Jean-Michel Benkert is fascinated by the abstract, by theory. “But a theory must have a
practical use,” says the first recipient of the scholarship awarded by the UBS
International Center of Economics in Society. Anyone who, like him, was a student during
the financial crisis, is inclined to be skeptical about theories. After all, during the
crisis many theories failed to deliver on what they had promised. As such, Benkert’s focus
is always on finding practical solutions to problems.
Before this can happen, the first thing that needs to be done is to develop a concrete
question from a theoretical idea. This is an art, and it requires discussion with others.
That is why Benkert has now sought out the University of Zurich - because of the many
like-minded people he has found there.
In addition to a critical mass of postgraduate students and researchers, Benkert also
regards it as very important that there is a good level of supervision by professors. As
a scholarship holder, he appreciates the independence that the UBS Center gives him. It
gives him the opportunity to shape his ideas in an interdisciplinary environment. For him,
the important thing is to take advantage of the entire research spectrum and to keep an
inquiring mind. He therefore looks forward to the chance to exchange thoughts and ideas
with leading figures from academia, the private and public sector at the events held by
the UBS Center. “I think there are valuable synergies to be exploited through interaction
with other disciplines, and in particular with society. The UBS Center provides a valuable
shared platform for doing so,” says Benkert.
What interests Benkert is how we can use game theory to find solutions that can be applied
to the economy. How, for example, can tasks be distributed so that the objective is
achieved? Especially when the interests of the person who is placing the order are not the
same as the interests of the person who is carrying it out. Incentives are the lynchpin
here, according to Benkert.