Promotion of academic careers and young researchers: the SNSF sees a need for action


In its multi-year programme 2017-2020, the SNSF responds to the challenges facing researchers in Switzerland. In particular, it has identified a strong need for supporting for academic careers.

In 2014 the SNSF invested more funds than ever before in project and career funding, awarding a total of CHF 849 million to 3469 research projects. In addition, it spent CHF 92 million on the Temporary Backup Schemes, a short-term measure compensating for the stoppage of research funding by the EU.

High pace of change calls for targeted measures and funding

Competition-based project funding will continue to be the core business of the SNSF. It acknowledges, however, that science as such is changing rapidly. Research themes as well as the manner in which research is conducted, disseminated and assessed are being transformed in many areas of science. In its multi-year programme 2017-2020, the SNSF presents specific measures for meeting the challenges facing Swiss research; it estimates that it will require funding to the tune of CHF 4.5 billion for this four-year period. To ensure that Swiss research can stay strong and globally competitive, financial and political priority must be given to education, research and innovation.

Support for ambitious and motivated young researchers

Ambitious and motivated young scientists are central to the sustainable promotion of research excellence. For this reason, the SNSF and its partners agree that talented researchers in Switzerland must be offered clearer and more appealing career prospects. It has earmarked about one-fifth of the total funds budgeted in its multi-year programme for measures aimed at facilitating academic careers. Among other things, it plans to:

  • upgrade funding schemes that promote scientific independence;
  • offer grants for assistant professorships with tenure track (APTT grants) to support the planned establishment of such positions with clear-cut career prospects at higher education institutions;
  • introduce a new funding option called PRIMA (Promote Women in Academia), which aims to provide adequate support for outstanding women researchers.
  • make the SNSF professorship scheme more flexible and bring it into line with the changing conditions at universities and the needs of universities of applied sciences and universities of teacher education.

Knowledge transfer: building bridges with the CTI

In order to speed up knowledge transfer in society and business, the SNSF aims to supplement its existing knowledge and technology transfer measures with activities at the interface of research and innovation in collaboration with the Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI). With the planned Bridge programme, the two organisations aim to reap greater benefit from the innovation potential of pre-competitive research, before the development of market-oriented products. Bridge is geared to support young researchers in testing their application ideas so that they gain the confidence needed to step out into the business world. In addition, universities and universities of applied sciences will be able to conduct joint projects within the scope of Bridge.

Uncertainty over Europe: the need for flexibility

Switzerland's future participation in the European research programme "Horizon 2020" remains uncertain. This obliges the SNSF to plan flexibly for the 2017-2020 period. The present multi-year programme could be subject to substantial changes if Switzerland's non-association with Horizon 2020 becomes a reality in 2017. The SNSF has therefore decided to develop special scenarios for such an event. What is already clear today is that national funding initiatives, such as the Temporary Backup Schemes launched as a stop-gap measure, will not be able to serve as a long-term substitute for the lack of European competition. Internationality and integration into the European Research Area are essential for the future of excellent research in Switzerland.


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