Knut och Alice Wallenbergs Stiftelse

Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation 100 years in support of excellent swedish research and education

Basic research about diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s, new sources of energy, secrets of the universe, new and environmental friendly materials, the importance and influence of genes, robotics and automation, climate changes, the origin and evolution of man, are all examples of scientific research and education beneficial to Sweden, and supported by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.

The Foundation’s aim is to benefit Sweden by supporting Swedish basic research and education, mainly in medicine, technology and the natural sciences. This is achieved through long-term grants to excellent researchers and to projects.

The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has during its 100 years awarded SEK 24 billion in grants in support of excellent Swedish research and education. In recent years, grants of SEK 1.7 billion annually have been awarded, making the Foundation one of the largest private funder of scientific research in Europe.

THE FOUNDATION WAS ESTABLISHED IN 1917

Over the years, Knut and Alice Wallenberg had built up a sizable fortune. Even before they established the Foundation, they had financed various construction and public development projects in Sweden. Handling private donations grew more time-consuming, so the idea of setting up a foundation to handle the grants started to take shape.

The original endowment of the Foundation consisted of SEK 20 million worth of shares in SEB and Investor. The value is equivalent to SEK 593 million in today’s value. Even though the Foundation during its 100 years has awarded SEK 24 billion, the assets has grown to SEK 90 billion, thanks to active, long-term investments.

Knut and Alice Wallenberg were keen on supporting projects beneficial to Sweden, that will contribute to Swedish progress in research and education. A principle the Board of Directors has continued to honor.

If wealthy people only realized what a pleasure itis to be able to help our country and its people bysupporting useful enterprises, then they would not hesitate to arrange for legacies to be bequeathed in their wills, which would benefit and please others. Maybe it is egotistical to give while one is still alive but oh, what fun it is.”

K.A. Wallenberg, in a letter to Sweden’s Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf in 1937

EXCELLENT RESEARCH BENEFICIAL TO SWEDEN

The Foundation has provided funds for outstanding scientists throughout its history, in the form of research and scholarship programs, project grants, and programs that support individual researchers. For many years, the Foundation has funded infrastructure in cases where universities have singly or jointly demonstrated that a certain technology is crucial to the progress of a scientific field. A great deal of equipment has been financed through depreciation costs rather than direct investments, so those costs comprise a portion of a project or individual grant.

In recent years, however, providing individual grants—through the Wallenberg Scholars, Wallenberg Clinical Scholars, and Wallenberg Academy Fellows programs—has become one of the Foundation’s top priorities. The Foundation also supports investigator-initiated projects of the highest international standard.

THE JUBILEE DONATION 2017

The Foundation will during its anniversary allocate SEK 150 million to some of Sweden’s science centers. The initiative involves Visualization Center C in Norrköping, Umevatoriet in Umeå, Science Center Malmö Museer, Swedish National Museum of Science and Technology in Stockholm and Universeum in Gothenburg. SEK 100 million will be allocated for visualization technology at the five centers, and SEK 50 million for pedagogical development and production of theater dome presentations at Visualization Center C, Linköping University.

The aim is to inspire children and youngsters to discover how exciting science can be, by using the latest technology. The country's Science Centers serve an important purpose by presenting scientific research in a playful way that awakens curiosity. The dome environment offers a fantastic opportunity to explain complex interrelationships and phenomena in a way that is also accessible to the youngsters of today

ONLY THE BEST

The Foundation has developed a strict procedure to make sure grants are awarded to the best researchers and research projects. To support its evaluation process, the Foundation set up a Scientific Committee, consisting of eminent members of the research community. This group performs an initial scientific assessment of the applications received before they are sent out for international peer review.

An advisory committee, the Scientific Advisory Board, consisting of a number of Nobel laureates produces an annual evaluation of the Foundation’s work, the quality of its internal processes, and the Foundation’s strategic orientation. They also evaluate the researchers used by the Foundation for peer reviews.

COLLABORATION WITH THE SCIENTIFIC ACADEMIES

Following a resolution by the Foundation’s Board of Directors, a Principals’ Council was formed in 1972, consisting of representatives from universities, institutions of higher education, and scientific academies. The Principals’ Council was given the opportunity to observe the Foundation’s activities and submit requests and proposals to improve coordination between the Foundation’s activities and Swedish science research and education.

Over the years, this collaboration has expanded, and the Principals’ Council has become an important dialogue partner for the Foundation’s management and Board of Directors in strategic matters, including research issues and the grant-awarding process.

The Principals’ Council consists of nine vice-chancellors from the Swedish research universities and five representatives from the Royal academies. The main duty of the Principals’ Council is to appoint a member to serve on the Foundation’s Board of Directors and the Foundation’s auditors.

THE GRANT PROCESS

Over the years, a strict procedure has been developed to make sure grants are awarded to the best researchers and research projects. 

Universities submit nominations for researchers and projects to the Foundation. The Foundation has a Scientific Committee, that performs an initial scientific assessment of the applications. The Foundatio sends applications recommended by the Scientific Committee out to 5–8 international experts for peer review. The Committee assesses the evaluations and gives recommendations for projects that have major international scientific potential and are good candidates for grants. The Foundation selects projects to receive funding. The entire process is based on standardized evaluation criteria.

A LONG-TERM CYCLE

The companies in which the Wallenberg Foundations, Investor, and FAM own stakes form the backbone of the Wallenberg family’s business interests. Long-term work with these international corporations—and their successes—enable the Foundations to award more than SEK 1.7 billion in grants to Swedish research and education each year.