NTU President Prof Bertil Andersson is part of a big league of scientists, being among Nobel Prize winners who have been awarded the Austrian Wilhelm Exner Medal for shaping the world through research.
A world-renowned plant biochemist from Sweden with a longstanding association with the Nobel Foundation that includes chairing its chemistry committee, he has pioneered research on the artificial leaf, a promising area of sustainable energy research that uses sunlight to produce clean, low-cost sources of energy. Prof Andersson has authored more than 300 papers in basic photosynthesis covering topics from photosystem structure to biological membranes and light stress in plants, with more than 14,000 citations.
Prof Andersson first became NTU’s Provost in 2007, where he strengthened the university’s profile as one of the fastest-growing research-intensive universities in the world with a track record of winning competitive research grants and attracting world-acclaimed scientists. Today, NTU is the world’s fastest-rising young university and also ranked first among the world’s best young universities. In the 2015 and 2016 QS World University Rankings, NTU is placed 13th globally. NTU also leads the top Asian universities in normalised research citation impact.
Prof Andersson was installed as NTU’s third President on 1 July 2011. He was formerly President of Linköping University, Sweden, from 1999 to 2003, the Chief Executive of the European Science Foundation from 2004 to 2007, and the Chairman of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry in 1997. As the man at the helm of the European Science Foundation in Strasbourg, France, his last post before joining NTU, Prof Andersson consolidated research efforts across 30 European countries.
Championing high-impact science and engineering
Prof Andersson was appointed NTU's first Provost in April 2007 following a rigorous selection process that included a review of distinguished candidates from around the world. He accepted the position at NTU following a visit to the university in 2006 as a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the National Research Foundation, set up by former Deputy Prime Minister Dr Tony Tan in 2006 to advise the Singapore government on its R&D strategy. "I was deeply impressed with the university’s achievements and promise," he said, adding that NTU could produce a Nobel Prize winner "with the right investments".
As the university's senior academic officer, Prof Andersson has been instrumental in helping to redefine education, research, administration and the campus environment with university-wide reforms in line with best international practices.
In domains such as sustainability, healthcare, new media and innovation, he spearheaded institutional changes that led to bold new programmes as well as increased funding support and high-quality partnerships. NTU’s next five-year plan will see the university consolidating its strengths in spheres beyond sustainability and healthcare, such as in security, future learning and research on Asia.
Faculty development at NTU has been boosted with the university's flagship Nanyang Assistant Professorship attracting a new generation of promising educators and researchers. This is today one of the most rigorous young scientist schemes in the world, and demonstrates the attractiveness of NTU as a place for young researchers to make their way from some of the best universities in the world.
By fostering dialogue among colleges and schools, Prof Andersson has also helped to promote greater interdisciplinarity on campus, necessary to better address urgent challenges that will require expertise on many fronts. Under an ambitious campus master plan, the university landscape and infrastructure is being transformed to encourage faculty and students of different disciplines to come together to create new knowledge.
In the international arena, Prof Andersson has expanded NTU’s engagement with a host of leading institutions and companies, laying the groundwork for future collaborations. For example, he catalysed the development of joint programmes and the setting up of joint laboratories on campus with top MNCs that have brought innovations to the fast-growing Asian environmental technology market.
In 2016, Prof Andersson was elected a Fellow of the Singapore National Academy of Science for his distinguished contributions to the development of science in Singapore and for leading NTU to global distinction. Several months later, he was awarded the Singapore President’s Science and Technology Medal, the highest national honour for lifetime achievement given to individuals including top scientists and engineers who have made exceptional contributions to the development of Singapore.
Driver of Singapore’s medical school
A Visiting Professor and Fellow of Imperial College London, Prof Andersson has been the key driver of Singapore’s medical school jointly established by NTU and Imperial College London. The school received philanthropic support of S$400 million, inclusive of enhanced government matching, within months of its establishment in Singapore and was named the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine. It enrolled its first batch of students in August 2013, and has a campus in Novena, Singapore's medical district.
Prof Andersson has served on the boards of several Swedish and international foundations and learned societies, including the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, European Molecular Biology Organisation, Australian Academy of Science, Academia Europaea, Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education, and Austrian Academy of Sciences.
He is a research adviser to the Swedish government and was previously Vice President of the European Research Advisory Board of the European Commission in Brussels. He has also been an adviser to business activities in the biotechnology and pharmaceuticals sector.
In Singapore, he serves on the Governing Board of the Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering, and is a Board member of A*STAR Singapore, the government agency in charge of national scientific research and development.
Prof Andersson received his BSc and MSc at Umeå University, Sweden, before completing his PhD and DSc at Lund University, Sweden. Continuing his teaching and research duties at Stockholm University in 1986, Prof Andersson served first as Head of the Department of Biochemistry, then as Dean of the Faculty of Chemical Sciences from 1996 to 1999.
He has received more than 13 honorary doctorates from universities that include Tianjin University, University of Edinburgh, University of New South Wales, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Hanyang University.