vision of a Swiss Science Day, a platform to raise the profile of excellence in research in Switzerland.
The Marcel Benoist Prize will in future be worth CHF 250,000. The Foundation has already managed to increase its funds considerably and to raise a little more than CHF 10 million privately. The donors sit on the newly formed patrons committee. The Foundation’s fundraising activities will continue over the coming months, so that sufficient monies are available going forward.
As funds are increased, they are also being more professionally managed. A newly formed investment committee, a new investment strategy and new investment guidelines bear witness to this fact.
The Confederation will continue to support the Swiss Science Prize financially via the existing service agreement with the Swiss National Science Foundation, thereby highlighting the award’s importance.
In the second half of the media conference Professor Thomas Stocker from the University of Bern, holder of the 2017 Marcel Benoist Swiss Science Prize, talked about his team’s research work. Using modelling and ice core drilling, Professor Stocker has been able to determine changes in the climate and the impact these have had. In keeping with the purpose of the Foundation, his research findings are of great importance to human life, and address one of the main challenges facing today’s society.