Strategically important: Call for new NCCR series in November 2023

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Five successful series of National Centres of Competence in Research have been launched since 2001 – a sixth is expected to start in early 2026. The SNSF will publish the call for proposals in the second half of November 2023.

With the National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCRs), the SNSF promotes long-term research projects of the highest quality on topics of strategic importance for Switzerland. The NCCRs form networks and thus contribute to sustainable priorities and structures in the Swiss higher education landscape. In 2022, the SNSF supported the 14 ongoing NCCRs with around CHF 53 million francs. In addition to the SNSF funds, the NCCRs receive funding from the hosting higher education institutions and from third parties. 42 NCCRs have been launched so far, of which 28 have been completed. The NCCRs have a maximum duration of twelve years.

Open to all topics and disciplines

In the second half of November 2023, the SNSF will publish a call for a sixth series of NCCRs on behalf of the Swiss Confederation. This sixth NCCR call will be thematically open and is therefore aimed at all disciplines. Proposals for smaller centres of competence – in terms of consortia size and budget – and centres with a shorter duration are explicitly welcomed.

Interested researchers must submit a letter of intent to the SNSF in February 2024. The submission deadline for outline proposals will be in April 2024 and full proposals will have to be submitted in the first quarter of 2025. The start of research activities is planned for the beginning of 2026.

Divided tasks between the SNSF and the Swiss Confederation

The NCCR selection process is multi-stage and based on legally defined objectives and criteria. SNSF and the Swiss Confederation share their tasks in this process. The SNSF evaluates the proposals scientifically and structurally and recommends a selection of outstanding NCCR proposals to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for funding.

The SERI is responsible for assessing and prioritising the recommended proposals in terms of research and higher education policy. The Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER) makes the final funding decisions.

The SNSF will publish a more comprehensive description of the selection process and a detailed timetable with the sixth NCCR call in the second half of November 2023.

Long-term structuring and prioritisation through NCCRs – three highlights

Professorships. The NCCRs strengthen their thematic priorities across the research landscape. Between 2001 and 2022, more than 150 full professorships and more than 160 assistant professorships were created as a result of NCCRs. In addition, the successors of more than 75 professors were selected taking into account the research topic of an NCCR.

Research networks. The research networks established in the NCCRs often continue beyond the end of their funding period. For example, the LIVES Centre will continue to research the life course of vulnerable groups, thereby providing a decision-making basis for administration and politics.

Study programmes. The NCCRs anchor their research areas in university teaching. For example, the NCCRs Chemical Biology and Robotics have established corresponding degree programmes at their home institutions; graduates receive an interdisciplinary education that opens up career paths within and outside of academia.