Institute of Science and Technology Austria

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Institute of Science and Technology Austria
IST Austria
Type Public
Established 2009
President Thomas Henzinger
Dean Nick Barton (Dean of the graduate school)
Academic staff
Students 121
Location Klosterneuburg, Lower Austria, Austria
Colours Green

The Institute of Science and Technology Austria, commonly known as IST Austria, is a young international institute of basic research and graduate education in natural and mathematical sciences, located in Maria Gugging, Klosterneuburg, 20 km northwest of the Austrian capital of Vienna. It was established and inaugurated by the provincial government of Lower Austria and the federal government of Austria in 2009 and is expected to grow to about ninety research groups by 2026.[1]

IST Austria is modeled after and combines the methods of ETH Zurich, Weizmann Institute, and the Max Planck Society.[2] First-class, curiosity-driven research is the core value of the concept. Scientists are encouraged to pursue their own goals and ideas not restricted by government or economic interest.[1]

The institute currently consists of 42 research groups.[3][4] Its graduate school offers PhD degrees in Biology, Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Neuroscience and Data Science and Computation as part of its ISTScholar program funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program and a Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant.[5] As of 2015, 121 students were enrolled in the PhD program.[3]

Scientists from 50 countries, a majority of whom are postdoctoral researchers, work at IST Austria[3] and the institute operates in English.[6]


The idea of creating a scientific flagship organization for research and postgraduate studies at the highest level was proposed by Austrian physicist Anton Zeilinger in 2002 at the annual technology forum in Alpbach.[7] After several studies about the feasibility of creating such an institute, a working group was formed in the Austrian federal ministry of education and science and the four provinces of Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Styria and Vienna put in bids to host the new institute. In 2005, the council of ministers decided to build the institute in Klosterneuburg, Lower Austria.[7]

In 2006, an international group of three scientists including Haim Harari, Olaf Kuebler and Hubert Markl were invited by the Federation of Austrian Industries to advise the establishment of the institute and create a road-map for it. They published a report in June 2006 that became the foundation of IST Austria.[7] This report set the guidelines for IST[8] which were organized into the following eight principles:[2]

  • Focusing on basic curiosity-driven research,
  • Having an independent board of scientists,
  • Being Internationalist and using English as the language of operation,
  • Emphasizing interdisciplinary research with no boundaries,
  • Operating a PhD-granting graduate school,
  • Supporting careers by implementing a tenure track system,
  • Obtaining diverse public and private funding,
  • Exploiting research results and intellectual property.

The federal law on the Institute of Science and Technology Austria was passed in May 2006[9] and an agreement between the government of Lower Austria and the Federal government of Austria was reached in July.[10]

Positions for the first president, professors and tenure track professors were advertised in 2007.[7] Nick Barton was the first faculty to join.[7] On December 4, 2008 computer scientist Thomas Henzinger was appointed as the first president of IST Austria effective September 1, 2009.[11] In November 2016, he was reappointed as the president of IST Austria for a third 4-year term.[12]

The institute had its opening ceremony in 2009, recruited its first cohort of students in 2010 and by the end of that year reached more than 100 employees from 22 countries.[13]

First Evaluation[edit]

According to the law, the institute is required to undergo an international and independent evaluation every four years.[9] In January 2011, the Scientific Board organized the first independent evaluation of the new institute. The review panel consisted of six scientists who also had considerable experience in science management. The reviewers included two Nobel laureates and former or current presidents of distinguished research institutions. The panel broadly represented the natural and engineering sciences beyond the research areas that were present at IST Austria at the time.[14]

In March 2011, the evaluation committee came to the result that IST Austria is on its way to becoming a leading research institution with an international reputation and that the institute is about to set new benchmarks for both research and training that will not only be important on the national level but also within Europe generally and even more widely.[14] The committee pointed out that the trajectory of development of all the elements of IST Austria is towards making an organization of clear excellence that will be recognized throughout the world, but continued governmental support is a necessary condition.[14][15]

Second Evaluation[edit]

In 2015, a second evaluation was carried out by an international review panel chaired by the Nobel laureate Roger Kornberg. The panel consisted of six distinguished scientists including three Nobel laureates and a Turing awardee. The report was very positive, reading "The next years will prove crucial if the IST Austria is to achieve the goal of international distinction. The IST Austria has made an excellent start, accomplishing the difficult task of starting from scratch and laying a foundation for future development, but the next step, rising to the top, will be even more difficult."[16][17]


In February 2012, IST Austria announced[18] that prolonging the first funding phase until 2016, further financing of IST Austria had been secured until 2026. An agreement between the Republic of Austria and the province of Lower Austria was passed in the respective parliaments in July 2012, ensuring continued financing for IST Austria from 2017 to 2026. The Republic of Austria will provide up to €99 Mio each year to IST Austria, one third of which will be dependent on the successful acquisition of third-party research grants and the fulfillment of research-immanent quality criteria. The province of Lower Austria will provide €368 Mio from 2017 to 2026 for the infrastructure, buildings and operation of the IST Austria campus. This financing will allow IST Austria to grow to 90 to 100 research groups with up to 1000 scientists by 2026.[19]


The Board of Trustees is the supreme body of IST Austria. It consists of seven scientists, nominated by science funding and advisory institutions, and seven representatives of the public, nominated by federal and provincial institutions, Thomas A. Henzinger being the president [1], Claus Raidl being the chairman and Anton Zeilinger vice-chairman.


Public representatives:

  • Alexander Hartig (Board member Constantia Industries AG)
  • Gisela Hopfmüller (former department head at Austria’s public broadcasting corporation ORF
  • Peter Layr (Member of the Executive Board EVN, Maria Enzersdorf)
  • Claus Raidl (President OeNB)
  • Wolfgang Ruttensdorfer (Member of the Supervisory Board, Vienna Insurance Group, Vienna)
  • Elisabeth Stadler (CEO, ERGO Austria International AG, Vienna)

Graduate School[edit]

IST Austria is one of the few research institutes world-wide that is entitled to award a PhD degree[citation needed]. The single, interdisciplinary PhD program has a focus on biology, computer science, mathematics, neuroscience, and physics and is open to applicants from all over the world holding either a BS or MS degree (or equivalent). All participants are selected in an annual, institute-wide admissions process that assesses their research potential. Applicants must apply by mid-January for their studies to start in September. Short-listed candidates are invited on campus for interviews in March.

The PhD program is divided into two distinctive phases: In phase 1 students do rotations, take courses in and outside their field, find a supervisor, and sit a Qualifying Exam. In phase 2 students contribute to the research of one or more scientific groups. They are employed by the Institute and paid at an internationally competitive level. The language of research and instruction at IST Austria is English. The length of the doctoral studies depends on previous degrees and individual progress, and will on average last four to five years.

Viktoriia Sharmanska (Group Lampert, now University of Sussex) and Johannes Reiter (Chatterjee Group, now Harvard Medical School) were the first students to fully complete their doctoral studies at IST Austria and graduated in June 2015.[20]

Notable scientists[edit]

The Scientific Board, chaired by Kurt Mehlhorn, oversees the search for the scientists and will eventually develop a full Professorial Committee. In early 2009, the evolutionary biologist Nick Barton was the first professor to be appointed. In November 2014, the faculty[21] has grown to 35 professors and assistant professors:


  1. ^ a b Austria, IST. "IST Austria: About IST Austria". Retrieved 2016-11-29. 
  2. ^ a b "IST Austria Recruitment Slides". 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c "IST Austria Annual Report 2015" (PDF). 2015. 
  4. ^ Austria, IST. "IST Austria: Five new professors join IST Austria". Retrieved 2016-11-29. 
  5. ^ Austria, IST. "IST Austria: The ISTScholar PhD Program". Retrieved 2016-11-29. 
  6. ^ Austria, IST. "IST Austria: FAQ". Retrieved 2016-11-29. 
  7. ^ a b c d e "IST Austria Annual Report 2009" (PDF). 2009. 
  8. ^ Harari, Haim (2006). "Recommended steps towards the establishment of the Institute of Science and Technology - Austria" (PDF). 
  9. ^ a b "Bundesgesetz über das Institute of Science and Technology - Austria" (PDF). BUNDESGESETZBLATT FÜR DIE REPUBLIK ÖSTERREICH. 2006. 
  10. ^ "Contract on the Establishment and the Operation of the Institute of Science and Technology Austria - Agreement between the Republic of Austria and the Federal State of Lower Austria, 2006" (PDF). 2006. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ Austria, IST. "IST Austria: Thomas A. Henzinger reappointed as President of IST Austria". Retrieved 2016-11-30. 
  13. ^ "IST Austria Annual Report 2014" (PDF). 2015. 
  14. ^ a b c Baltimore, David. "2011 Evaluation of the Institute of Science and Technology Austria" (PDF). 
  15. ^ IST Austria, press release. "High-ranking evaluation committee gives IST Austria excellent grade" (PDF). Retrieved May 2011.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  16. ^ "IST Austria Evaluation: "An excellent start"". 
  17. ^ Kornberg, Roger (2016). "2015 Evaluation of the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria)" (PDF). 
  18. ^ IST Austria Website. "Future of IST Austria secured". Retrieved 2012-09-03. 
  19. ^ Federal Ministry of Finance. "FUTURE OF IST AUSTRIA ON A SOLID FOUNDATION". Retrieved 2012-09-03. 
  20. ^ ["" "IST Austria Newsletter, August 2015"] Check |url= value (help) (PDF). 
  21. ^ IST Website. "Faculty". Retrieved 2012-09-03. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 48°18′38″N 16°15′40″E / 48.31056°N 16.26111°E / 48.31056; 16.26111