Research landscape

Working in Europe | Research Landscape | Switzerland

Switzerland is among the world’s most competitive countries. It regularly appears near or at the top of the list in prominent international comparisons, such as the Global Competitiveness Report, the Global Innovation Index and the Innovation Union Scoreboard.

In terms of the volume of published scientific articles per inhabitant, Switzerland tops rankings in international comparison. In addition, Swiss research publications receive above-average recognition within the international research community. Participation to date in the EU’s competitive framework research programmes has also been successful. Swiss researchers excel both in terms of the success rate of submitted bids and the amount of secured funding.

Structure

The Swiss higher education and research system strongly adheres to the principles of autonomy, academic freedom and scientific excellence. It comprised of a diverse and comprehensive range of high-quality cantonal universities, federal institutes of technology, universities of applied sciences and universities of teacher education. It follows the tiered study model of Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. In addition, the cantonal universities and federal institutes of technology also award PhDs. PhD courses combine both teaching and research and prepare students for research-oriented activities in a university or non-university field. All higher education institutions are active in teaching, research, continuing education and training and the provision of services to third parties.

Have a look at the recognised and accredited Swiss Higher Education Institutions.

The traditional distribution of private and public sector roles has meant that fundamental research has mainly been the preserve of federal institutes of technology and cantonal universities. In contrast, applied research and the development of research findings into marketable innovations have mainly been driven by the private sector and the universities of applied sciences.

Public expenditure for research is mainly the result of personal initiatives on the part of researchers. Research funding is awarded on a competitive basis, according to qualitative assessment criteria. The Confederation is responsible for providing research funding through two federal agencies: the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the Commission for Innovation and Technology (CTI). The Confederation also provides funding to the institutions and research institutes within the ETH Domain as well as to thirty non-university research infrastructures. For their part, the cantons are responsible for managing and co-funding cantonal universities and universities of applied sciences.

International research cooperation is very important to Switzerland. First, it enables our country to take part in numerous international research organisations, such as CERN, and in multi-year research programmes, such as the EU’s framework research programmes.

In addition, it allows Switzerland to pursue bilateral research cooperation with selected priority countries. The high internationalisation of its academic workforce with 57% of its research population coming from abroad is one of Switzerland’s strengths. With more than a third of Swiss researchers abroad, Switzerland can also be seen as a platform for the circulation of researchers.