The Polymath Initiative

What is the Polymath Initiative?

The Polymath Initiative is a project that was launched by the GCSP in May 2021. It seeks to address the “silo thinking” which can lead to policy and governance failures when anticipating the consequences of emerging technologies on societies. This initiative aims to reduce gaps in understanding and communication between the scientific community and the policymaking world. By promoting a “polymath thinking” approach, the GCSP hopes to create a community of scholars on emerging technologies that are conscious of the ethical, security and governance implications. To this effect, three professionals, each specialising in an emerging technology (artificial intelligence, synthetic biology and neuroscience) are offered a 2-year fellowship programme at the GCSP, thanks to the support of the Didier & Martine Primat Foundation. It is expected that the selected scholars will then become influencers in their own scientific communities and they will also be equipped to advocate for “polymath thinking” in the field of emerging technologies and be able to bridge the gap between the tech and science communities and the world of policy and decision-makers.


Why is the GCSP launching this initiative?

The Global and Emerging Risks cluster is deeply involved in understanding and raising awareness about the security and strategic implications of emerging technologies for international peace and security. Emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, and neurotechnology, are increasingly having deep economic, ethical, social, political and security impacts. However, thinking about the societal implications of these technologies remains siloed. Too often do we see technology developments that are not concerned with policy, and policies that are out of touch with technology. Therefore, there is a need for “translators”, individuals able to talk to both the scientific and the policy communities and bridge this gap. Fostering “polymath thinking” is the key strategy this programme is adopting to overcome silo thinking and help deal with the ethical, security and governance challenges stemming from emerging technologies.

Launch webinar






Polymath Initiative

Polymath Initiative – NATO PfPC panel on swarming and the future of warfare : feasibility, impacts, governance at the 2023 REAIM Conference


The Fellowship Programme

The fellowship programme will last two years and will be conducted under the auspices of the Global and Emerging Risks cluster and the Global Fellowship Initiative (GFI). In their first year, the fellows will be given the opportunity to attend and contribute to GCSP workshops, events, courses in order to familiarise themselves with the issues related to global governance, ethics and international peace and security. In their second year, the fellows will then have the opportunity to contribute to GCSP publications on these topics, in addition. Throughout their fellowship, fellows will have access to the GCSP’s wide network of experts and alumni. Successful candidates should have deep technical expertise in synthetic biology, artificial intelligence or neuroscience and a desire to learn more about the governance and ethical and security implications of emerging technologies and the willingness to share their insights with non-specialists.



The Polymath initiative is generously supported by the Didier and Martine Primat Foundation.

The Didier et Martine Primat Foundation is a Swiss-based registered charity. Its purpose is to raise public awareness of the global challenges caused by human activities and help to shape a more responsible world by supporting educational projects and concrete actions that encourage a more conscious and sustainable way of life.


Project Team


Dr Jean Marc Rickli

Dr Jean-Marc Rickli, Head of Polymath Initiative

Dr Jean-Marc Rickli is the Head of Global and Emerging Risks and the Founder and Head of the Polymath Initiative at the GCSP. He is also the co-chair of the NATO Partnership for Peace Consortium (PfPC) Emerging Security Challenges Working Group and a senior advisor for the Artificial Intelligence Initiative at the Future Society. He is the co-curator of the International Security Map of the Strategic Intelligence Platform of the World Economic Forum. He is also a member of the Geneva University Committee for Ethical Research and of the advisory board of Tech4Trust, the first Swiss startup acceleration program in the field of digital trust and cybersecurity. Prior to these appointments, Dr Rickli was an assistant professor at the Department of Defence Studies of King’s College London and at the Institute for International and Civil Security at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi. In 2020, he was nominated as one of the 100 most influential French-speaking Swiss by the Swiss newspaper Le Temps. Dr Rickli received his PhD in International Relations from Oxford University. His latest book published by Georgetown University is entitled Surrogate Warfare: The Transformation of War in the Twenty-first Century.

Read the full bio here


Anne Caroline Pissis-MartelMs Anne Caroline Pissis-Martel, Head of Global Fellowship Initiative and Creative Spark

Anne-Caroline Pissis-Martel is the Director of Global Fellowship Initiative and Creative Spark. Anne-Caroline joined the GCSP in September 2003 and has held different positions throughout this time. She spent a number of years working with the Director of Special Programmes on diplomatic activities and training courses abroad. She then worked with the External Relations Team and, as its Manager, was in charge of the Centre’s external communications - GCSP website, media relations and publications. She later joined the Emerging Security Challenges Programme as a Senior Programme Officer responsible for the Security and Law activities of the Centre. Since 2015, Anne-Caroline coordinates the GCSP Global Fellowship Initiative and currently also heads the development of the Creative Spark.

She holds a Master’s Degree (LL.M.) in International Humanitarian Law, jointly awarded by the Law Faculty of the University of Geneva and the Graduate Institute of International Studies (HEI). She studied Law at Pierre Mendes France, University of Grenoble (France), and after her Maîtrise with specialisation in European Law, she obtained a Diploma from their European Summer Academy on "Europe in Transition".

Prior to her employment at the GCSP, she worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Athens (Greece), and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) in Geneva. Anne-Caroline speaks English, French, Greek, Spanish, Italian and German.

Read the full bio here


Federico MantellassiMr Federico Mantellassi, Research and Project Officer

Federico Mantellassi is a Research and Project Officer at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy where he has worked since 2018. Federico’s research and writing focuses on how emerging technologies impact international security and warfare, as well as on the societal implications of their development and use. Federico is also the project coordinator of the GCSP’s Polymath Initiative; an effort to create a community of scientists able bridge the gap between the scientific and technological community and the world of policy making. Previously, he assisted in the organisation of executive education activities at the GCSP and was the project coordinator of the annual Geneva Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge. He holds a Master’s Degree in Intelligence and International Security from King’s College London, and a Bachelor’s Degree in International Studies from the University of Leiden. Federico speaks English, French and Italian.



Barry osullivanDr Barry O’Sullivan – Artificial Intelligence Fellow – Full Professor, School of Computer Science & IT at University College Cork

Professor O’Sullivan is a full professor at the School of Computer Science & IT at University College Cork. He is founding Director of the Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics at UCC and Director of the SFI Centre for Research Training in AI. He works in the fields of artificial intelligence, constraint programming, operations research, AI/data ethics, and public policy.
He contributes to several global Track II diplomacy efforts at the interface of geopolitics and artificial intelligence.

Professor O'Sullivan is a Fellow and a past President of the European AI Association (EurAI). He is also a Fellow and served as a member of the Executive Council of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI). Professor O'Sullivan has served as Vice Chair of the European Commission’s High-Level Expert Group on AI. 

He currently represents the EU at GPAI - the Global Partnership on AI.
Professor O’Sullivan holds several ministerial appointments, such as Chair of the National Research Ethics Committee for Medical Devices and member of Ireland's AI Advisory Council. His awards include Science Foundation Ireland Researcher of the Year (2016), Member of the Royal Irish Academy (2017), IPEC-EATCS Nerode Prize (2020), Science Foundation Ireland Best International Engagement Award (2021), European AI Association’s Distinguished Service Award (2023).

Kate Adamala

Dr Kate Adamala – Synthetic Biology Fellow – Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota

Kate Adamala is McKnight Land Grant Assistant Professor at University of Minnesota. Her research aims at understanding chemical principles of biology, using artificial cells to create new tools for bioengineering, drug development, and foundational research. Her research interests span questions from the origin and earliest evolution of life, using synthetic biology to colonize space, to the future of biotechnology and medicine. 
Lab info:

Kate is a co-founder and coordinator of the Build-a-Cell, the international synthetic cell engineering community. 
Kate has worked on biosafety and biosecurity implications of emerging synthetic biology technologies, including horizon scanning and safeguard analysis. Her work particularly focuses on synthetic cell engineering and genetic code reprogramming, investigating implications of reprogramming living organisms beyond the bounds of the natural biology.  


Renaud Jolivet.jpeg

Dr Renaud Jolivet – Neurotechnology Fellow – Professor of Neural Engineering & Computation at the Maastricht Centre for Systems Biology at Maastricht University

Prof. Renaud B. Jolivet is Professor of Neural Engineering & Computation at the Maastricht Centre for Systems Biology at Maastricht University, and retains a courtesy appointment at CERN, the particle physics laboratory.  His work focusses on NeuroAI and on neurotechnologies to interface with brain tissue.  Prior to working in the Netherlands, Renaud has worked in Switzerland, Japan and the UK.  He has previously served on the boards of the Initiative for Science in Europe, Marie Curie Alumni Association and Organization for Computational Neuroscience, and was a 2023 Neurotech Fellow of the Foresight Institute. He currently is the stakeholder representative for individual researchers and innovators at the European Commission’s ERA Forum, and the Chair of the Science & Technology Committee of EBRAINS, the European research infrastructure for neurosciences. He is a recipient of the Marie Curie Alumni Association Career Award (2022), and of the André Mischke Young Academy of Europe Prize for Science and Policy 2023, and a Fellow of the International Science Council.

2021-2023 Fellows

Dr Kevin Esvelt – Synthetic Biology Fellow – Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab. 

Dr Sandra Scott Hayward – Artificial Intelligence Fellow – Senior Lecturer, School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Queen’s University Belfast.

Dr Ricardo Chavarriaga – Neurotechnology fellow – Head of the Swiss office of the Confederation of Laboratories for AI Research in Europe, Senior Researcher at Zürich University of Applied Sciences.


Martine and Didier Primat Foundation
Didier & Martine Primat Foundation



To learn more about the GCSP’s Global Fellowship Initiative click here

To learn more about the Global and Emerging Risks cluster click here