NRP 77 "Digital Transformation" starts with 37 projects

NRP 77 "Digital Transformation" is starting with 37 research projects. Its aim is to increase our knowledge about the opportunities and risks of digitalisation.

​Digital transformation and how it will impact our society, the world of work, the media and the education sector is one of the burning questions of our time. To make the most of digital opportunities, Switzerland needs to address a number of challenges as well as identify risks at an early stage and devise an appropriate response. "Research has a contribution to make here," says Abraham Bernstein, president of the Steering Committee of NRP 77. "It can provide answers to open questions, proposepolitical options and identify both opportunities and risks. And it can also develop new strategies and solutions for navigating digitalisation."

The National Research Programmes

National Research Programmes (NRPs) comprise research projects that contribute to the solution of contemporary problems of national importance. The Federal Council selects the main topics and research areas for the NRPs and mandates full responsibility for implementing them to the Swiss National Science Foundation.

The Federal Council launched the NRP on "Digital Transformation" in September 2018. The programme's main goal is to generate knowledge about the opportunities and risks of digitalisation for society and the economy. The research work is split across the modules "Education, learning and digital change", "Ethics, trustworthiness and governance" and "Digital economy and labour market". The programme has an overall budget of 30 million francs and research will run for five years.

The programme is one of the measures set out in the Digitalisation Action Plan in the area of education, research and innovation for the years 2019-2020. In the lead-up to NRP 77, the SNSF already launched the call "Digital Lives" in the humanities and social sciences. It mainly addressed questions regarding our understanding and control over digital transformation. The aim was to facilitate innovation among researchers in the humanities and social sciences and encourage them to form networks, both in Switzerland and internationally.

Project selection in NRP 77

A public call for NRP 77 was launched in November 2018. The projects were selected in the two-stage procedure. Based on the 324 pre-proposals received in total, 90 research groups were invited to submit a full proposal. 89 full proposals were submitted. All submissions were assessed by the Steering Committee and peer-reviewed by external experts. In the end, 37 projects were selected and awarded a total budget of 21 million Swiss francs. All of them will be under way by May 2020.

Three modules of NRP 77

The projects of NRP 77 are bundled into three coordinated modules which will study the following aspects of digital change.

Impact of digitalisation on education (content, skills and skills transfer), on life-long learning processes and on institutions of the education sector. The module aims to identify opportunities and challenges and devise strategies for developing the education system at all levels.

Ethical, organisational, legal and technical challenges to safeguard and strengthen trust in digital infrastructures or digital services.

Interactions and impacts of digital change on the economy and the labour market. It will look at new digital markets, forms of organisation and business models and how they impact the world of work, work organisation and work content, as well as at regional development in Switzerland and the opportunities and risks involved.

For the distribution of the 37 projects across the three modules and key information about each project, please refer to the list below. More detailed project descriptions will be published as of June 2020 on the NRP 77 website.

Further call launched

In December 2019, NRP 77 launched a second call aimed at closing specific research gaps that were not adequately covered by the projects approved in the first call. This concerns the modules 1 "Education and learning" and 2 "Ethics, trustworthiness and governance". A total amount of 5.4 million francs is available for the second call. This should be sufficient to fund 8 additional projects.