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Taiwanese Billionaire Establishes Richer-Than-Nobel Prizes

28 January 2013 12:20 pm
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Taiwanese businessman Samuel Yin has endowed a new science prize that not only gives bigger cash awards than the Nobel Prizes, but supports research as well. Individuals or institutions that have demonstrated what judges deem to be the most creative and influential research will receive about $1.36 million in each of four fields; an additional $341,000 will support recipient-proposed plans for research and talent development in related fields for 5 years. The combined $1.7 million tops the Nobel Prize, which for 2012 was about $1.2 million.

Announced at a press conference today in Taipei, the Tang Prize, named after China's Tang Dynasty, which Yin admires as a golden age for Chinese civilization, will be awarded biennially for work in sustainable development, biopharmaceutical science, sinology, and rule of law.

Yin, who is endowing the Tang Prize Foundation with about $102 million, hopes "the prize will encourage more research that is beneficial to the world and humankind, promote Chinese culture, and make the world a better place," according to a press release. Yin made a fortune in real estate, finance, and retail investments, and is worth about $3 billion, according to Forbes magazine. Academia Sinica, which oversees Taiwan's premier research labs, will be responsible for the nomination and selection process. The first prize announcement is slated for July 2014.

The Tang Prize lengthens the list of rich science prizes funded by Asian philanthropists. Run Run Shaw, a Hong Kong media mogul, in 2002 established the Shaw Prize, which annually confers $1 million for work in astronomy, life science and medicine, and mathematical sciences. Three other major science prizes in Japan hand out about $550,000 to each winner annually:

Kyoto Prize. Launched in 1984 by Kazuo Inamori, founder of specialty ceramics maker Kyocera, it honors advanced technology, basic sciences, and arts and philosophy.

Japan Prize. Backed by Konosuke Matsushita, founder of Panasonic Corporation, the award is given in in two broad scientific fields. In 2012, those were (1) environment, energy, and infrastructure and (2) health care and medical technology.

Blue Planet Prize. The 20-year-old award given by the Asahi Glass Foundation recognizes premier environmental research.

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