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The economics behind Nobel

Published torsdag 10 december 2015 kl 10.13
"They haven't been successful at managing their money."
(5:08 min)
Nobel Prize winners and distinguished guests enjoying dessert in Stockholm City Hall. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT.
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Last year's Nobel Banquet in Stockholm City Hall. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT.
Foto: Robin Haldert/TT
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Photo: Robin Haldert/TT

How much does it cost to hand out the Nobel Prizes each year? And how will the prize retain its profile in the future as other scientific awards give out more money? We spoke to Kristian Åström, a financial reporter at Swedish Radio, to find out.

The Nobel Foundation was established in 1900 and was tasked with managing the roughly SEK 30 million left by scientist Alfred Nobel in order to pay for and administer the prizes created in his name.

The foundation hands out five prizes each year, the Nobel Prize in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and Peace. Today, each laureate is awarded SEK 8 million, a diploma and a 175g gold medal.

The awards, including the lavish banquet and everything associated with the ceremonies, cost the foundation approximately SEK 100 million each year, and in order to pay for this, the foundation needs a good return on their investments, says Swedish Radio's financial reporter, Kristian Åström,

"Their investments have had their ups and downs, and they haven't been very successful in managing their money compared to other foundations," explains Åström.

The Nobel Foundation is currently worth approximately SEK 3.7 billion, which compared to foundations such as the Wallenberg Foundation which was established around the same time but had less capital, is not a lot, Åström says.

"The Wallenberg foundation started out with SEK 20 million and has between SEK 65-70 billion today, so they have made much better investments," Åström says.

The Nobel Prize is now far from the only scientific award around, but despite that some awards hand out more money than the Nobels, it is still one of the most prestigious awards in the world. Kristian Åström believes that the prize will be able to retain that position as long as the foundation continues to recognize the biggest names in science.

"The Nobel Prize has a track-record of recognizing the elite in disciplines and has a network and a history that other awards don't. It has a certain respect. The sum of money is important, of course, but it's not everything," Åström says.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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