Major donation to promote young researchers

3-11-2012 — / — Swiss entrepreneur and philanthropist Dr. Branco Weiss, who died in 2010, has bequeathed an estimated 100 million Swiss francs to Society in Science — The Branco Weiss Fellowship. This donation secures the future of the fellowship, which belongs to ETH Zurich and supports young researchers throughout the world, for the next few decades.

In his will, Dr. Branco Weiss has increased a donation to Society in Science — The Branco Weiss Fellowship that he made during his lifetime. Branco Weiss founded the fellowship in 2002 to support researchers all over the world shortly after completing their PhD, and in 2010, the last year of his life, he transferred it entirely to ETH Zurich with effect January 1, 2011. The bequest, estimated to be around 100 million Swiss francs, will ensure that the fellowship can continue and expand.

Branco Weiss was associated with ETH Zurich throughout his life. He graduated in chemical engineering in 1951, and later gave courses in entrepreneurship and technology strategy in the Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering. In 1998, the ETH awarded him an honorary doctor’s degree. Branco Weiss was also a major donor to the ETH, for example sponsoring the Branco Weiss Information Science Laboratory that was inaugurated in 2008 on the ETH Science City campus.

Supporting courageous thinkers throughout the world

Society in Science — The Branco Weiss Fellowship offers a generous personal grant of up to five years for researchers shortly after their PhD. The program supports projects throughout the world: fellows can come from anywhere, and are able to conduct their research at any institution. Applicants need to provide evidence of outstanding scientific achievement, outline a compelling research project at the interface between science and society, and be prepared to look beyond their own scientific horizon.

Professor Ralph Eichler, president of ETH Zurich, says: “Branco Weiss’s donation opens up new dimensions for the promotion of young researchers. What is even more important to us than the amount is the tremendous power we gain from this fellowship. Society in Science is a unique organization that allows us to test new research fields and meet young, highly talented researchers with a limited institutional downside risk. The fellows get an opportunity to pursue their research ideas and benefit from a maximum of academic freedom.”

Identifying promising areas of research

Professor Peter Chen, Director of Society in Science, also emphasizes the strategic importance of the fellowship: “Branco Weiss has given us the chance to look into the future. The fellowship gives the ETH a strategic scouting instrument for promising research areas that no other university has. Like most innovations, Society in Sciencebegan with the vision of one man. Today, the fellowship enhances ETH Zurich’s international visibility as a place where excellence is recognized and promoted. Society in Science should not only support individuals in their endeavor to build something new in their own careers; we should bring together a critical mass of these young, innovative thinkers so that, as they grow and move into positions of responsibility, they know where, and from whom, they can find expertise outside of their own specializations.”

The goals and basic terms of the fellowships are defined in the endowment contract of 2010. As also stipulated in the contract, the fellowship is managed by a directorate of two: Prof. Peter Chen, former Vice President of Research at ETH Zurich, as operational director, and Prof. Heidi Wunderli-Allenspach, who was Rector of ETH until August 2012 and who succeeds Branco Weiss in a role comparable to that of the chair of a board of directors.

In 2012, a total of 434 junior researchers applied for a fellowship, with eight subsequently chosen as fellows. Now in its tenth year, the fellowship has already supported 36 researchers, 21 of whom are currently fellows.

Applications for the 2013 fellowship are invited starting today with a deadline of February 1, 2013. For more information visit

About ETH Zurich
ETH Zurich has come to symbolise excellent education, ground-breaking basic research and applied results that are beneficial for society as a whole. Founded in 1855, ETH Zurich has more than 17,000 students from approximately 80 countries, 3,700 of whom are doctoral candidates. Today, it offers researchers an inspiring environment and students a comprehensive education as one of the world’s leading universities for technology and the natural sciences. 21 Nobel Laureates have studied, taught or conducted research at ETH Zurich, underscoring the excellent reputation of the institute.

About Society in Science
Society in Science – The Branco Weiss Fellowship was founded in 2002 to support scientists and engineers from all over the world. The fellowship was initiated by the Swiss entrepreneur and patron Dr. Branco Weiss, who died in 2010. Since 2011 it has belonged to the ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich). Professor Peter Chen and Professor Heidi Wunderli-Allenspach direct the fellowship program. Candidates must hold a PhD, provide evidence of outstanding scientific achievement, and outline a research project with societal aspects to qualify for the prestigious grant.


Society in Science
Dr. Eberhard Zangger
science communications GmbH
Tel. +41 44 250 74 91

ETH Zürich
Media Relations
Tel: +41 44 632 41 41


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