National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCRs): the SNSF launches a new call

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Long-term research on strategic topics: the SNSF is launching a new series of National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCRs) on behalf of the federal government. This new call is thematically open and is aimed at all disciplines.

Five successful series of National Centres of Competence in Research have been launched since 2001 – a sixth will be added in 2026. With the NCCRs selected by the federal government, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) funds long-term research projects on topics of strategic importance for Switzerland. The participating researchers work in interdisciplinary and cross-university networks. Through collaboration over a long period of time and various measures, such as new training programmes, the NCCRs contribute to strengthening the funded research area and to the long-term establishment of research priorities in the Swiss higher education landscape. In addition to the federal contribution, the NCCRs are also financed by the higher education institution's own resources and third-party funds.

The tasks of the SNSF and the federal authorities

The NCCR selection procedure consists of several stages and is based on legally defined objectives and criteria. In a first step, the SNSF evaluates the submitted outline proposals and subsequent full proposals according to scientific, structural and organisational criteria. Based on this evaluation, the SNSF will recommend a selection of excellent NCCR proposals to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for funding in autumn 2025.

The SERI is responsible for the second step in the selection process, the research and higher education policy assessment and prioritisation of the proposals recommended by the SNSF. It prepares the decision of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER). The latter is expected to make the final funding decisions at the beginning of 2026. In the final selection, the federal government will assess the recommended NCCR proposals based on its research policy priorities.

The EAER is expected to approve 6 to 9 NCCRs. The start of research work is planned for the first half of 2026. The precise modalities of the process are set out in the 6th NCCR call document.

More transparent selection procedure

Together with the federal government, the SNSF has adapted the framework for the NCCR call and further developed the selection procedure. Recommendations from evaluation studies on previous NCCR selection rounds are also taken into account. Proposals for smaller NCCRs – in terms of consortia size and/or budget – and proposals with a shorter duration are also explicitly welcomed. The NCCRs promote an exemplary gender balance at all levels within their consortia and especially in scientific leadership positions. There is also further potential to promote a broader participation of researchers from all types of higher education institutions in the NCCRs.

The adjustments to the selection procedure are intended in particular to increase transparency:

  • The applicants and home institutions involved are informed about the declarations of intent and full proposals received.
  • The composition of the panels will be announced four weeks before the evaluation meeting on the outline proposals and full proposals.
  • The SNSF is expanding self-declaration for all persons involved in the evaluation process in order to identify and exclude potential conflicts of interest as early as possible in the two evaluation stages (outline proposal and full proposal). Furthermore, the criteria for identifying conflicts of interests in the NCCR selection procedure are specified in the call document.
  • The role of applicants is optimised when recruiting international reviewers. In the context of the declaration of intent, they will be given the opportunity to define the expertise required for the evaluation of their NCCR proposal. In addition, the SNSF will have the NCCR proposals assessed by even more reviewers in order to achieve a more broad-based scientific evaluation.
  • The SERI expects the SNSF to select excellent NCCRs without ranking them.

As part of the new call, the SNSF will offer online information events for researchers as well as for representatives of the universities and research institutions.