28. March 2007 14:07

European Science Foundation says farewell to its Chief Executive Bertil Andersson

After more than three years as the Chief Executive of the Strasburg-headquartered European Science Foundation (ESF), Bertil Andersson is leaving for the Far East to take up the post of Rector at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.


“I am still a Europhile,” insisted Professor Andersson. “It’s just that Singapore is, in a molecular chemistry sense, an attractive force that is pulling me in. But it is definitely not at all the case that Strasbourg or Europe is a repulsive force.”


Professor Andersson’s works have helped the 33-year old ESF further develop into the science platform that its 75 member organisations can count on to implement a pan-European science agenda through interdisciplinary science activities.


In the course of his tenure with the ESF, Professor Andersson has been instrumental in some of the most significant restructurings that have taken place over the organisation’s more than three decade-old history.  One of them was the introduction of the Strategic Plan for 2006–2010 which was resulted from the extensive research and consultation with the Member Organisations (MOs). 


“The emphasis of the Strategic Plan is to be more aligned with the MOs. That has already been done,” commented Professor Andersson. “There is also the demand of the MOs to step out and to ask things from ESF – to be an active owner of the ESF. Otherwise this synergy between the two will not work. So ESF has to do its part and the MOs have to do theirs.”


Also during his time at the ESF Professor Andersson led the way in changing the organisation’s governing structure which had long been considered to be overly complicated, because of the inclusion of members which represent more than 90 per cent of the European research funding from 30 countries nations.


“The changed governance is quite an impressive task considering the complexity of our memberships,” he said. “ESF now has a governing structure that is simpler and more streamlined. This change is extremely important for an organisation such as the ESF. I hope this would make ESF even more action oriented in order to take quicker decisions.”


Another task that he prides himself for achieving at the ESF is the settling of the contract with COST (The European Cooperation in Science and Technology) system.


“This is definitely a success story for the ESF. Back in 2003, when we were taking on the contract, many were sceptical about whether we have the muscles to manage such a vast contract,” said Professor Andersson. “In the end we have, with Professor Francesco Fedi (President of the COST Committee of Senior Officials) and the CSOs implementing reforms, a new domain, a new structure, and new procedures. We have also managed to run the COST office from an administrative point of view despite the extreme complexity of the contract.”


 “It will be interesting to see how we Europeans will compete with these Singapore guys,” commented Professor Ian Halliday, ESF’s President, at a recent symposium that was held in recognition of Professors Andersson’s contribution to European Science.  “We just want him to know how much he is appreciated and how much we enjoy working with him, fighting with him or engaging in all sorts of way with him. It’s been both exciting and rewarding.”


“At ESF, most of all I am going to miss the people,” reflected Professor Anderson. “The people that I met from the member organisations, the policy makers, and the people that I met from the conferences who came from different corners of Europe and the world.” 


Before joining the ESF, Professor Andersson was a professor in Biochemistry and the President of the Linköping University, Sweden (1999-2003). He was the head of the Department of Biochemistry (1987-1995), Dean of the Faculty of Chemical Sciences and the pro-dean of the Science Faculty, (1996-1999) at the University of Stockholm. He has been with the ESF since the beginning of 2004.


His honorary appointments include: Member of the Board of the Nobel Foundation, 2000- ; Member (and chairman) of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry 1989-1997, (1997); Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, since 1989. He has been President of the chemical section of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, since 1998; Member of Academiae Europea, since 1990; The Finnish Science Society, since 1991; The Australian Academy of Sciences, since 1999; The European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), since 1990. He has received Honorary doctorates from Turku University, 2000 and Umeå University, 2002. He has been a Visiting Professor at Imperial College, London since 1990. Prof. Andersson has published a total of 275 papers in photosynthesis research, biological membranes, protein and membrane purification, and light stress.


To listen to Professor Andersson’s interview please click here.


Bertil Andersson features in News@ Nature. To read the story in full, click here

Notes to Editors:


Dr. John Marks, currently the Director of the Science and Strategy at the ESF, will take over the position of Chief Executive starting from April 1, 2007.

Media Enquiries
Thomas Lau
Communications Unit
Tel: +33 (0)3 88 76 21 58 direct
Tel: +33 (0)3 88 76 71 00 switchboard