Annual report 2021

882 million francs invested in research

In 2021, the SNSF funded around 1800 new research projects with 876 million francs, including 400 fellowships abroad. It also awarded 6 million francs for over 1000 scientific publications, ensuring that they are accessible free of charge. At the end of 2021, 5700 SNSF-funded projects were underway, involving 20,000 researchers, 39% of whom were women.

Learn more about our activities in 2021:

  • Foreword by the SNSF Board

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    No substitute for Horizon Europe

    “Collaboration with European partners is both essential and very productive for our researchers. We are situated right in the heart of Europe, a half-hour away from excellent partner institutions in France, Germany and Italy. The USA and other third countries may complement Europe, but they cannot replace it.”

    This statement, made by State Secretary Martina Hirayama in a press interview, sums up the difficult mission of the SNSF since Switzerland’s non-association to Horizon Europe: to devise and implement alternative international solutions in the short and medium term to support Switzerland’s top re-searchers, knowing that they will not be able to compensate being sidelined by Europe.

    These transitional solutions took the form of a first set of calls for proposals modelled on European funding schemes, executed in close coordination with the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). The calls attracted hundreds of applications from all over the country. We mobilised our entire organisation in response to the current situation, and will continue to do so as long as is necessary. We are also striving to develop bilateral partnerships, for example with the USA. Nevertheless, Switzerland needs to regain its association with the European Research Frame-work Programmes. The competitiveness and quality of the Swiss scientific enterprise are at stake.

    Responding to the pandemic was another ongoing priority. The SNSF prolonged and expanded its support for scientific research on Covid-19, and also launched a second National Research Pro-gramme titled “Covid-19 in Society” (NRP 80) that focuses mainly on the humanities and social sci-ences. All current projects can be consulted on our data portal.

    Like many other research fields, Covid-19 research is reliant on animal and human experiments. Together with its partners, the SNSF was very active in informing the public about the serious con-sequences for the Swiss scientific community of the popular initiative to ban animal and human ex-perimentation. The clear rejection of the initiative at the polls in February 2022 also constituted a mandate to continue and intensify implementation of the 3R principles (Replace, Reduce, Refine) of animal experimentation, in particular in the context of NRP 79.

    Finally, the pandemic had an impact on the SNSF itself. Like everywhere else, the emphasis on re-mote working posed a considerable challenge for the organisation, its staff and its honorary bodies. All of them had to rely heavily on this new way of working together for the second year running. We are also continuing to review our processes and structures to optimally adapt the SNSF to its chang-ing tasks and strategy in the coming years. This will enable us to promote the excellence and diver-sity of up-and-coming researchers in Switzerland with even greater vigour.

    Jürg Stahl
    President of the Foundation Council

    Matthias Egger   
    President of the National Research Council

    Angelika Kalt   
    Director

  • Research funding – key figures

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    ​Funding approved in 2021

    The federal funding allocated to the SNSF was a few million francs less in 2021 than in the previous year. In addition, awards in some funding schemes, seen over several years, are not linear; rather they are subject to certain cycles. For example, many infrastructure grants were extended in 2020, which was not the case in 2021. For this reason, the sum total of all newly approved resources fell to 882 million francs (2020: 937 million). We invested just over half of this money - 459 million francs - in project funding, followed by career funding (218 million), programmes (147 million), infrastructure (44 million) and science communication (13 million).

    In all, we evaluated 6274 applications in 2021 and approved 2828. We used most of the money to fund more than 1000 research projects in Switzerland. In addition, we awarded 42.5 million francs for 400 fellowships abroad and 6 million for contributions to about 1100 open access publications in total.

    The shares allocated to the individual research areas also tend to fluctuate over the years. In 2021, 39% of the newly awarded funds were in mathematics, natural and engineering sciences, 36% in biology and medicine, and 25% in the humanities and social sciences.

    The SNSF approved 551 million francs for applications from universities, 220 million for institutions of the ETH Domain and 41 million for universities of applied sciences and universities of teacher education. Additional grants and supplementary measures amounted to 19 million francs last year. They include grants for researchers with childcare duties.

    The new funds approved in 2021 will result in an overhead of approximately 117 million francs, which will be transferred directly to the universities to compensate for their indirect research costs.

    Approved grants: Detailed key figures 2021 External Link Icon

    Ongoing projects 2021

    At the end of 2021, 5700 SNSF-funded projects were ongoing. More than 20,000 researchers were involved in them, with 39 per cent being women. The share of women leading a project was 30.7 per cent, an increase of 1.6 per cent over the previous year.

  • Insight into our activities

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    Research and its context are constantly evolving. In line with its strategy, the SNSF wants to anticipate and shape these changes together with its partners in the education, research and innovation sector. Therefore, in addition to evaluating research proposals and financing projects, we again undertook a whole host of other tasks in 2021. We have contributed ideas to promote diversity in research, strengthened our national and international networks and made research more visible in the public domain. Here we present a selection of activities carried out over the year.

  • Bodies

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    Foundation Council

    As the SNSF's governing body, the Foundation Council ensures that the SNSF stays on mission. It supervises the activities of the bodies of the SNSF. Based on a recommendation from the National Research Council, it endorses the main pillars of the SNSF's funding policy and, in particular, the multi-year programme. The Foundation Council is responsible for approving the financial statement and the annual report.

    42 honorary members, 45 per cent women, 55 per cent men

    President/in

    Jürg Stahl (as of 1.2.2020)

    Vice President

    Prof. Maria Schönbächler, representative of SCNAT

    Representatives of scientific organisations

    Cantonal universities > Basel : Prof Torsten Schwede. Bern : Prof Daniel Candinas. Fribourg : Prof Katharina Fromm. Geneva : Prof Dominique Soldati-Favre. Lausanne : Prof Franciska Krings. Lucerne : Prof Gisela Michel. Neuchâtel : Prof Simona Pekarek Doehler (until 1.10.2021). St. Gallen : Prof Thomas Markus Zellweger. Ticino : Prof Benedetto Lepori. Zurich : Prof Stefanie Walter.

    Federal Institute of Technology > Lausanne : Prof Harald Brune (from 1.1.2021). Zurich : Prof Sabine Werner.

    Universities of Applied Sciences/Universities of Teacher Education > Prof Horst Biedermann (PH SG), Prof Maria Caiata Zufferey (SUPSI), Dr Markus Hodel (HSLU), Prof Jürg Kessler (FHGR), Prof Isabelle Mili (IUFE Geneva), Dr Christine Pirinoli (HES-SO) (from 1.10.2021), Prof Jean-Marc Piveteau (ZHAW), Prof Falko Schlottig (FHNW), Dr Luciana Vaccaro (HES-SO) (until 30.9.2021).

    Academies > Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences : Prof Antonio Loprieno. SAHS : Prof Claudine Burton-Jeangros. SAMS : Prof em. Daniel Scheidegger. SATW : Prof Konstantinos Boulochos. SCNAT : Prof Maria Schönbächler, Prof Marcel Tanner.

    Government-appointed members

    Prof Cesla Amarelle (Canton of Vaud, Dept. of Education, Youth and Culture), Dr Gregor Haefliger (SERI), Dr René Imhof (F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG), Monika Knill (Canton of Thurgau, Dept. of Edu-cation and Culture), Dr Anja Isabella König (Novartis Venture Funds) (from 1.2.2021), Ulrich Jakob Looser (BLR&Partners AG), Jürg Stahl (Swiss Olympic), Natascha Wey (VPOD).

    Co-opted members

    Prof Ron Appel (SIB), Prof Denis Duboule (University of Geneva and EPFL, free co-optation), Prof Michael Hengartner (ETH Board), Dr Erna Karrer-Rüedi (from 26.3.2021), Dr Thierry Strässle (ETH Domain), Dr Prabitha Urwyler (from 21.1.2021), Dr Pascale Vonmont (Gebert-Rüf Stiftung, free co-optation), Dr Stefanie Wyssenbach.

    Executive Committee of the Foundation Council

    The Executive Committee prepares the agenda of the Foundation Council and directly supervises the activities of the National Research Council and the Administrative Offices. It elects the members of the Research Council and - together with the president of the Research Council - the Executive Man-agement of the Administrative Offices. The Executive Committee also approves the service level agreement with the Swiss government.

    15 honorary members, 47 per cent women, 53 per cent men

    Jürg Stahl (President); Prof Maria Schönbächler (Vice President); Prof Horst Biedermann, Prof Har-ald Brune (from 21.1.2021), Prof Daniel Candinas, Prof Denis Duboule, Prof Katharina Fromm, Dr Gregor Haefliger, Dr Anja Isabella König (from 1.2.2021), Prof Franciska Krings, Ulrich Jakob Looser (until 31.1.2021), Prof Jean-Marc Piveteau (from 1.10.2021), Prof Torsten Schwede, Prof Dominique Soldati-Favre, Dr Luciana Vaccaro (until 30.9.2021), Prof Stefanie Walter, Prof Sabine Werner.

    Internal Audit

    T+R AG, Gümligen BE.

    Compliance Committee

    Prof Franciska Krings (President); Prof em. Klaus Müller, Prof Howard Riezman, Prof Monika Roth, Dr Dorothea Sturn.

    National Research Council

    The National Research Council is the scientific body of the SNSF. It is responsible for evaluating research applications and making funding decisions. The eight-member Presiding Board heads the Research Council and monitors the quality of funding decisions. It advises on science policy issues and develops the SNSF's funding policy.

    96 honorary members, 39 per cent women, 61 per cent men

    President

    Prof. Matthias Egger

    Presiding Board > Prof Matthias Egger. President Division I : Prof Laura Bernardi (from 1.1.2021), Deputy of NRC President (from 1.10.2021). President Division II : Dr Bernd Gotsmann. President Division III: Prof Matthias Peter. President Division IV : Prof Dimos Poulikakos. President Specialised Committee Careers : Prof Gabriele Rippl. President Specialised Committee International Cooperation : Prof Anna Fontcuberta i Morral (from 1.1.2021). President Specialised Committee Interdisciplinary Research : Prof Rita Franceschini, Deputy of NRC President (until 30.9.2021), Prof Andreas Mayer (from 1.10.2021).

    Division I: Humanities and Social Sciences > Prof Laura Bernardi (President from 1.1.2021); Prof Peter Auer (Vice President from 1.1.2021); Prof Roberto Caldara, Prof Franz Caspar (until 31.3.2021), Prof Véronique Dasen, Prof Julia Eckert (from 1.4.2021), Prof Christiana Fountoulakis, Prof Rita Franceschini (until 30.9.2021), Prof Julia Gelshorn, Prof Daniel Gredig, Prof Eszter Hargittai, Prof Madeleine Herren-Oesch, Prof Ben Jann, Prof Was-silis Kassis (from 1.10.2021), Prof Thomas Keil, Prof Katharina Maag Merki (until 31.3.2021), Prof Claudia Mareis (until 31.3.2021), Prof Ioannis Papadopoulos (until 31.3.2021), Prof Simona Pekarek Doehler (from 1.10.2021), Prof Gabriele Rippl, Prof Dominic Rohner, Prof Frank Schimmelfennig (from 1.4.2021), Prof Konrad Schmid, Prof Ola Söderström (until 31.3.2021), Prof Martin Spann, Prof Danièle Tosato-Rigo, Prof Birgit Watzke (from 1.4.2021), Prof Markus Wild.

    Division II: Mathematics, Natural and Engineering Sciences > Dr Bernd Gotsmann (President); Prof Ulrike Lohmann (Vice President); Prof Rémi Abgrall, Prof David Andrew Barry (until 30.9.2021), Prof Aude Billard, Prof Jeffrey Bode, Dr Marc Bohner, Prof Joachim Buhmann, Prof Philippe Cudré-Maroux (from 1.4.2021), Prof Paul Dyson (until 31.3.2021), Prof Manfred Fiebig (from 1.4.2021), Prof Karl Gademann, Prof Thomas Gehrmann, Prof Fabrizio Gran-doni (from 1.4.2021), Prof Ravit Helled (from 1.4.2021), Prof Juliane Hollender, Prof Anne-Marie Kermarrec (from 1.4.2021), Prof Frédéric Merkt, Prof Jean-François Molinari, Prof Daniela Rubatto, Prof Bettina Schaefli (from 1.10.2021), Prof Stefan Schmalholz, Prof Olivier Schneider, Prof Thomas Südmeyer, Prof Donna Testerman, Prof Lothar Thiele (until 31.3.2021).

    Division III: Biology and Medicine > Prof Matthias Peter (President); Prof Claudia Kühni (Vice President); Prof Markus Affolter (until 30.9.2021), Prof Anne Angelillo-Scherrer, Prof Mohamed Bentires-Alj (from 1.10.2021), Prof Melanie Blokesch, Prof Chris Boesch (until 31.3.2021), Prof Mirjam Christ-Crain, Prof Roberto Coppari (from 1.4.2021), Prof Bart Deplancke, Prof Dominique De Quervain, Prof Michael Detmar (until 30.9.2021), Prof Olivier Devuyst, Prof Laurent Excoffier, Prof Michel Gilliet, Prof Monica Gotta (from 1.10.2021), Prof Fritjof Helmchen, Prof Christoph Hess, Prof Anthony Holtmaat, Prof Beat Keller, Prof Hanna Kokko, Prof Brenda Kwak, Prof Kaspar Locher, Prof Oliver Mühlemann, Prof Adrian Franz Ochsenbein, Prof John Richard Pannell, Prof Carlo Rivolta, Prof Federica Sallusto, Prof Peter Scheif-fele, Prof Isabelle Schmitt-Opitz, Prof Margitta Seeck, Prof Matthias Stuber (from 1.4.2021), Prof Bernard Thorens (until 31.3.2021), Prof Rolf Zeller.

    Division IV: Programmes > Prof Dimos Poulikakos (President); Prof Regina Elisabeth Aebi-Müller (Vice President until 31.12.2021); Prof Anastasia Ailamaki, Prof Uschi Backes-Gellner, Prof Manfred Max Bergman, Prof Nikola Biller-Andorno, Prof Claudia Binder (until 31.12.2021), Prof Dominik Brühwiler, Prof Annalisa Buffa (from 1.1.2021), Prof Eleni Chatzi (from 1.10.2021), Prof Anna Fontcuberta i Morral, Prof Gudela Grote, Prof Denis Jabaudon, Prof Stuart Lane, Prof Martin Lengwiler (from 1.1.2021), Prof Andreas Mayer, Prof Bert Müller, Prof Henning Müller, Prof Nicolas Rodondi, Prof Rainer Wallny.

    Specialised Committee Careers > Prof Gabriele Rippl (President); Prof Stuart Lane (Vice President from 1.1.2021); Prof Anne Angelillo-Scherrer, Prof Peter Auer, Prof Ben Jann (from 1.1.2021), Prof Beat Keller, Prof Christian Matter, Prof Federica Sallusto, Prof Jess Snedeker, Prof Donna Testerman.

    Specialised Committee International Cooperation > Prof Anna Fontcuberta i Morral (President from 1.1.2021); Prof Madeleine Herren-Oesch (Vice Presi-dent from 1.1.2021); Prof Manfred Max Bergman (from 1.1.2021), Prof Véronique Dasen, Prof Paul Dyson (until 31.3.2021), Prof Michel Gilliet, Prof Brenda Kwak (from 1.4.2021), Prof Daniela Rubatto (from 1.6.2021), Prof Thomas Südmeyer, Prof Bernard Thorens (until 31.3.2021).

    Specialised Committee Interdisciplinary Research > Prof Rita Franceschini (President until 30.9.2021), Prof Andreas Mayer (President from 1.10.2021); Prof David Andrew Barry (Vice President until 30.9.2021), Prof Juliane Hollender (Vice President from 1.10.2021); Prof Melanie Blokesch, Prof Roberto Caldara (from 1.12.2021), Prof Kaspar Locher, Prof Frédéric Merkt (from 1.12.2021), Prof Danièle Tosato-Rigo (from 1.4.2021), Prof Rainer Wallny.

    Gender Equality Commission > Prof Michèle Amacker (President from 1.1.2021); Prof Michelle Cottier, Prof Nicky Le Feuvre (until 31.12.2021), Dr Simona Isler, Gary Loke, Prof Ruth Müller, Prof Anna Wahl.

    Research Integrity Commission > Prof Nadja Capus (President); Prof Regina Aebi-Müller (Vice President until 31.12.2021); Prof David Andrew Barry (until 30.9.2021), Dr Sönke Bauck (until 31.12.2021), Dr Tania Bühler, Prof Bart De-plancke, Prof Paul Dyson (until 31.3.2021), Milva Franceschi, Dr Sarah Glaser, Prof Juliane Hollen-der, Dr Stephanie Hoppeler (until 30.9.2021), Danielle Jeanneret, Dr Ladina Knapp (from 1.10.2021), Prof Stuart Lane, Prof Ulrike Lohmann (from 1.10.2021), Dr Vanja Michel, Dr Eva Moser, Dr Claudia Rutte (until 30.4.2021), Dr Barbara Schellenberg, Prof Thomas Südmeyer (from 1.4.2021), Dr David Svarin (from 1.10.2021), Prof Danièle Tosato-Rigo.

    Further information

    90 evaluation panels, consisting of about 1000 honorary members in all, lay the groundwork for the Research Council's decisions.

    As at 31.12.2021

    Administrative Offices

    The Administrative Offices support and coordinate the activities of the Foundation Council and the Research Council. They are responsible for all administrative matters as well as for the SNSF's national and international networking activities and communication. The implementation of the selection procedures is its core task.

    311 employees (263.5 full-time positions), 60% women, 40% men

    Executive Management > Director, Chief Executive : Dr Angelika Kalt. Chief Finance, Infrastructure and Services Officer (CFO) : Céline Liechti. Chief Information Officer (CIO) : Sébastien Stampfli. Chief Operations Officer (COO) : Dr Thomas Werder Schläpfer. Chief Development Officer (CDO) : Dr Pierre Willa a.i. (until 31.12.2021).

    Heads of staff divisions > Human Resources : Karim Errassas. Communication : Christophe Giovannini. Strategy : Dr Katrin Milzow. Institutional Relations/Swisscore : Dr Jean-Luc Barras. Executive Staff/Legal Department (until 30.6.2021) : Inge Blatter (until 30.6.2021). Legal Department (from 1.7.2021) : Dr Kaspar Sutter. Management Support (from 1.7.2021) : Dr Anna Brandenburg.

    Heads reporting to CFO > Finance : Markus König. Facility Management : Yves Flohimont.

    Heads reporting to CIO > IT : Sébastien Stampfli a.i. Information Systems of Research Funding : Dr Frank Neidhöfer.

    Heads reporting to COO > Division I, Humanities and Social Sciences : Brigitte Arpagaus a.i. Division II, Mathematics, Natural and Engineering Sciences : Dr Pascal Fischer a.i. Division III, Biology and Medicine : Dr Irene Knüsel. Careers : Dr Marcel Kullin. InterCo : Dr Marc Zbinden. AARE programme : Benjamin Rindlisbacher.

    Heads reporting to CDO > Division IV, Programmes : Dr Pierre Willa a.i. Gender Equality in Research Funding : Dr Simona Isler.

    As at 31 December 2021

  • Financial statement

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    As expected, the 2021 financial statements present a negative result, which can be offset via the general reserves.

    The increase in federal contributions is due to the conclusion of a new cooperation agreement with the SDC in December 2021. In contrast, the federal contributions received by the SNSF under the service level agreement are slightly below the previous year's figure. The sharp increase in further contributions has to do with the BRIDGE programme, which is co-financed by Innosuisse.

    Expenditure on research funding decreased compared to the previous year because the grant instalments to be charged directly to the fiscal year were lower and because less money was invested in programmes and infrastructure.

  • Outlook

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    In the coming years, we will continue to implement our Strategy 2021-2028. Our activities will be guided by the four strategic priorities "We promote diversity in research", "We shape the future of research", "We convey the value of research" and "We strengthen the competence of the SNSF".

    Central tasks in 2022

    As early as the first half of 2022, we will draw up the 2025-2028 multi-year programme. The SERI has specified the cross-cutting themes of digitalisation, sustainable development, gender equality, and national and international cooperation. These fit very well with our strategic priorities and will play an important role in our multi-year planning. Other key tasks in 2022 include:

    • We will draw up the sustainability sub-strategy by spring 2022. The focus is on three aspects: promotion of sustainable research; promotion of research on sustainability topics; sustainable operations of the SNSF Administrative Offices.
    • In 2022, we will award SNSF Advanced Grants, SNSF Swiss Postdoctoral Fellowships and SNSF Starting Grants, for which we launched calls in October and December 2021. The SNSF Consolidator Grants will be implemented as a further transitional measure. Together with the SERI, we are also planning substitute measures in the event that Switzerland is unable to participate in the European research programme Horizon Europe in the longer term.
    • In 2022, we will test the implementation networks envisioned in the 2021-2024 multi-year programme. They bring researchers together with companies, organisations and government agencies that wish to apply research findings. Special attention is paid to the Sustainable Development Goals.
    • On behalf of the SERI, the SNSF will evaluate the national infrastructure projects selected by the ETH Board and swissuniversities as part of the Roadmap 2023. We will also set out our position regarding the importance of Swiss participation in international research infrastructures.

    Strengthening the competencies of the SNSF

    As an organisation of experts, we want to create maximum benefit for research. That is why we are constantly developing our expertise, infrastructure and processes. For example, effective 1 April 2022, the Administrative Offices are reorganising the research funding divisions. This will allow them to provide even more flexible services to the honorary bodies in their current and future form. And by the end of 2022, we will be conducting the first call for proposals using the new, cloud-based SNSF Portal for researchers. It replaces the previous mySNF platform.

    The Statutes of the SNSF set out the basic legal norms governing its purpose, tasks, organisation and funding. As part of a comprehensive revision, the Statutes will be made leaner and more flexible by the end of 2023.

    Federal contributions until 2024

    According to the service level agreement 2021-2024, the SNSF will receive 4615 million francs from the federal government during this period. This is subject to changes in the annual budget decisions and any additional contributions. The following contributions are planned until 2024:

    in CHF million20212022202320242021-2024
    Projects, careers, programmes, infrastructures, science communication, service provision988,81001,81029,11058,64078,4
    Indirect costs of research institutions (overhead) and supplementary tasks119,0135,5138,4143,8536,7
    Total 1107,8 1137,3 1167,5 1202,4 4615,0