Development of career funding schemes for the 2017-2020 period: key decisions


Aiming to guarantee the competitiveness of Swiss research, the SNSF has decided to develop its career funding schemes - even if some of the measures envisaged in the multi-year plan 2017-2020 cannot be implemented yet for financial reasons. The innovations will focus on earlier scientific independence for promising young researchers.

The SNSF is convinced that academic careers need to be made more attractive for young researchers if Switzerland is to maintain its leading position in international research. Mobility funding at an early stage is intended to facilitate networking and independence from the home institution. The SNSF wishes to offer promising young researchers who have the potential for an academic career - perhaps even for a full professorship in due course - the possibility to make a name for themselves with a project of their own. Furthermore, the SNSF has a wide range of measures in place to support gender equality. In particular, PRIMA, the new funding scheme for the promotion of women scientists at postdoc level, is intended to enlarge the pool of future women professors.

Complementary to project funding

Career funding will be brought closer into line with project funding thanks largely to the extension of the Ambizione career scheme to young researchers who already have a position. In addition, 2018 will see the launch of a new scheme at assistant professor level, which, like Ambizione, will be open to researchers regardless of their employment status. With these innovations, the SNSF aims to support the structural change envisaged in the Federal Council's report "Massnahmen zur Förderung des wissenschaftlichen Nachwuchses in der Schweiz" (Measures to promote young researchers in Switzerland) and to create career prospects for young researchers in close coordination with the higher education institutions.

Setting a course for the future

The SNSF set the course for development of the future career funding schemes once the financial situation had become clear. In this context, it made the following key decisions for the 2017-2020 funding period:

  • As of 2017, Ambizione will also be open to young researchers with non-professorial research positions offering career prospects. As a result, they will be able to apply for Ambizione grants with or without a salary in the future. The aim of the redesigned scheme is to bring about direct competition for research funds between all young researchers at the same stage in their careers, regardless of whether they already have a position.
  • PRIMA (Promoting Women in Academia) will be the new funding scheme for outstanding women researchers at postdoc level as of autumn 2017. PRIMA grants will be more generously funded than Marie Heim-Vögtlin grants and will permit more flexible use of the funds. Grantees can already benefit from measures such as payment of childcare costs or temporarily reduced working hours today without having to submit a Marie Heim-Vögtlin application; these measures have now been incorporated into all funding schemes for male and female researchers instead. As a result, the SNSF will not issue any further calls for the Marie Heim-Vögtlin scheme. The details of the PRIMA funding scheme are currently being fleshed out.
  • Doc.Mobility will not be discontinued in the course of the ongoing multi-year period, but only at the end of 2020. This will give the universities time to implement their respective strategies during the 2017-2020 period.
  • The Doc.Grants scheme to finance doctoral theses in all disciplines in Switzerland on a topic of the applicant's own choosing cannot be introduced for financial reasons. However, the existing Doc.CH scheme for the humanities and social sciences will be continued.
  • The planned merger of Early Postdoc.Mobility (EPM) and Advanced Postdoc.Mobility (APM) to form Postdoc.Mobility and the changeover to a national competition have been postponed until 2021.
  • The SNSF Research Commissions will continue to participate in the evaluation of Doc.CH, Doc.Mobility and EPM until the end of 2020.
  • As of 2018, SNSF professorships will be incorporated into a new scheme which will also be open to newly appointed assistant professors. Grants under the new scheme will be awarded with or without a salary, as in Ambizione. Details of the new scheme are currently under discussion.

Enough time for adjustments

These decisions, taken after talks with university rectors, also give the SNSF Research Commissions and swissuniversities enough time to make the necessary adjustments to mobility funding. Therefore, the goal of making mobility schemes in career funding more coherent, simple and clear can only be achieved after the end of the coming ERI period in 2020. In view of the desired changes in the higher education sector and the developments at European level, the SNSF will continue consulting with its partners to find the best possible means of promoting young researchers.


Division Careers
Marcel Kullin