The three best essays of the contest were published in Nature:



What does a perfect research institute look like? One that constantly adapts to the needs of different people and is open to all? One that fulfils everything you wished for? One that protects its staff from paperwork and helps them to create better science? One that’s fully funded, completely inclusive, and promotes creativity above all else? What would it look like, feel like, be like? How far do we dare to go in our thinking?

Share your vision with us! Send us a written essay on the topic of an ideal research institute and participate in the Utopia Institute of Research Essay Contest.



The authors of the three best stories, identified by an international jury of scientists and writers, will be invited, with paid travel, to present their essays at the EU-LIFE 10th Anniversary Conference: Envisioning the research centres of the future (6-7 June 2023, Lisbon, Portugal). The author of the best essay will be awarded a prize of 5,000 €, the two best runners-up will receive 2,500 € each. The winning story will be considered for eventual publication in Nature, after editing. The winner and runners-up will also receive a complementary one-year print and online subscription to Nature.



A prose or verse piece in English of maximum 1,000 words. An essay describing or involving an imaginary, ideal research institute. Further details, such as any specific research direction or topic, is left to you. The ideal institute could be the topic of the essay, or merely a backdrop for a different plot. It could be the place of a love story, a thriller, or a psycho-drama.

Accompanying drawings and graphics are welcome but not required and will not be part of the selection criteria. Essays involving discrimination or offence of people by nation, gender or religion will not be considered.  


Evaluation Procedure

The EU-LIFE Office will review the minimal formal requirements (language, length, scope) and pass it on to a jury consisting of five individuals who will score the essays according to originality, inventiveness, ability to inspire, quality of vision and writing quality.

    Who can submit

    Open to all of any age, any walk of life, of any nationality. Members of EU-LIFE institutes are encouraged to participate but will not be favored. No pseudonyms are allowed. Only original work submitted by the authors is allowed. It is not possible to submit for somebody else. Each author can only contribute one essay. Members of the jury are not allowed to participate. The authors retain copyrights but grant permission to EU-LIFE and Nature for the use of the essay. More information in the Terms & Conditions. Sign up here for updates and tips.






    Important dates

    • Deadline for applications - 9 March 2023
    • Notification to awardees - end of April 2023
    • Award ceremony - 6 June 2023
    Image by Iris Joval


    About EU-LIFE

    EU-LIFE is an alliance of research centres whose mission is to support and strengthen European research excellence. EU-LIFE members are leading research institutes in their countries and internationally renowned for producing excellent research, widely transferring knowledge and nurturing talent. Since its foundation in 2013, EU-LIFE is a stakeholder in European policy participating regularly in the EU policy dialogue. 

    About Nature

    Nature is a weekly international journal publishing the finest peer-reviewed research in all fields of science and technology on the basis of its originality, importance, interdisciplinary interest, timeliness, accessibility, elegance and surprising conclusions. Nature also provides rapid, authoritative, insightful and arresting news and interpretation of topical and coming trends affecting science, scientists and the wider public.