About The Medal

THE NOMINATION PROCESS

Early each year, only those who have been honoured so far are entitled to submit a nomination for new medal holders. The nominations received in due time are assessed by the scientific advisory board chaired by the former chairman of the Austrian Rectors’ Conference, Hans Sünkel, as the jury. The decision on the honours is made in secret session.

ABOUT THE WILHELM EXNER MEDAL

A history that ranges from antibody mixtures made from horse serum to the Higgs particle: since 1921, the Austrian Trade Association has honored selected researchers with the Wilhelm Exner Medal. The award is given to personalities whose discoveries have directly or indirectly promoted the economy in an outstanding way.

The festive award ceremony is framed by a scientific symposium. For a few years now, the Exner Lectures have also been held on the day of the award ceremony, focusing on the topics of the medal winners. The aim of the Lectures is to bring together economic and scientific communities.

THE HISTORY

The Wilhelm Exner Medal is an Austrian award and is given by the Wilhelm Exner Foundation of the Austrian Trade Association. For a few years now, there has also been a symposium on the day of the award around the topics of the medal winners, the Exner Lectures, which brings together economic and scientific communities.

A history that ranges from antibody mixtures from horse serum to synthetically producible miniature editions or to monoclonal antibodies or the Higgs particle.

THE EVENT

Since 1921, the Austrian Trade Association has honored selected scientists with the Wilhelm Exner Prize.
The award is named after the Viennese technician and forestry scientist Wilhelm Exner (1840 to 1931). He was also behind the founding of the Technisches Gewerbemuseum (TGM) in Vienna-Alsergrund and was rector of the then Hochschule für Bodenkultur in Vienna for 35 years.

Wilhelm Exner Gemälde rund

ABOUT WILHELM EXNER

Wilhelm Exner (1840-1931) always regarded the revolutionary changes in economic and social conditions taking place in his time as a great opportunity and was focused on tackling the problems that arose offensively and constructively.

Exner represented cosmopolitan Austrian liberalism, which instead of isolationism and enemy stereotypes used its commitment to modernisation and the transformation of the economy, science and society.

These character traits that shaped Wilhelm Exner’s personality can also be found in their basic features in many Wilhelm Exner medal holders.

With the medal bearing his name, the Austrian Trade Association has since 1921 honoured eminent scientists whose theories, findings and results have brought about or initiated important trade-industrial applications. Among the 240 laureates, from the fields of physics, chemistry or biology, as well as inventors and designers whose ideas and designs opened up new dimensions of economic progress and sustainably promoted the development of industry and trade, there are 23 Nobel Prize winners.

Hans Sünkel


Hans Sünkel

Managing Director of the Wilhelm Exner Medal Foundation and Former Rector of the Graz University of Technology


Like any other award, a medal has two sides: one honors the person to be awarded, while the other is an honor for the awarding institution. This is particularly true for the Wilhelm Exner Medal, especially since the handpicked award is given to international top-class scientists who have been able to transform outstanding scientific achievements into economic successes, thus bridging the gap between theory and application. The Wilhelm Exner Medal therefore symbolizes the value of the highest quality.

In this sense, the awarding of the Wihelm Exner Medal represents a significant recognition of top-class innovative achievements as a fundamental prerequisite for the further development of a country. However, the awarding of this medal by the Austrian Trade Association also conveys a message to our society, namely to hold high the social value of performance in general and of top performance in particular, coupled with the focus on economic value creation for the benefit of our society and thus also of our country.

Wilhelm Exner already achieved top performance and held top positions at a young age. The medal named after him should therefore also be understood as a highly perceptible signal to our youth to take courage in both hands and follow the well-meant advice of Theodore Roosevelt: “Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.”

Sabine Seidler


Sabine Seidler

Rector of Vienna University of Technology

What do you see as the significance / importance of the Exner Medal ?

The awarding of an award for excellent research by a foundation of the Austrian Trade Association is an extremely important signal, because it underlines that innovation needs both: new creative ideas and solutions but also entrepreneurial thinking.

What do you see as the opportunity of the Exner Medal?

The high reputation of the award winners contributes to Austria’s better international visibility and thus also to increasing the attractiveness of the location, not only for companies, but also for the science location.

What do you particularly like about the award?

… that companies are committed to excellence in science.

Johann F. Kwizda


Johann Kwizda

Kwizda Holding GmbH


What do you see as the significance / importance of the Exner Medal?

Wilhelm Exner is the outstanding personality in science, teaching and organization of the late 19th to early 20th century. An ur Austrian award – unique in the world.

What do you see as the opportunity of the Exner Medal?

There are ideals that are timeless, that have a past, a present and hopefully a future.

What do you particularly like about the award?

It embodies life, inspiration, research, development and economic implementation – success and added value for the country and its people.

Edeltraud Hanappi-Egger


Edeltraud Hanappi-Egger

Rector of the Vienna University of Economics and Business


What do you see as the significance / importance of the Exner Medal?

Independent science is an essential cornerstone in functioning societies. Researchers all over the world deal with a wide variety of problems, create new knowledge and share it with the public. The Exner Medal specifically brings scientists before the curtain, honors their achievements and thus contributes to making their work more visible.

What do you see as the opportunity of the Exner Medal?

As an Austrian award, the Exner Medal certainly helps to position Austria as a science-friendly and cosmopolitan country and to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of research and teaching – both of which are particularly important in today’s world.

What do you particularly like about the award?

That people are honored who have created sustainable added value for society with their scientific work.

Stefan Hell


Stefan Hell

Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2014 / Wilhelm Exner Medal 2016


What do you see as the significance / importance of the Exner Medal?

This medal stands for the fact that science is not detached from society. Quite the contrary. It is precisely science and the technological progress associated with it that shapes society like hardly anything else. The Exner Medal emphatically points this out: Science and society, science and business, they play together. Even scientific breakthroughs that at first seem to be completely detached from the world outside are, sooner or later, not. They change the world. Demonstrating the role of science

What do you see as the opportunity of the Exner Medal?

Through the Exner Lectures, the foundation brings some outstanding scientific contributions into the spotlight year after year, thus increasing their visibility, and here especially in the business world. This visibility can bring opportunities, because for me, as for other recipients of the award

there are immediate benefits from the research of recent years. Abberior Instruments GmbH, a company I co-founded, is now the technology leader for optical microscopes with the very highest resolution, including systems that are very easy to use and portable. This is how biomedical research can be advanced, and I’m pleased about that.

What do you particularly like about the award?

Looking back at the nearly century-long history of the medal and the long list of honorees inspires awe. Many names I know from my school books, such as Rutherford, Marconi and more. I was especially pleased to learn that Manfred Eigen, someone I knew personally and held in high esteem, had received the medal a few years earlier. I was able to experience Manfred Eigen, the visionary founder of my Max Planck Institute in Göttingen and also a Nobel laureate in chemistry, as a man of unique intellectual acuity. Like many of the winners of the Exner Medal, he was a role model for me.

Gregor Weihs


Gregor Weihs

Austrian quaten physicist and university professor for photonics at the Institute for Experimental Physics at the University of Innsbruck.


What do you see as the significance / importance of the Exner Medal?

There are only a few awards for scientists internationally with such a long tradition and no other, that I know of, that emphasize the economic connection. Therefore, the Exner Medal is unique and a high honor.

What do you see as the opportunity of the Exner Medal?

The Exner Medal has the chance to bring special achievements in front of the curtain and especially to communicate them to an otherwise less science-savvy audience. This achievement for science communication is an important tool to increase the social acceptance of basic research.

What do you particularly like about the award?

The ceremonial awarding and the format of the Exner Lectures, which put the often international results into the Austrian context, give the medal winners great national visibility.

Anton Zeilinger


Anton Zeilinger

Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information – Vienna

Austrian Academy of Sciences

As in the times of Wilhelm Exner, to whom this award of the Austrian Trade Association is dedicated, we live today in times of great and profound changes. Digitization has fundamentally revolutionized existing structures in society, industry and the economy. And we are far from having reached the end. The widespread introduction of new technologies is on the horizon, and with it comes a new fundamental renewal of the economy and society, whether this is seen as an opportunity or a risk. It is precisely in such times that fundamental values like those of Wilhelm Exner, such as initiative in approaching emerging problems and issues, but also a fundamental openness to the world instead of a passive victim mentality built on enemy stereotypes, are particularly important. By awarding the Wilhelm Exner Medal to researchers who, in addition to their services to the economic implementation of science, stand for precisely these values, the Austrian Trade Association sets important signs and steps from year to year.