Gruppenfoto FWF-START/Wittgenstein-Feier 2024
The winners of Austria’s most highly endowed research awards as well as the ASciNA and Zero Emissions Awards receive their certificates at a ceremony in Vienna. © FWF/Gerd Schneider

The FWF’s START/Wittgenstein Award ceremony is an annual highlight for Austria’s scientific community. On this evening, the FWF presents the country's most highly endowed research awards, honoring researchers for their outstanding work. Around 500 guests from the science and research communities, including the newly selected award winners with their teams and families, got together on this summer evening in the open-air location “Rösthalle” in Vienna’s 16th district. Science Minister Martin Polaschek, FWF President Christof Gattringer, and FWF Vice-Presidents Ursula Jakubek, Georg Kaser, Gerlinde Mautner, and Ellen Zechner presented the FWF START Awards to eight researchers and the FWF Wittgenstein Award to cell biologist Jiří Friml.

Setting the stage for top performance in basic research

The evening began with the presentation of the ASciNA Awards to three Austrian researchers working in the USA. ASciNA President Alexandra Lieben and Science Minister Martin Polaschek presented ASciNA Awards of €15,000 each  to Christina Baumgartner in the “Junior Faculty” category and Magdalena Klemun and Ralf Schmidt in the “Young Science” category.

This was followed by the first-ever presentation of the Zero Emissions Awards, the new privately funded research grants from the FWF’s alpha+ Foundation. Chemists Felix Panis and Thomas Rath accepted the awards for their climate-related research projects from Georg Winckler, Chairman of the FWF, Ursula Jakubek, Executive Vice-President of the FWF, and the donor of the grant money, US entrepreneur Patrick Dumont.

The next high point of the evening was the presentation of the FWF START Awards to eight promising researchers from Graz, Innsbruck, and Vienna. Mathematician Juan P. Aguilera (TU Wien), physicist Uroš Delić (Austrian Academy of Sciences Innsbruck), chemist Esther Heid (TU Wien), neuroscientist Polina Kameneva (St. Anna Children's Cancer Research Institute), cardiologist Senka Holzer (Medical University of Graz), classical philologist Dan Batovici (Austrian Academy of Sciences Vienna), mathematician Yurii Malitskyi (University of Vienna) and Germanist Svitlana Antonyuk (University of Graz) all received FWF START Awards, each endowed with €1.2 million.

The ceremony culminated in the presentation of the 2024 FWF Wittgenstein Award to Jiří Friml, who was honored for his pioneering work in plant biology.

Austria’s scientific community congratulates the award winners

Among the well-wishers at the open-air location were numerous representatives of universities and non-university research institutions, as well as previous FWF Wittgenstein Award winners. Science Minister Martin Polaschek was joined at the ceremony by his Danish counterpart Christina Egelund. The open-air location “Rösthalle,” on the site of a former coffee roasting plant on the edge of Vienna's Kongresspark, provided a summery backdrop for an evening dedicated to research. Lisa Gadenstätter from Austria’s public broadcasting agency ORF hosted the award presentation on stage.

The Austrian Science Fund (FWF) has been awarding the Wittgenstein and START Awards since 1996. To date, 42 outstanding researchers working in Austria have received the FWF Wittgenstein Award, and 181 scientists have received FWF START Awards.

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