Henri de Castries, Chairman & CEO of AXA
If there is an industry in the world whose major concern is to define its vision, strategy and priorities for the long term, it is definitely insurance and asset management. The very nature of our business - protecting our clients, their families and their goods against potential but uncertain risks - requires that we allocate time and resources to developing our knowledge and reinforcing our understanding and prevention of those risks.
Driven by this conviction, in 2007 we created the AXA Research Fund. Its mission is to finance fundamental research on global risks that have an impact on people and the planet.
We wanted to support science because we thought research is about taking a risk: there is the risk of not finding anything, the risk of following a dead-end road, but also and most importantly, the risk of making discoveries! Research is about facing unknown risks in order to expand known territories; it is refusing the "cold feet" attitude to stimulate creativity.
As an insurer as well as an asset manager, we know the value of informed risk-taking. We know progress exists and solutions come about only by accepting confrontations with risk and overcoming overly cautious attitudes.
We then made the choice to support fundamental research because it represents the substrate of scientific progress, because it may lead to revolutionary discoveries and because it challenges conventional ideas.
An insurer knows that the greatest risks always appear suddenly from where it is least expected.
Lastly, we wanted our efforts to have a philanthropic logic, not simply for generosity purposes but because we thought preserving the independence and freedom of the researchers stimulates their creativity, protects their credibility and facilitates the sharing of their discoveries by all socio-economic stakeholders.
We hope our efforts will ensure that public policies, particularly in terms of investment and prevention choices, are designed according to the most accurate and recent scientific knowledge. Indeed, in an environment where there are more and more global risks and continuous changes at a rapid pace, strengthening the dialogue between researchers and the public and private spheres has become of utmost importance.
After the first six years of the AXA Research Fund's existence, we have doubled the budget dedicated to this scientific philanthropic initiative, to €200 million till 2018. This will allow us to continue to support scientific discoveries, facilitate their dissemination and encourage researchers to nurture the public debate.
By betting on the strong engine of scientific progress and the construction of long-term approaches based on a good understanding of the world and intelligent risk management, we hope to contribute to a better future together.