Research in Switzerland under pressure: Federal Councillor Schneider-Ammann visits the SNSF


This picture shows Johann Schneider-Ammann, the federal Councillor and Martin Vetterli.  © SNF / Mauro Mellone

Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann today met with those in charge at the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). They discussed the current situation and further procedure with regard to the Temporary Backup Measures launched at short notice by the SNSF as well as Switzerland's possible temporary exclusion from Horizon 2020.

The acceptance of the mass immigration initiative two months ago (on 09.02.2014) has resulted in Switzerland being temporarily excluded from European research funding. On 7 March, the Federal Council therefore commissioned the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER) to prepare interim solutions for 2014 which would allow for the direct financing of researchers in collaboration projects and single projects in connection with Horizon 2020.

Federal Councillor Schneider-Ammann welcomes the SNSF initiative

"In the interests of Swiss research and SMEs, the full association of Switzerland with Horizon 2020 is still the primary goal pursued by the Federal Council. I welcome the SNSF's initiative as a temporary measure to prevent any detrimental effects on researchers in Switzerland," Federal Councillor and Head of the EAER Schneider-Ammann said during his visit to the SNSF. In his conversation with the President of the Foundation Council Gabriele Gendotti, the President of the National Research Council Martin Vetterli and senior management staff at the SNSF, the Federal Councillor said he was particularly impressed by the speed at which the SNSF had been able to set up the Temporary Backup Schemes in coordination with the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) and issue a call for Starting Grants as an initial measure. He added that these schemes helped to maintain as far as possible the competitiveness of Switzerland as a centre of research and innovation in the global arena. The call for proposals for SNSF Starting Grants met with a very positive response from researchers.

No substitute for internationality

"The Backup Schemes developed by the SNSF can only serve as a temporary emergency measure," the President of the Research Council Martin Vetterli said, adding that there was no substitute for international competition in the medium and long term. In addition, the Temporary Backup Schemes provided less funding for the researchers than the grants of the European Research Council (ERC). Researchers based in Switzerland have been highly successful in acquiring ERC grants in the past years. Between 2007 and 2013, Switzerland contributed EUR 240 million towards the financing of all ERC funding schemes, whereas the grants awarded by the ERC to successful applicants from Switzerland amounted to EUR 500 million during this period.

SNSF Starting Grants: 145 applications for grants worth 1.5 million

As an initial measure within the scope of the Temporary Backup Schemes, researchers were given the opportunity to submit applications for SNSF Starting Grants until 25 March 2014. All in all, 145 researchers seized this opportunity, requesting a total funding amount of CHF 219 million. The maximum grant per project amounts to CHF 1.5 million for a running time of up to five years.

Of the submitted applications, 88% come from researchers already employed at a research institution in Switzerland; 12% are currently working abroad and would conduct their research project at an institution in Switzerland if it is approved. The highly internationalised nature of research in Switzerland is reflected in the fact that only 36% of the applicants have a Swiss passport. The following higher education institutions are most often mentioned as home institutions by the applicants: University of Zurich: 29; ETH Zurich: 22; ETH Lausanne: 16; University of Geneva; 16; University of Bern: 14; University of Basel: 11; other research institutions: 37

The SNSF will evaluate the submitted proposals in the coming months and make the corresponding funding decisions by the end of 2014. The call for SNSF Starting Grants will be followed by a call for SNSF Consolidator Grants, with the deadline for submission being 20 May 2014.

For further information please contact: 

Rudolf Christen, Head of Information EAER,
Phone 031 322 39 60

Jürg Dinner, Head of Communication SNSF,
Phone 079 701 53 62