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June 24, 2022

100 million in 5 years

ISTA starts Capital Campaign to raise funds

Highly esteemed guests at the start of ISTA’s Capital Campaign at the Stadtpalais Liechtenstein. © Roland Ferrigato

The Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA) receives a 25 million Euro donation at the start of its Capital Campaign. All philanthropic contributions will be matched by the federal government. The donations co-finance basic research at ISTA.

With a gala at the Stadtpalais Liechtenstein as a kick-off, the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA) presented its Capital Campaign on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, with which the Institute aims to build up, within the next five years, an endowment of 100 million Euro for basic research and graduate education. An endowment invests capital for the very long term in order to generate proceeds that – following the example of universities in the USA, Switzerland, and Israel – co-finance the institution in perpetuity. At ISTA it will fund basic science in the fields of biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, and computer science.

Premiere in Austria

Capital campaigns with ambitious goals are a common and traditional means of renowned research universities such as Stanford, ETH Zurich, and the Weizmann Institute of Science. The establishment of an endowment serves to secure and support independent, world-class research and education with the long term in mind. ISTA is the first research institution in Austria to start such a project. The project is supported by the federal government through the doubling of donations. ISTA President Thomas A. Henzinger comments, “For a decade, ISTA has been pioneering within Austria the most successful international approaches towards building a cutting-edge research institution. From now on, ISTA goes new paths in Austria also in research funding.”

Under the title “Be a Giant”, a team led by Oliver Lehmann, Head of Stakeholder Relations, advises companies and private individuals in Austria and abroad. The team is supported by the Strategic Advisory Council (SAC), chaired by lawyer Laurence Yansouni and attorney Stefan Weber, as well as entrepreneurs, investors, and consultants such as Hermann Hauser (Hauser-Raspe Foundation), Steven Heinz (Lansdowne Partners), Therese Niss (Miba AG), Ursula Plassnik (former Austrian Foreign Minister), Rudolf Scholten (former Austrian Minister of Science), Veit Sorger (former President of the Federation of Austrian Industries), Franz Viehböck (Berndorf AG), and Martin Unger (EY Strategy Consulting).

From left to right: Oliver Lehmann (ISTA, Head of Stakeholder Relations), Brigitte Bierlein (former Austrian Chancellor), Ursula Plassnik (former Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs), and Veit Sorger (former President of the Federation of Austrian Industries). © Roland Ferrigato

First donor

A typical element of large capital campaigns is a so-called anchor donor. This is a person who visibly initiates the campaign with a significant donation. In the case of ISTA, this is Magdalena Walz. The entrepreneur, who was born in Vienna in 1926, died in 2021 and left her fortune of around 25 million Euro to ISTA in her will. President Henzinger: “We are immensely grateful to Magdalena Walz. In her case especially, the value of the donation far exceeds the actual amount because it expresses her appreciation for ISTA’s model of excellence and independence, which is unique in Austria.” In recognition and gratitude, ISTA’s very first named professorship will carry the name of the donor: Peter Jonas, one of Europe’s most renowned neuroscientists, who has been conducting research at ISTA since 2010, will be named the first “Magdalena Walz Professor for Life Sciences”. Following the endowment model, when Jonas retires, the Magdalena Walz Professorship will be transferred to another professor in the life sciences, thus preserving the donor’s legacy forever.

The first named professorship. Peter Jonas (left) receives the title “Magdalena Walz Professor for Life Sciences” from ISTA President Thomas A. Henzinger (center). © Roland Ferrigato

President Henzinger: “The arguments for a donation to ISTA are obvious: A conventional donation to a university is given and spent. But a donation to ISTA, through our endowment model, is a perpetual investment, the proceeds of which go to research and at the same time continually increase the endowment. Whereas a traditional gifted professorship at Austrian universities is funded by the donor for a fixed period of time, a named professorship at ISTA is established by a one-time donation and is forever co-funded by the returns from the donation. Plus, there is the extra bonus: all donations to ISTA are matched by the federal government. Coupled with a potential tax write-off for the donor, this can result in a leverage of 1:4.”

Third-party funding

Since its founding, ISTA has been required by law to raise significant portions of its budget through third-party funding in order to take advantage of the full amount of funding promised by the federal government. This also applies to the government funds that were allocated for the period 2027 to 2036, amounting to 3.3 billion Euro, which were approved unanimously by the Austrian parliament in November 2021. Third-party funding includes research awards and donations. Since 2007, ISTA has raised around 20 million Euro in donations.


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