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Switzerland is a small open economy, with overall good performance and outstanding strengths in science, technology and innovation. Maintaining its leading position in global research and innovation is an overarching objective. The federal government’s strategy document, Promotion of Education, Research and Innovation (ERI Dispatch) 2013-16, therefore aims to reinforce the high level of competition based public R&D investment, to increase the provision of well-qualified human resources and to ensure framework conditions that are conducive to innovation and help maintain Switzerland’s position in international competition. The government’s Financial Plan stipulates that the ERI budget should grow at an above-average rate of 3.7% a year during 2013-16, with a total planned federal expenditure of around USD 35.6 billion (CHF 26 billion). The Swiss Parliament approved 11 relevant budget lines totalling USD 32.9 billion (CHF 24 billion).

Hot Issues

Hot Issues are major national STI policy priorities, as self-reported by countries in their responses to the OECD STIO 2014 policy questionnaire.

Improving public research

The Swiss science system is very productive: R&D expenditures of universities and public research institutes were 0.9% of GDP in 2012 (Panel 1a), and performance in scientific publications tops the OECD ranks (Panel 1c). Patenting by universities and PRIs is above the OECD median (Panel 1p).<br /> <br /> The ERI Dispatch gives priority to strengthening Switzerland’s international reputation as a competitive location for research and economic activities by increasing the amount of grant funding awarded on a competitive basis for research and innovation. The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)’s Council initiated an evaluation of SNSF with a view to assessing and improving the SNSF’s evaluation procedures in terms of their fairness and transparency and the extent to which they promote research excellence, increase the competitiveness of Swiss research and of researchers in Switzerland, and promote young researchers. The largely positive evaluation recommended a reform of the processes and procedures for external evaluations of funding applications, greater transparency through better documentation and information provision, and regular, systematic reviews and possible revisions of funding schemes.

Encouraging innovation in firms and supporting entrepreneurship and SMEs

The country’s tertiary-qualified adult population and the performance of 15-year-olds in science are slightly above the OECD median (Panel 1t, v). Doctoral graduates in S&E top the OECD ranks (Panel 1w). A lack of specialists is however perceived as an increasingly acute problem owing to demographic developments. It may be exacerbated by restrictions on immigration. In response, the September 2011 Specialists Initiative of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs (FDEA) was launched to meet the demand for specialists to a greater extent with Swiss human resources by 2020. The Law on Support and Co-ordination of Higher Education Institutes (LEHE) makes the federal and canton governments jointly responsible for the co-ordination and quality assurance of HEIs and constitutes a major reform of the Swiss higher education system. LEHE was adopted by the Federal Parliament in autumn 2011 but will not come into effect before 2015.

Improving the supply of high-end HRST and researchers

The Swiss government is committed to providing good framework conditions for innovation through a high-quality education system, a flexible legal framework, a reliable IPR system, the removal of regulatory constraints and good infrastructures. In 2013 the Commission forTechnology and Innovation (CTI) introduced CTI KTT SUPPORT to foster knowledge and technology transfer (KTT) between research centres and firms. CTI also introduced national thematic networks (NTNs) aimed at boosting innovation capacity, especially through improved access for SMEs to scientific research findings. NTNs act as a bridge between industry and academia and provide industry with access to research-related facilities. Since 1 January 2013, eight have been accredited by CTI and are up and running. Innovation Mentors is a support measure to help create contacts and identify and implement ways of encouraging innovation. In 2013, nine innovation mentors were recruited to work at the CTI. The KTT Platforms bring together representatives from the world’s business and science communities and provide a physical, interactive interface between innovation mentors and NTNs.

Country Charts

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Selected Highlights

STI policy governance

Swiss governance features a reliance on bottom-up processes and federalism, with the Confederation and cantons sharing responsibility for research and higher education policy. Since 1 January 2013, the Federal Department of Economic Affairs (FDEA) has become the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER), reflecting the integration of training, research and innovation as an economic policy issue. The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) at the EAER serves as the federal government’s specialised agency for national and international matters concerning education, research and innovation policy.

New challenges

The Federal Council has drawn up measures to secure the country’s future energy supply. As part of its new Energy Strategy 2050, it emphasises increased energy savings (energy efficiency), the expansion of new renewable energies, and fossil fuel-based electricity production (cogeneration facilities, gas-fired combined-cycle power plants) and imports if necessary. Research on green energy is to play a strategic role in this context and will receive an additional USD 277 million (CHF 202 million) to support young scientists in energy-related research and to promote the “Energy” Programme and the inter-university Swiss Competence Centres for Energy Research.

Technology transfers and commercialisation

The CTI seeks to foster the development of innovative products and services by encouraging HEIs and companies to work together on joint R&D projects. A new initiative, CTI INNOVATION CHEQUE, gives firms an incentive to carry out R&D activities and facilitates their initial co-operation on innovation with public research facilities. Since the launch of the first batch of innovation cheques in September 2012, CTI has received a total of 272 applications, of which 38 were approved for funding in the Innovation Cheque budget for 2013.


Swiss research and innovation has strong international links (Panel 1q, r), and framework conditions for attracting FDI and human resources both in businesses and universities are generally favourable. A federal strategy for the internationalisation of education, research and innovation was adopted in 2010. On 13 September 2013, Parliament adopted the Federal decree on Swiss involvement in Horizon 2020 (2014-20) with USD 6 billion (CHF 4.4 billion) over a seven-year period. The federal government also earmarked some USD 31.9 million (CHF 23.3 million) for Swiss participation in the EU Co-operation in Science and Technology (COST) programme for 2013-16. For bilateral co-operation, the ERI Dispatch (2013-16) identified the BRICS countries, Japan and Korea as high priorities.