On 27 November 1895, a year before his death, Alfred Nobel signed the famous will which would implement some of the goals to which he had devoted so much of his life. Nobel stipulated in his will that most of his estate, more than SEK 31 million (today approximately SEK 1,794 million) should be converted into a fund and invested in “safe securities”.
The income from the investments was to be “distributed annually in the form of prizes to those who during the preceding year have conferred the greatest benefit on humankind.”
The Nobel Foundation is a private institution established in 1900 on the basis of the will. The investment policy of the Foundation is naturally of paramount importance to the preservation and, if possible the augmentation of the funds and, thus, of the prize amount. According to the original 1901 investment rules, the term “safe securities” was, in the spirit of that time, interpreted to mean gilt-edged bonds or loans backed by such securities or backed by mortgages on real estate. With the changes brought about by the two World Wars and their economic and financial aftermath, the term “safe securities” had to be reinterpreted in the light of prevailing economic conditions and tendencies. Thus, at the request of the Foundation’s Board of Directors, in the early 1950s the Swedish Government sanctioned changes, whereby the board for all practical purposes was given a free hand to invest not only in real estate, bonds and secured loans, but also in most types of stocks.
From 1901, when the first prizes (SEK 150,000 each) were awarded, the prize amounts declined steadily. But with this freedom to invest, along with the long-fought-for tax-exemption granted in 1946, it was possible to reverse this trend and, on average, even keep pace with increasing inflation. The real value of the prize amount in SEK terms was finally restored in 1991. The amount of the 2019 Nobel Prize is set to SEK 9.0 million.
The Nobel Foundation annual report 2018 (pdf)
Nobelstiftelsen. Årsredovisning 2018 (pdf)
The Nobel Foundation annual review 2018 (pdf)
Nobelstiftelsen. Verksamhetsberättelse 2018 (pdf)
Table showing prize amounts (pdf)
Guidelines concerning responsible investments for the Nobel Foundation’s asset management (pdf)
Riktlinjer rörande ansvarsfulla investeringar för Nobelstiftelsens kapitalförvaltning (pdf)
Find publications from earlier years here