State-of-the-art research "made in Switzerland"

​Internationally renowned and envied by our partners, the NCCRs promote long-term, innovative research projects in areas of vital strategic importance for the future of Swiss science, the Swiss economy and Swiss society. The 14 NCCRs of the first series, concluded in 2013 after 12 years of intensive research work, have produced 24,391 publications, 341 patents and 79 start-ups as well as serving as the training ground for 3105 doctoral students and 1819 postdoctoral researchers.

Would such a performance have been possible without highly qualified employees from abroad? The NCCR statistics give a clear answer with regard to the "made in Switzerland" aspect, thanks to which Switzerland is at the cutting edge of research and innovation according to the majority of indicators. Of the 3105 doctoral students educated within the scope of the 14 NCCRs, 1993 (64%) are not Swiss nationals. Among postdocs the figure is even higher: 1430 out of 1819 (79%). Of the 105 nationalities represented at doctoral level, the first five positions go to, in descending order: Germany, Italy, France, India and China. The situation is quite similar at postdoc level, except that China moves up to fourth place and the United States fill the fifth slot in place of India. The vast majority of doctoral students (82%) obtained their first degree abroad. As for postdocs, 85% of them did their doctorate abroad. One could also mention the 345 collaborations effected within the scope of European programmes and the 2524 other international scientific collaborations that took place in the context of the first 14 NCCRs.

In terms of output, approximately 3/4 of doctoral students found their first job within academia (38% outside Switzerland). Most of the others opted for the private sector (20%) and the remainder for the public sector (5%). The figures are similar at postdoc level, with a large share of researchers pursuing their academic careers outside Switzerland (48%). *

Switzerland thus benefits twice from these highly qualified employees recruited on the global stage: at the level of input, they boost the research conducted in the NCCRs; at the level of output, their skills are invaluable for both academia and the private sector. This Switzerland is an open and dynamic Switzerland, a country that transcends differences and affirms its excellence through the strong internationalisation of its state-of-the-art research.

Dimitri Sudan, a geographer and sociologist, is head of the Programmes division of the SNSF (National Centres of Competence in Research and National Research Programmes). His responsibilities include knowledge and technology transfer, cooperation with the CTI and research data management.

 *As a report issued recently by the Federal Council has shown, the question of opportunities for young researchers in Switzerland is a sensitive one, although measures have been proposed to improve the situation.

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