Basic research

© Aurel Märki / SNF

The core mission of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) is to select and fund the best basic research projects.

​Basic research …

  • … generates scientific insights into humans and the natural world.
  • … is impartial and does not pursue any commercial interests.
  • … relies on public funding.
  • … paves the way for both technical and social innovation and is therefore essential for social prosperity in the long term.
  • … starts a process that continues with use-inspired research and ends with the development of real-world applications.
  • … accounts for the majority of SNSF-funded projects.
  • Benefits of basic research

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    ​The work of researchers often bears fruit only after years or even decades have passed. Tracing applications back to specific research projects is generally impossible. However, there are some exceptions to this rule where the origin of the central idea for an application can be identified. Here are a few examples:

    What’s intelligent about artificial intelligence?

    General intelligence may be nothing more than the ability for someone - or something – to achieve their goals in lots of different environments. Applying this insight, Swiss researchers were able to take artificial intelligence to a new level.

    Why kids skip school (& what to do about it)

    We know that kids skip school, but are only now learning what to do to keep them in the classroom. To find this out, researchers funded by the SNSF asked teachers, parents and the kids who skipped school themselves.

    Why you should abandon some of your dreams

    Psychologists found that, sometimes, giving up on a dream can make us happier than actually seeing it through. The research funded by the SNSF influenced therapy and coaching worldwide.

    • Tuesday, 18 June 2019: Video

    How serendipity led to a new cancer treatment

    Cancer has proven hard to beat, but a promising new type of treatment can use the disease's own powers against it. The discovery was made by accident by researchers in Switzerland whose aim was studying the immune system.

    For more examples, visit our Instagram page:

  • What motivates researchers

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    Why do we need basic research? SNSF-funded researchers share their views:

    Christian Cajochen

    Sleep researcher at the University of Basel:

    Mathilde Bouvel

    Mathematician at the University of Zurich:

    Hugo Zbinden

    Quantum physicist at the University of Geneva:

    Elsbeth Stern

    Cognition researcher at ETH Zurich:

    Francesca Falk

    Historian at the University of Fribourg:

    Fabien Sori

    Materials scientist at EPFL:

    Projects conducted by Fabien Sorin

    Anna-Sapfo Malaspinas

    Population geneticist at the University of Lausanne:

  • News

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