NCCRs promote long-term research networks in areas of strategic importance for Swiss science, the Swiss economy and Swiss society. They have three main distinguishing features:
- outstanding, internationally visible research
- knowledge and technology transfer
- education and promotion of women
The NCCR management teams are based at a higher education institution or at another renowned research institution. Besides the research groups based at the home institution, a centre of competence also avails itself of a network of other teams across Switzerland. This enables the NCCRs to contribute to better improve research structures in Switzerland.
The federal funding assigned to the NCCRs is determined by parliament. In addition, they receive funding from the higher education institutions and from third parties. Twenty-eight NCCRs have been set up since 2001.