In 2006, when the Austrian parliament decided, with a broad majority, to found the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) as a contribution to strengthen Austria’s role in international science, I was a professor at the EPFL Lausanne in Switzerland and reacted to the news – perhaps like other expatriates from Austria – with a mixture of excitement and disbelief. Only later, when I visited the construction site and met the Executive Committee of the new Institute – including Haim Harari, the chair, as well as Claus Raidl and Anton Zeilinger - did I begin to fully comprehend that the venture was "for real" and followed exactly the steps I thought necessary to establish a world-class institute for basic research. My suspicions turned into pride that such a bold project is possible in Austria, and a desire to be part of it.
We are now humbly trying to implement the blueprint that was written by Haim Harari, Olaf Kübler, and Hubert Markl in order to attract some of the world's best scientists to Austria. We cannot compete with the storied history and certain future of an established European or American institution, and neither can we compete in resources with the upstart universities of Asia – so what can we offer to scientists – who are sought after all over the world? I believe that the unique attraction of IST Austria is that it resembles a start-up enterprise possessing three key indicators for success: an independent frontier spirit, high aspirations, and experienced founders. This attraction worked for me, and I am trying to shape the growing Institute true to its vision so that the attraction can continue to work for others.
Professor Thomas A. Henzinger, IST Austria President